Your happiness is in YOUR hands
19th Mar 2020
Sue Leach, owner of The Natural Health Hub, gives some key ingredients to staying on an even keel through these turbulent times
Never has it been more important to look after ourselves. From how nutritious our food is, to how nutritious our outlook on life is. When the team at The Natural Health Hub did some research last year into levels of happiness in this country we were horrified just what a depressed and anxious nation we are. It is a sad fact that many of us are not happy. In a 2018 survey by the Office for National Statistics people scored 7.5 out of 10 for happiness yesterday, 7.7 out of 10 for life satisfaction and 7.9 out of 10 for feeling worthwhile. That means just about a third of us feel we could be happier and more fulfilled, so it’s hardly surprising that one in six people between the ages of 18 and 65 were prescribed antidepressants in 2017 (the latest year for which we have figures).
But at this time when we have been forced to take a pause on normal life we at The Natural Health Hub believe this is an opportunity for all of us to review. How much do you do to look after yourself? Do you take time out, actually timetable, periods that you devote to self-care? No, don’t roll your eyes inwardly. These are not an indulgence – they are a necessity! The reason the UK scores so low on happiness is because we’re all so bogged down in the day-to-day drodge there’s isn’t time even to think about ourselves, let alone do anything to particularly help ourselves. We are full of good intentions but self-sabotage or prevent ourselves living our lives to the full become of self-limiting beliefs.
At The Natural Health Hub we believe not only in making people healthier, but also happier and more empowered. How? Here are some suggestions. We do not claim to have all the answers – life’s very complicated and many things are sent to try our happiness – but just have a go at a few of our suggestions and we guarantee you can lift yourself from the Covid-19 doldrums.
Achieving happiness is a matter of looking after yourself emotionally, physically and, we reckon, spiritually. Spiritual is nothing to do with religion, or connecting with ‘spirits’… in our book it is about reaching deeper than the day-to-day, having good friends and finding something that is ‘food for the soul’, that is deliciously, irresistibly, viscerally fun and satisfying! Make the most of lockdown, do not let it lock you down.
Other people and other things do not make you unhappy. Bad things happen, but if you are resilient and basically happy in yourself they will not get to you. Unhappiness is you allowing yourself to let outside influences get to you. Positive steps you can take to stop that happening include…
How many things do you have to feel grateful about? It’s sunny today, the blossom emerging on the trees, your health, your pets, a favourite song on the radio. Many of those who say they are do so because they have an attitude of gratitude. Once you start thinking through what you have to be grateful for there are plenty of reasons to be thankful. Keep a journal and jot down every day what you have to be grateful about – and savour those thoughts.
Mindfulness is a fantastic tool – which becomes a way of life if you practise it properly – that enables you to live in the moment for the moment. You can shut out mind chunter, curb anxiety and stop your body and mind being in permanent fight or flight mode. We advise you do more than merely read about mindfulness, join an online course and get helpfrom one of our experts at The Natural Health Hub to keep up the good work. It takes a bit of a change of mindset, and making that change is rather like embarking on regular exercise or adopting a healthier diet: sometimes it may hurt a little, and sometimes you will fall off the wagon! That’s all allowed and not beating yourself up because you’ve ‘failed’ is all part of the journey of living mindfully.
Think yourself happy
Yes, this really is possible. Holding onto negativity, dwelling on hurts and harbouring toxic thoughts will inhibit your path to happiness. We at The Hub are great believers of making positive affirmations or mantras – these are a vital tool to a happier (and healthier) life. So choose your sentence: say, ‘I am happy, positive and potent’. The sentence should be in the present tense (no ‘I will be…’ or ‘Id like to be’), and it has more force if you include a threesome like ‘happy, positive, potent’.
Repeat this sentence regularly: at least six times a day, preferably out loud. Write it down in your diary, on a slip of paper to go in your pocket, maybe under your pillo or, on your phone. And repeat, repeat, repeat. Think purposeful, bold and vibrant for your affirmation, and that is what will come back to you in life – and say it like you mean it!
Ever noticed how much happier you feel if you smile at people? Smiling activates the ‘feel-good' neurotransmitters dopamine, endorphins and serotonin that help you counter stress and feel better – it doesn’t matter if you’re faking it either, your body doesn’t notice the difference! This not only relaxes your body, but it can also lower your heart rate and blood pressure and act as a natural pain reliever.
Studies show that regular exercise significantly lifts mild to moderate depression and, in some cases, is as effective as anti-depressants. That’s because working out leads to changes in your brain, such as increased bloodflow and the creation of new neural pathways. Hormones such as endorphins (make us feel high, and a natural painkiller), serotonin (regulates mood and helps make us feel calmer), dopamine (keeps you coming back for more) and testosterone (important for muscles and libido) are also released.
Improve your microbiome
The health of the bacteria in your gut (microbiome) is crucial to your overall health, including your emotional welfare. Yes, your belly (ie your diet) can determine how happy you feel. Most people’s microbiome has been battered by years of stress, medications and a less than saintly diet (particularly processed food).
Restoring your microbiome to a healthier state – through probiotics and eating better – could make the world of difference to how happy you feel. We’d advise getting professional help from a nutritionist as it can be an uphill struggle to do that restoration work yourself… because the unhealthy gut bacteria that are making you feel low will also be making you crave junk food and anything sweet! If you reach for a chocolate bar at some point most days, this is a sure sign that your microbiome is out of balance. And that will be making you feel less happy.
Do a regular digital detox
Your use of your phone, the internet and social media could be denting your happiness. Research at the University of Gothenburg found that ‘intensive use of cell phones and computers can be linked to an increase in stress, sleep disorders and depressive symptoms in young adults’. And a study from the University of Illinois confirmed that people who described themselves as having addictive-style behaviour toward the internet and mobile phones scored much higher on depression and anxiety scales.
So our advice is: limit your phone use daily, and try having regular digital detoxes – a whole day off is both liberating and surprisingly uplifting!
Take Vitamin D
The annual National Diet and Nutrition Survey shows that 90% of people in the UK have lower than recommended levels of Vitamin D. This is a nutrient that comes predominantly not from our diet (you’d have to eat 2-4 servings of wild salmon every day to get enough) – but from the sun (hence its nickname, the ‘sunshine vitamin’). Through winter there just aren’t enough sun hours in the day in this country for most of us to have optimal levels of Vitamin D, so be sure to make the most of these longer days now that Spring has arrives.
Research shows that the ability to become aware of and regulate your breath is key to lowering feelings of stress and anchoring yourself in the moment – both crucial to happiness. Just think how agitated you feel when you start shallow-breathing when you’re under pressure! Trouble is that, if you’re not careful, many people never slow down enough or relax so they ‘unlearn’ how to breathe properly. Here are some NHS guidelines on discovering how well you are breathing, and how to breathe more deeply here.
The team at The Hub are passionate about helping people to find ‘soul food’. This is nothing more than giving yourself permission (and acting on it!) to do things for yourself – just for yourself. Treats, having passions, hobbies and a purpose in life lift you from the humdrum of everyday life. Trouble is we often feel ‘guilty’ or that we’re ‘indulging’ ourselves or ‘being selfish’ when actually the evidence shows that those who nurture this extra element in themselves – what we would call our ‘soul’ – are the happiest.
Here are some aspects to think about if you’re craving for greater happiness:
Make and keep friends
There is multiple evidence that friendship makes us happier. True friends come to your rescue, celebrate your success as if it was their own, and respect the ebb and flow of your life. They show trust, forgiveness, gratitude, honesty, commitment, support, enthusiasm and gladness toward their friends without expectation of gain or return. Psychologists have found that those who have regular meaningful contact with same-sex friends have a greater feeling of self-worth.
Psychologist Dr Miyaly Csíkszentmihályi has proved that one key to happiness is to have something you can immerse yourself in – being completely involved in an activity for its own sake to the exclusion of everything else. In his book, Flow: the Psychology of Happiness, he describes this total immersion as when we are making, doing, creating or playing using our skills to the utmost and we go into a ‘flow state’. Experiments show that the grey matter density (GMD) of our brains upgrades itself when we achieve this state.
Studies at Boston University show that yoga increases levels of gamma-aminobutyric (GABA) in the brain. As higher GABA levels are associated with lower levels of depression and anxiety, the scientists have suggested that yoga be used as an alternative treatment for depression and anxiety. And you don’t have to be a yoga devotee – the studies reveal that improvements in happiness are evident after just a single hour of yoga.
If you’d like a regular injection of the feelgood factor The Natural Health Hub is launching The Daily Dose, a subscription-only membership to their daily feed of exclusive advice and expertise on how to stay on an even keel. From dietary dos and don’ts, to relaxation and mindfulness exercises, to everyday complementary health guidance, to natural alternatives to conventional medication, the team at The Hub give you a treasure trove of videos, blogs and audios to download and keep. Everything you need to proactively stay healthy, happy and empowered.
The Natural Health Hub, 87b High Street, Lymington SO41 9AN.
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