44 Ways to Improve Your Health and Happiness

By Henri Junttila on 22 January 2010 (Updated 27 January 2011) 13 comments
Photo: nattu

Do you want to improve your health and feel better? The human body and mind are fascinating, and the science behind improving your wellbeing is something I find extremely interesting. There are a lot of different tools, methods, and practices that can help you jumpstart your wellbeing into the direction you desire. Some of these work fast, and some of them take awhile, so be patient and persevere. It will pay off.

If you take one thing from this article, then let it be this: take action on the things that make you feel good. Our life on this small, blue planet is short, so make the most of it. Think about what you truly value and cherish. It’s easy to lose touch with what really matters, so stay alert and aware.

1. Hug

Hugs are amazing at relieving stress (and studies have proven this). I’m sure you’ve felt this yourself when hugging a partner or loved one. It feels like you relax, and stress melts away when you hug someone you care about.

2. Give a gift

It feels good to give, and I am not just talking about rampant consumerism. You can give experiences and many other things. It doesn’t have to be things that are of no value. Take your loved one and give them an experience instead of something materialistic.

3. Meditate

Meditation has a profound impact on your brain and can help you release negative thoughts and become happier. Meditation might not be the easiest thing for most people, because of their chattering minds, but try it — and you’ll be surprised at the relaxation!

4. Be grateful

Think about the positive things in life. I’ve always found that being grateful has an amazing ability to pick me up whenever I’m feeling down. Even research studies (pdf) are realizing the powerful effects of counting your blessings and focusing on the positive.

5. Forgive

Research studies have found that those who forgive are healthier and happier, compared to those who hold resentments. Forgiving can be hard, because you think that it somehow helps you to hold on to things, but what you are actually doing is reliving the painful moment over and over and causing emotional harm to yourself.

6. Spend time with your family

Sometimes, we are so inundated with work that we forget to spend time with our family, friends, or even our spouse. This is especially true if you run your own business and love what you do. Take time to relax and be with those who are close to you.

7. Share your feelings

Tell your loved ones that you love them. Thank them for being here with you. Telling people how much you appreciate them can have a snowball effect on everyone involved. It can be scary to share what you feel, but it’s the scary things in life that matter.

8. Walk in nature

Taking a walk in the park and basking in the sun can improve your mood, not only because it gets your body producing vitamin D, which is the sunshine vitamin, but also because there’s something about nature (we belong there).

9. Sit in nature

Sitting and looking at the birds and wildlife is soothing. Enjoying the moment and listening to the birds sing can remind you to not take the dramas in life so seriously and to instead just enjoy the ride.

10. Youtube

We all know Youtube can make us laugh. Who doesn’t like cats or skateboarding dogs? If you’re up for inspiration you can always check out Steve Jobs’ 2005 Stanford Commencement Address.

11. Watch a movie

I love movies. Watching a comedy, thriller, mystery, or an inspirational drama always manages to get me to shift my perspective and provoke thought. Renting an old movie and grabbing a bag of popcorn — is there anything more awesome?

12. Spend time with your pet

There are many studies out there on how pets can reduce cardiovascular stress, such as by lowering your blood pressure, and helping you release stress. This not only applies to those that own dogs, but to cat owners, as well.

13. Make food you enjoy

You and I both know that there are certain foods that make you happy. I am not talking about gorging yourself on ice cream or anything like that. Preparing food and eating it consciously can be a form of meditation and may help you snap out of the common patterns we find ourselves in.

14. Let go of guilt

Guilt can come about in many different ways. You might feel guilty because you just ate a piece of chocolate cake, or it can be something else. Relax, don’t be so hard on yourself, and let yourself enjoy the simple things in life (in moderation of course).

15. Eat whole foods

Healthy foods, such as fruits, vegetables, nuts, and so on are filled with fiber, nutrition, and things that scientists probably haven’t even discovered yet. Research proves this and shows that the healthier you eat, the happier you’ll be.

16. Eat fish

Fish contains omega-3 fatty acids, which have been proven to reduce depression and all sorts of mental disorders. We believe this is because the EPA and DHA in fish help transport a chemical in your body called serotonin, which acts as a natural anti-depressant.

17. Drop unnecessary tasks

When you think about everything you have to do, it is easy to get overwhelmed and procrastinate. Simplify your life and drop the things you really don’t need to do. Stop saying yes to more than you can handle.

18. Find your passion

Finding your passion and discovering your purpose in life will bring fulfillment and happiness to your being. Doing what you love energizes and uplifts you like nothing else. Discover your life’s purpose and start taking action to making it come true.

19. Exercise

Exercise is good for your brain. Studies have known this for years, but we still neglect exercise, because it tends to be boring. Find an exercise form you really like. You don’t have to jog if you don’t enjoy it.

20. Organize yourself

I don’t know about you, but I feel less stress when my workplace and home is uncluttered and clean. I’m not saying I’m great at cleaning up, just that it’s nice.

21. Give away stuff

Giving away old clothes is another act of kindness that will open your heart and improve your mood. Imagine how big of a difference just a few sweatshirts can have for someone in a country much poorer than yours.

22. Volunteer

Signing up as a volunteer might seem like a waste of time at first, but once you try it, I promise you that you will walk out of it with a new outlook on helping others.

23. Accept your situation

So often we think about how we could have changed things if we had only done this one thing in the past. What is, is. Let go of trying to control, and just relax into your current situation.

24. Write down goals that make you happy

Setting goals that make you unhappy until you reach them is a recipe for disaster. Instead, set goals that make you happy in the present moment.

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25. Visualize what you want

When you visualize, make it feel like you’re there. You should try to smell, feel, hear and taste it. This will enhance the feeling and supercharge your cells with positive energy and catapult you toward your goals.

26. Simplify your finances

We all have a few magazine subscriptions or similar financial burdens that we don’t even think about. They just arrive and we pay the fee. Simplifying your finances and dramatically cutting down your expenses will allow you to save more, work less, and relax.

27. Write a journal

Journaling is something I resisted for a long time, but as I started writing my thoughts down, things started becoming clearer, and I could solve problems and make decisions much easier.

28. Take action

It’s easy to dream and have ideas, but the thing that separate those that love their life and are successful is they take massive action, all the time. What could you do today to get closer to your goals? Why aren’t you doing it?

29. Live in the now

Focus on your breath, on your body, and be aware of your thoughts. The present moment is all that we have. If you dwell in the past, you are doing it in the present moment. Breathe, accept, and relax.

30. Be positive

Clichés are everywhere and a general statement such as “be positive” can get on your nerves. But taking baby steps to just think one more positive thought or do one more positive thing each day can change your life.

31. Lose arguments

We all want to win arguments, but what would happen if you just started letting other people win them? There’s no need to prove your point. Just let someone else win and steer the conversation to a friendlier and happier topic.

32. Live frugally

Living frugally goes hand in hand with simplifying your finances, but it’s a bit more than that. It’s accepting that materialism isn’t that important. You can save a lot of money while still doing the things you love.

33. Be lazy

Sometimes it’s nice to just relax and allow yourself to be lazy. Once in a while, allow yourself to take some time for pure laziness, eating, and joy.

34. Be aware

About 5 years ago I discovered meditation, lucid dreaming, and all those mystical things that people think are airy-fairy. I thought so as well in the beginning, but it lead me to practicing mindfulness and awareness. It has had a dramatic impact on my life, it just might do the same for you.

35. Experience life

When you have bouts of energy and can’t stand to be lazy anymore, go outside and experience something. Drive a go-kart, go to a sauna, or take a short trip. Create experiences that are worth remembering.

36. Call up old friends you’ve been meaning to call

It’s easy to push up calling and connecting with old friends and loved ones. Do that now. Even though it can feel like something you’d rather not do, push past that and do it. You’ll feel better afterwards.

37. Choose to be happier

Choosing to be happier consciously has shown to have an effect on people all around the world. I could not find any scientific evidence, but I can tell from personal experience that when you truly want to be happy, you’ll find a way.

38. Be kind

Do something kind to someone. Just smiling at people when you’re outside is an act of kindness that uplifts the people you meet and in turn improves your mood and happiness.

39. Be social

We humans are social creatures, and although some of us prefer to be alone, we still need human touch and interaction. Without it, we go crazy and fall into depression.

40. Elevate

Jon Haidt, a teacher and author, termed the concept “elevation” (pdf), which means doing things that cause warmth, and an elevation in feelings. It basically means helping others and doing kind acts.

41. Enjoy your life

Accept the way things are, and enjoy what you have. This goes hand in hand with forgiving and being grateful. Forgiving yourself is a big step that many people have to take during their lifetimes. It will feel like a huge weight is dropped off of your shoulders.

42. Release materialism

You don’t have to keep up with the Joneses. “Live more, have less stuff” is truer now than ever before. More and more people are realizing this, and even psychologists now know what makes people happy.

43. Sleep

Lack of sleep has a profound impact on your mood, so make sure you get enough sleep. I’ve found that whenever I can’t get my 8-9 hours of sleep, I’m easily irritated, don’t think as well, and am not my cheery old self.

44. Get a massage

Massages feel awesome, but did you know that they can increase your serotonin and dopamine levels? Serotonin and dopamine are two neurotransmitters that help reduce depression and lift your mood.

This is a guest post by Henri Junttila, a freelance blogger who also writes about self improvement ideas for conscious people. If you want to keep up with his life-changing updates, subscribe to his feed.

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Guest's picture

Some of your items seem to be very similar to other ones. Also some of these mean you have to have money, family and people around you that actually are sociable. Oh and live in a place that has "nature" to be in and also to be physically well.

Sorry but not everyone has that. So I guess that means people like me can't improve our lives.

Trust me I've tried and I've looked but you can't make people be nice if they don't want to. You can't make people be sociable if they don't want to. You can try to be sociable as much as possible but if others aren't there you can't change them. It's really bad that in our world so many ignore others. you can be kind all you want but it doesn't usually bring real relationships.

Too bad that your ideals don't work for everyone. Too bad they aren't realistic. Not everyone has family that is good, not everyone has a relationship, not everyone is physically up for going out to be active, not everyone has money or the ability to give.

Guest's picture
Annie

I thought for sure it said "MEDICATE".

"How clever!" I thought to myself. Of course we should medicate ourselves!

I had to look at it four times before I realized what it really said.

Annie

Guest's picture
Adrian

Wow, there is a lot of common sense in this article, things that people have been missing for years, not understanding the consequences!

Guest's picture
Jasileet

I think your list is fantastic. It's well written, diverse enough to cover anyone's lifestyle and quick reading. All very good.

@aoi neko. blue cat, certainly you can find apply some of the 44 ideas listed to your life. i cannot believe you have zero nature, friends, family, and other human beings around you. do you live in outer space? seriously. come down. we miss you! =)

Guest's picture

Agreed. It's much less stressful if you just let other people think what they want to think and leave it at that. I am someone who isn't motivated to argue in most cases, because most of the time the argument is over something stupid anyway.

Fun list.

Guest's picture

My first response to this list was: Well, no time for this, no time for that.

Actuallly, most of these thnigs could be factored into our daily lives with little extra time being spent.

These are all things that get lost in our busy, busy lives.

We should all realize that our lives will be more rewarding by incorporating some of these ideas into it.

Guest's picture

Great article. I can have the worst day ever and come back home and hug my wife and daughters and suddenly the world isn't such a bad place again.

Guest's picture
barks

Good article. Sometimes when I notice I am not doing some of the above because I don't have time. I look at the things I probably should not be doing. I know that is where some of the time comes... to allow us to help ourselves.

Guest's picture
Susanne

This is a wonderful list and these small things really do work! I've been using many of them in my life for awhile now and I really am happier and healthier - perhaps more than I've ever been before. Start by trying just one or two things. Many of these things just take YOU, with no place and/or no one else factored in. It's worth it! Thanks for a great reminder.

Guest's picture
Matt

This is a wonderful list. It conveys that you cannot have a healthy life without happiness, and vise verse. They are intertwined, and that's beautiful and inspiring!

In the end, we all have a choice about how we design our lives. Health and happiness are good choices!

Thanks for sharing!

Cheers!
Matt

Guest's picture
David

If you're interested in a new approach to boost your happiness based on the latest positive psychology research, check out our iPhone app: Live Happy; it's based on the work of Dr. Sonja Lyubomirsky, author of "The How of Happiness" and provides a unique method to create a personalized program to increase your happiness.

You can also learn more about the iPhone app on our Facebook page.

Guest's picture

Do what you want to do! Make sure that if you want something that you get it!

Guest's picture

Thanks for the article. I could have the worse day at work then come home to my family and everything changes like that. Stress from work can really build up on you sometimes!