Despite your best efforts, sometimes life just gets you down. Most days, you wake up feeling terrific with a spring in your step, while others just seem to start off badly—like you really have woken up on the wrong side of the bed—and just seem to get worse as the day goes along. Even the happiest people have their moments, and we're here to tell you that it's completely normal to feel unhappy sometimes, too. According to Dr. Amit Sood of the Mayo Clinic, being happy takes constant and conscious effort, but the good news is that happiness can be cultivated. How? You can start by forming healthy habits to motivate you out of that grumpy, gloomy feeling and into a happier mindset. We tapped holistic health coach Jeannine Morris to share her top tips for harvesting happiness at any age, whenever you need it, wherever you are. Scroll down to start feeling happier.
MYDOMAINE: What can we do to calm ourselves when life feels out of control?
JEANNINE MORRIS: We tend to take our breath for granted, when breathing is not only what keeps us alive, but it’s also one of the most powerful tools for grounding. Try a five-count breath series when things seem to be spiraling out of control. Breathe in through your nose and hold it for five seconds; breathe out through your nose for five seconds. Repeat this sequence three times, or until you feel more balanced.
MD: It can be hard to leave your work at the office when you get home. How do we switch off?
JM: First, you need to set boundaries for yourself. Because we’re so plugged in, we often feel an urgency to answer an email when it comes in—and it seems expected that we would—but setting boundaries is a way of showing self-respect. Make a promise to yourself that you turn off at 7 p.m. and pick things up again the morning. The next part is the hardest: enforcing the boundaries. It’s easy to say you will, but will you really?
MD: What are your tips for worrying less?
JM: Between the daily demands of work and world issues, easing your mind can seem impossible. You need to try to let go of things you can’t control and find contentment in the moment.
MD: How can we stop procrastinating and start doing?
JM: Get in touch with yourself and think about why you’re procrastinating. Are you hoping the project just goes away? Do you work better under the pressure of a tight deadline? Do you really want to do what you have in store? When it comes to work, procrastination can be helpful to some, because they know in the end, they’ll get the job done. They have to. However, when it comes to procrastinating about doing something for yourself, check in with yourself. How badly do you want this to happen? You know in your gut your truest desire, so if you want something that badly, why wait?
MD: Is it okay to give yourself a pep talk? Why?
JM: You are your biggest cheerleader. This is why it’s important to start your day with a clear and positive mindset. The voice in your head is the most powerful, because it instills a belief system and your thoughts control your actions. I find it important to set a daily intention. This takes no time at all, but with careful thought, it influences your entire day and can have a ripple effect on everyone you encounter. Each morning when you wake up, give yourself that intention. Some good examples include, “Today’s going to be a great day”; “I am going to act with compassion today”; “I am as successful as I believe I am”; “I’m going to live in the present today and focus on the now.”
MD: We often watch the TV to unwind, but what are some other activities we can do to bring joy and divert our attention away from worrying?
JM: If you’re going to watch TV, try to limit the amount of news you watch. Unfortunately, the media uses its air time to exaggerate stories and hone in on negativity for viewership. While it’s important to be in the know, reading The New York Times or your local newspaper once a day is really enough. It’s not just the news that brings us down, it’s also the lack of activity and connectivity. Instead of sitting in front of the TV for hours on end, do something. Catch up with your friends and family; delve into your passions and hobbies or join a community activity like a recreational softball league. It’s amazing that people think they don’t have enough time to do things they want to do. Marie Forleo said, “Don’t prioritize your schedule. Schedule your priorities.” Make things happen.
MD: What effect can our posture have on mood?
JM: Put that to the test yourself. Try sitting up straight with your shoulders back and down. The feeling makes you instantly more alert. If you find yourself sitting in an office chair for hours a day, take a walk. Use your lunch break to step outside, get fresh air, and move around. So many people eat at their desks because they feel they’re too busy to step away for a second, but the reality is the half hour of fresh air and movement will make you more productive when you come back. It may even help you avoid the 4 o’clock slump.
MD: Sleep is something we don't get enough of. What tips do you have for sleeping soundly each night and staying asleep?
JM: Personally, I’m not a huge fan of any sleep apps. Unplugging—yes, even from your TV—an hour or two before you want to go to bed is proven to help you fall and stay asleep. Watching the news, checking and answering emails, and even just scrolling through Facebook and Instagram can cause unneeded stress at this time. It can easily send your body into “fight or flight,” which releases stress hormones. Instead of using this time to work, create a written to-do list to ease your mind. And instead of unwinding with TV, try reading a physical book—not one on a Kindle. Challenge yourself to unplug.
MD: What are your tips for triggering a smile in moments when we're feeling down?
JM: They say, "Happiness is contagious, pass it on." Surround yourself with people who lift you higher, make you smile, push and challenge you.
Choose to be happy—shop our favorite books to make you smile below.
To discover how you can be happier, healthier, and calmer, visit jeanninemorris.com
What are your tips for being happy? How do you stay calm in stressful situations? Share them below.