How to live a happy life, all according to science

- Mindfulness

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by G. John Cole

However much you may love your work (or not), the daily slog can get us all down in the dark winter months. Dragging yourself out of bed before the sun has risen to scrape off the ice from your car windshield is no way to start the day. If you finish work after five, you may never see daylight in your free time. Being happy at work becomes a greater challenge than ever.

At this time of year, it is important to make sure you take steps to keep your mood buoyant. Regardless of your general attitude toward work, your body and brain have their own ways of responding to the cold and the dark.

Thankfully, there are plenty of researchers who are keen to figure out ways we can counter this gloom.

Happy Life Tip #1: Eat well

When your mom scolded you for not eating your vegetables, she had a point. Research has shown that eating fruit is not just good for your health — it’s good for your mood! Try switching up your workplace snacks for vitamin packed goodies such as oranges and carrots. You’ll feel the benefits in your body and soul.

Happy Life Tip #2: Log off

Our relationship with social media is as complicated as our Facebook relationship status. We love the buzz of getting a message or Like, yet the pressure of being constantly available can be tiring. Photos of your friends enjoying the sun in some distant resort are not much help either!

Try reading a book on your coffee break instead of scrolling down your Twitter feed. And if you want to take it to the next level, deactivate your Facebook account for a week as studies have shown that users who took a full break reported an increase in their happiness levels. Your real friends have your number if they need you.

Happy Life Tip #3: Step up

It may not seem like the best time of year to start walking to work, but a winter stroll offers pleasures that you can’t find later on.

Instead of building up road rage behind the steamy windows of your car, try practicing mindfulness techniques as you walk to the office. Notice the crunch of snow beneath your feet, the different smell of the air, the wonderful variety of winter hats on show.

It has been proven that walking to work can actually aid your concentration for the rest of the day.

Happy Life Tip #4: Think cute


Good news if you’ve ever felt guilty for looking at pictures of puppies and kittens when you should be working: Japanese researchers have found that in addition to making us feel happy, checking out images of cute creatures can also increase our level of focus.

Maybe you don’t think that’s something your boss is ready to hear. But even if you can’t get away with a “cute break” every 15 minutes, at least you have a good reason to bring that Baby Animals desk calendar into work tomorrow.

Happy Life Tip #5: Sleep in

You’ve probably heard of the REM stage of sleep that occurs towards the end of the night. What you may not know, is that sleep experts believe that REM is actually important for helping you process the stress of the previous day.

That means if you force yourself out of bed too early in the morning, you may be asking for trouble. Flexitime workers and the self-employed should consider sleeping a bit longer if you feel you need it. If you’re stuck on a rota, try going to bed an hour earlier for a week and see if makes a difference to the way you feel at work.

Happy Life Tip #6: Plan big

Vacations are stressful. Coming back to work from vacation is horrible. But researchers have shown that actually planning a holiday can make you happy.

Dreaming is a valid hobby. If you have ambitions to get away from it all, don’t be afraid to nurture them. Research foreign cultures and keep a folder of inspiring images. You can act on them when you’re ready.

Happy Life Tip #7: Hug everyone

Well, perhaps not everyone. Some social norms are in place for a good reason.

But hugging boosts levels of the love and trust hormone, oxytocin. So don’t skimp on the hugs where they’re welcome — a hug shares the happiness in two directions!

Happy Life Tip #8: Party discerningly

Happiness travels through networks. The impact of one happy individual can be felt several nodes along the line. Harvard boffins have shown that each additional happy person in your company increases the likelihood of you feeling happy by nine percent.

So don’t shy away from social events with people that fill you with joy.

Indeed, during these unsociably cold months, you might want to be more proactive in making them happen.

Happy Life Tip #9: Tune in

Listening to music that we like triggers the release of dopamine — the happy hormone! Keep a playlist of upbeat songs on your phone, and play yourself a burst of feel-good music whenever you feel the blues coming on. It’s cheaper than therapy!

Feeling happy at work can improve our focus, creativity and productivity. But it’s something we do need to work on from time to time, if we’re to stay in control of our feelings.

Try saving this new infographic to your desktop — it includes a checklist of the above ideas, so you never need be short of inspiration when the gloom descends at work.

Do you have other happy life tips? Tell us in the comments below!

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