1. Seven Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Exercise

    March 6, 2014

    Seven Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Exercise

    by Michelle Blessing


    (This article is a follow up to “7 Habits of Happy People“)


    We all know exercise benefits us in the physical sense – it improves our health and extends our life expectancy.  But many people don’t realize the benefits exercise has for your mental well-being; exercise improves brain function, improves mood and decreases the incidence of depression.  Still not convinced about the benefits exercise can have on your happiness and well-being?  Read on…..


    Many research studies have been published regarding the connection between exercise and happiness.  Most of the studies have discussed the link between improved mood and happiness with exercising.  Although the link is not definitive (some studies state that people who are happier are more inclined to exercise), there is proof that being active and exercising can and does improve your mood.  Some researchers have cited the release of endorphins during exercise as causing the improvement in mood, while others believe challenging the mind and body creates a feeling of satisfaction that leads to increased mood and happiness.


    However, as discussed in the post regarding caring, it can be difficult to find the time (and the energy) to exercise on a regular basis.  Take it from someone one who has been there – I was notorious for finding every excuse in the book not to exercise.  Here are some examples of my excuses – the dishes need to be done, my favorite show is on TV, I feel guilty spending time away from my kids….on and on the list went.  I wasn’t exercising, and clearly, my mood reflected that.  I soon discovered that in order to be the best version of myself, I needed to make the time to take care of myself.


    Exercise is and should be an important part of your everyday life.  Exercise has the ability to teach you things about yourself – what fulfills you and what you’re capable of.  The art of practicing some form of exercise, whether it is aerobics, walking or yoga, allows you to get in touch with your body – and your mind.  The key to success – and happiness- with exercise is not choosing something easy; it is important, however, to choose something you enjoy and something that will challenge you.


    Exercise and becoming physically active is the first step in achieving some level of happiness.  But there is truth in the idea of challenging yourself to accomplish goals or master something.  It doesn’t matter what exercise you choose; the important component is to find your niche, settle in and work towards whatever it is you want to accomplish.  Happiness will be the icing on that piece of cake.


    For me, yoga is what fulfills me.  It’s not just about the breathing or the stretching, the poses or the meditation; it’s about challenging my body to reach its potential.  With every class I take, I try harder, I get stronger – and I find a deeper sense of happiness and satisfaction.  For others, running is their passion; they find inner peace in pounding the pavement and pushing their body to the limit.  It doesn’t matter what you choose, but you need to make a commitment.  Make a commitment to exercise at least a few times per week.  Start slow (and always check with your physician before starting a new exercise regimen); 20 minutes of exercise, 2 or 3 times a week is a good place to begin.  With each exercise session, push yourself (within your limits) to progress towards your goals.  Most importantly, focus on how the exercise makes you feel both physically and mentally.  Appreciate how the activity impacts your body and your mind.  When you are exercising, try to focus on only that; let other thoughts (about the kids, bills or dinner) leave your mind; instead, keep the concentration on your body and mind, especially reflecting on what you are capable of.  By appreciating your body and your mind for what it can do, you not only push yourself on the path to happiness and positivity, you might even inspire others to do the same.


    Image Credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/jazz_defo/3529977647


  2. 7 Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Caring

    March 4, 2014

    Seven Habits of Happy People – Focusing on Caring

    by Michelle Blessing


    (This article is a follow up to “7 Habits of Happy People“)


    The idea that caring for others leads to happiness is common sense to most people; in fact, research shows that caring for others leads to better relationships and lower levels of depression.  However, in our fast-paced, modern world, it can be difficult to find the time to care of ourselves, let alone care for others.  However, finding that inner peace that leads to happiness is important for both your mental and physical well-being.  And caring for others can be as simple or as complex as you decide to make it – from simply helping a friend, family member or stranger in need to making a standing date to volunteer at a hospital or shelter.  Whatever you decide, know that you are making an important decision – not just for you, but for others as well.


    Unsure where to start?  You aren’t alone; many people really aren’t sure how to get started when it comes to showing others how much they care.  Although kind words can go a long way, research demonstrates that being an active participant in caring for others leads to higher levels of life satisfaction and happiness.  Even as little as once a week can help you reap the benefits of volunteering and caring.  And even simple acts of kindness can have huge benefits for your life.


    For example, simply holding the door and smiling at the person behind you at the grocery store can boost your happiness levels for the day.  And when your happiness levels are boosted, you are likely to carry those good feelings with you throughout the day, leading to more acts of kindness – this creates a “happiness cycle” that can help you achieve higher intensities of life satisfaction.  If smiling at a random stranger has the ability to raise your happiness levels, imagine what volunteering on a regular basis can do for you.


    Research shows, however, that passively volunteering does not have the same impact as actively volunteering.  Passive volunteering means going to the shelter but not engaging with the residents; you simply go in the hopes you will experience some of the happiness and satisfaction that people talk about.  However, it doesn’t work and it can actually lead to lower levels of life satisfaction and depression.  When you actively participate in the volunteer experience, you learn not only about what you are capable of, but what others are capable of giving to you as well.  And I’m not talking about tangible rewards; no, this is much more powerful than that.


    When you open up to caring for others, you open up a world of possibility for yourself.  You allow people to see what you are made of – your thoughts, your feelings and your life intentions.  And that’s just the beginning – when you open yourself up to others, you learn about how other people experience (or don’t experience) happiness.  The results of this back and forth relationship can be powerful – and life changing.


    So take a chance and make a change; make more of an effort to care for others.  If you aren’t sure how to start, start small.  Smile at a stranger; it just might make his or her day.  Slow down and take the time to appreciate what others have to offer to the world.  Remember that everyone has potential, and you just never know how another person can impact your life – or you can impact him or her.  When you’re ready, take the next step – volunteer your time with others, especially those less fortunate than yourself.  Spending time with others, listening to them and making an effort to understand them can all lead to renewed energy and direction in life.  And sometimes that change in direction is all you need to take you on the path to happiness.

    Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/dragnfly78/389961836/