Summertime means happy vibes, right? Vacation, sunshine and time spent with family and friends are great, but they don’t necessarily guarantee a “happy” summer. Two happiness experts from Binghamton University, State University of New York, offer actionable, research-based tips to stay happy this summer.
Lina Begdache, associate professor of health and wellness studies
Think positive thoughts
The way our brains work, the more negative thinking is practiced, the higher your chance of developing a low mood and feeling miserable. The good news is that the brain is adjustable, or better known as “plastic.” People can weaken the negative wiring by practicing positive thinking. Pioneers of positive psychology research demonstrated that positive thinkers appraise stressful situations as less threatening and cope well compared to negative thinkers. Positive thinkers are happier people.
Lifestyle factors such as diet and sleep contribute to mood which impact happiness. Healthy diets, such as the Mediterranean diet, are rich in antioxidants and anti-inflammatory chemicals that support brain and heart health. Fluctuation in blood sugar can lead to dips in mood similar to the ‘hangry” state when feeling hungry and angry.
Get good sleep
Maintaining a healthy sleep schedule can also help your brain produce, in a steady manner, the brain chemicals needed to maintain a positive mood.
Jennifer Wegmann, lecturer of health and wellness studies
There is a strong positive relationship between gratitude and happiness. Gratitude is a two-part practice: first, slow down, be present, and acknowledge what is right in your life. Second, identify the source of the goodness. Some ways to practice gratitude include saying “thank you,” writing a thank-you note and setting a daily intention to be grateful via a journal or reminder app.
Cultivate healthy relationships
There is an interesting recursive relationship between social connection and happiness. Having supportive and healthy relationships promotes happiness, but in turn, happiness can lead to developing healthy and supportive relationships. Happy people tend to have high-quality, supportive, and healthy relationships. There is no simple one-sentence answer to “How do I create healthy and supportive relationships?” but here are two steps that will be helpful. First, set healthy boundaries and respect boundaries others have set from themselves. Second, practice gratitude.
We live so much of our lives on auto-pilot, moving throughout our days, weeks, months, years with little to no awareness of our surroundings. If you want to experience happiness, you must be present. Auto-pilot robs us of the beautiful moments life offers us every day. When we are mindful, learn to accept our experiences, and stop judging, we afford ourselves the opportunity to live purposeful lives. Purposeful lives increase happiness. Set a daily intention to be in the moment and pay attention purposefully. You do not have to sit in hours of mediation to reap the benefits. Start small and try connecting to the present for five minutes at a time, then build from there. Focusing on your breath is a powerful strategy to bring you into the moment. Also, work to reduce your biggest distractor; unplug from technology.