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Simple ways to improve your happiness this year

You’ve likely made plenty of New Year’s resolutions already, and whether they’re related to your career, your finances, your lifestyle or your health, they’re all important.

happy woman

Don’t forget about the most simple and basic goal of all — happiness.

Make a gratitude list

With the start of a new year, it’s easy to get caught up in all the things you feel you “don’t” have. As you set New Year’s resolutions, you might have focused on the body shape you wish you had or the career successes you want to achieve. Although it’s natural to think about everything you want for the future, it’s important to take the time to say thanks for the things you already have. One way to do so is by making a gratitude list of all the wonderful things in your life right now. There are no rules here — if there’s something you’re grateful for, big or small, put it on the list. You’ll surprise yourself with all the things you never stopped to think about. Put your list somewhere special where you can readily look at and add to it as you find more things you love.

Smile just for the sake of smiling

A study soon to be released by the Association for Psychological Science indicates that smiling might actually influence our physical states. The findings of their research suggest that smiling during periods of brief stress can reduce the intensity of your body’s stress response, regardless of whether or not you’re actually happy.

So the next time someone cuts you off in traffic or you finish a frustrating call with a family member, try smiling rather than frowning. You just might find your body and mind experience a bit of relief in spite of yourself!

Treat yourself on a regular basis

How often do you treat yourself “just because”? The likely answer is, not nearly enough. And we aren’t talking about buying yourself a new dress every time you have a hard day at work or digging into a massive piece of cake because a co-worker made a rude comment. Constantly buying things or overindulging can easily lead to more remorse than to true joy. What we’re talking about is finding little ways to treat yourself to moments that are just for you.

A big part of happiness comes from appreciating and valuing yourself, and it’s hard to do that when you constantly run yourself ragged. That’s why it’s so important to treat yourself to a small moment each day and to a larger chunk of time once a week that are just for you. Whether you spend that time watching TV, taking a leisurely walk or trying out a new recipe, it’s completely up to you. The important thing is that you cut time out of your schedule to appreciate all that you do. Treat your body and mind well, and they’ll treat you well in return.

Breathe and keep your cool

We live in a busy world, and that can mean all kinds of little things can get under your skin if you let them. Getting stuck in traffic, dealing with a challenging friend or having to take on more work than you should can all be big stressors. But when you notice negative emotions rising, take a moment to breathe and rearrange your thoughts. It’s normal to get angry when you’ve been sitting in traffic for an hour, but it’s important to remember that the only person suffering from your anger is you.

Instead of getting angry, take a few deep breaths, recognize the negative emotions you’re feeling, accept their reasons for being there, and find a positive distraction that will make you feel better. Whether that means playing your favourite song on your iPod, thinking about the fun party you went to a few weeks ago or planning what you’ll wear for that special occasion coming up, think about the good rather than the bad. It isn’t always easy to quit stewing in your frustrations, but it will be worth it in the long run.

More on happiness

Keeping positive in negative times
Find that silver lining
The bucket list

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