Invest in your mental health with these simple products that can help you feel calmer, more relaxed and happier.
Why happiness is important for overall health
There is not one universal definition of happiness. Everyone has their own happy place, and for some, “happy” can just mean feeling calmer. The general psychological consensus about happiness is that it is about the high quality of life and satisfaction with your current lifestyle.
“I define happiness like most researchers do,” says Sonja Lyubomirsky, PhD, distinguished professor of psychology at the University of California, Riverside, and author of The how of happiness. “It has two components: the experience of positive emotions — joy, tranquility, pride, affection — and feeling that your life is good or satisfaction with life in general.”
That’s not to say life has to be perfect or 100 percent Instagrammable to qualify as happy. It also doesn’t mean that happiness is a destination: you can’t arrive and just stay. Happiness requires consistent effort to maintain or improve your current levels, says Sherry Benton, PhD, the Golden, Colorado-based founder and chief science officer of TAO Connect, an online therapy resource. (Here are the happiness secrets psychologists wish you knew.)
Although happiness isn’t always under control, people who report feeling happier live longer, have stronger immune function, and eat a more nutritious diet than other people.
Putting your money where your mood is
The Beatles were right: money can’t buy love. Turns out you can’t buy happiness with it either. (PS these best simple pleasures in life bring joy.)
“One of the great things about working on your own happiness is that the work can be done for free,” says Heather Lyons, PhD, a licensed psychologist and owner of the Baltimore Therapy Group in Towson, Maryland. “It can be motivating to focus on happiness and invest in the experience.”
Not surprisingly, people who make more money feel happier than other people — to a degree. According to a 2018 study published in Nature Human behavior, people tend to experience diminishing joyful returns above a certain level. (Somewhere around $105,000 for the average American family of four.) As with happiness, how we think about, spend, and save money can affect how we feel about it.
Still, having extra money set aside for emergencies – if you’re able to do so – can provide peace of mind. Having the flexibility to save or allocate small funds to treat yourself to a few things can boost your mood, too. Consider these expert-recommended options to add to your self-care plan. (But first, take a look at eight happiness myths that have convinced many of us to be true.)
A diary: The 5-Minute Gratitude Journal: Give Thanks, Practice Positivity, Find Joy
In just four weeks, those who wrote thanks to others as part of their overall psychotherapy treatment reported better mental health than their peers who just received counseling, according to a study published in 2016 in Research into psychotherapy.
And a study published in 2018 in The Journal of Positive Psychology found that adolescents who kept a gratitude journal were willing to donate about 60 percent more of their earnings to charities compared to those who did not keep a journal.
“If you express gratitude and try not to take things for granted, that can be very helpful,” Lyubomirsky says. “This doesn’t mean ignoring the bad parts, but consciously thinking about the good ones.”
Journaling encourages self-awareness, Lyons adds, which can be an investment in your personal self-reflection and attention to the positive experiences of the moment. (Here’s how to start a journal.)
At the end of each day, try to write down three to five highlights or things you are grateful for. It can boost your mood – not just in the moment, but also when you read it again in difficult times. If you don’t like using pen and paper, typing on your phone or computer will work too. (We recommend these 29 instant mood boosters on those days, too.)
Meditation Cushion: FelizMax Zafu Buckwheat Meditation Cushion
$26 to $37
Becoming more aware — paying attention to moments as you experience them rather than mulling over the past or worrying about the future — will help boost your happiness levels both in the moment and at the end of the day, suggests a study in 2018 in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology.
Practice being here and now by making meditation a daily habit. Even starting the morning with five minutes of breathing in bed counts. Although not necessary, meditation cushions can make you more comfortable.
Another meditation tip from Lyons: Use a meditation cushion or pillow to make seated reflections more comfortable and welcoming.
An art therapy or coloring book: Essential Art Therapy Exercises: Effective Techniques to Manage Anxiety, Depression, and PTSD
“Pursuing new activities, such as biking or baking, and making time to explore new interests can increase happiness,” Benton says. “Find ways to play, laugh and have fun. Whether you’re trying a new board game or rewatching a movie that makes you laugh, take the time to find the simple things that make you happy.”
An easy thing to try: Grab a set of crayons or crayons to use in an adult coloring book. You reduce your stress and increase relaxation right now by coloring, according to a study published in the Journal of Integrated Social Sciences in 2018.
Over time, this practice can relieve symptoms of anxiety and depression, a study in Creativity Research Journal. Even scribbling can help you feel happier.
A scented candle: T&H Lime Basil Mandarin Stress Relief Aromatherapy Candle
The key to a happier mood may just be right under your nose. Research shows that freshly cut grass, rosemary, pine, citrus and flowers are all scents that can increase happiness levels. So are scents that transport you back to a cozy place, such as the smell of grandma’s freshly baked Christmas cookies. (Here are the best non-toxic candles to use for cleaner indoor air.)