Our state of mind is not simply the bi-product of our genes or the circumstances we find ourselves in. Put another way, we have a lot of control over the way we feel.
Professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky Ph.D., of the University of California, suggests that half our happiness is governed by genes, around 10 percent by life circumstances and 40 per cent by our daily thoughts and actions. I’m focusing on the 40 per cent and just some of the things we have at our disposal to improve mood.
- Avoid negative vibes. It may sound obvious, but most people are affected by the people around them. Emotions can be contagious, so if you are stuck with people who grumble and moan, it isn’t surprising that if this infects you. If you can tip the balance by ignoring the negativity and spending more time with people who make you feel better, it stands to reason that your mood will be lifted.
- Be Thankful. Various studies have demonstrated that expressions of gratitude actually improve mood. In one of Sonja Lyubomirsky’s experiments, she asked a group of people to write things down that they were grateful for, three times a week. A second group were asked to do the same, but only once a week. When the groups were compared, the ‘once a week’ group were significantly more happy. The conclusion? Even self-help strategies can become tiresome and counter-productive if you overdo them – but a little can be very effective.
- Do Something Nice. Those little gestures, like offering to make someone a coffee, or buying someone lunch, actually seem to make people feel good about themselves. Even better, being nice to a complete stranger can have a marked effect on mood. As we tend to be keen to make a good first impression, this usually involves portraying a cheery disposition. If our behavior is cheerful, we tend to feel our own mood lighten as a result.
- A healthy body really does help a healthy mind. You’ve been away a long time if you don’t know that healthy eating and regular exercise are intimately related to a good state of mind. The good news is that it really doesn’t take that much to lift your mood. A brisk 10 minute walk, some daily breathing exercises and a balanced diet are essential ingredients.
- Tempt your senses. We have an innate sense of pleasure that derives from our various senses, yet we assault them on a daily basis with traffic fumes, noise, harsh or poor lighting, dreadful meals and uncomfortable work environments. Granted, you may not have it in your gift to change everything, but most people can do a little more. Flowers and plants are known to make people feel less anxious and even to generate a sense of greater enthusiasm. Music tickles the pleasure centers of the brain and has an effect long after the music has finished. Certain smells are very appealing and can be obtained via flowers, candles, sprays and so on. So, check out your environs and give the place a lift. Your mood will thank you!