Healthy lives for young people
Wellbeing

How to be happy

The way we feel can have a huge impact on our health.

If you don’t feel happy or strong, it can impact on the decisions you make in life and can even make you feel physically unwell.

It is sometimes referred to as ‘mental health’ which can sound a bit scary, but it refers to problems every single one of us will have to overcome at one time or another – such as feeling low, worried, panicky or stressed.

The good news is that all these feelings can be managed, it just takes a little commitment and discipline. There are also some really simple principles called the Five Ways to Wellbeing which you can start living by, today, which are proven to make you feel happier.

Dealing with stress

Stress is a common cause of unhappiness and refers to feelings of being under too much emotional or mental pressure. It can be caused by any number of things, including school, college or work, relationships with family or friends or money. When it becomes too much, it can be hard to think clearly about things and can affect how you think, feel or behave.

Stress can make your mind race and can make you feel like your brain is stuck in a loop, where it is constantly going over and over things. This can affect your sleep, concentration and appetite. It can also make you think negatively and react badly to things.

But stress can be controlled and managed. Learning to spot the signs that tell you you’re stressed is the first step. For example, does it make you fidgety or tearful? Do you get headaches or feel queasy? Knowing this will not only help you tackle it before it gets out of hand but it will also help you manage your ways of coping with stress such as eating or drinking too much.

Read more about managing stress.

Having fun

It sounds simple, but doing things that cheer you up and make you laugh are one of the quickest ways to feeling happier.

Think of simple things that make you feel happy such as being with a friend who makes you smile, watching your favourite film, cooking your favourite food or having a long hot bath. Avoid the things that you know will make you feel good short term but worse in time, such as eating the wrong things, spending more money than you can afford or drinking too much.

Build your self-esteem

Self-esteem refers to how you feel about yourself and a lot of things can affect it. We’ve all had moments of low self-esteem and it might be caused by failing an exam, missing out on a new job, falling out with friends or putting on a few pounds. But learning how to dust yourself off and tell yourself you’re doing ok, is one of the most valuable lessons you’ll learn in life. Think about the advice you’d give a really good friend if they were in your situation. Be kind to yourself but be honest and realistic too. It can also help to tell yourself that by dealing with a difficult time well and learning from it, you will build your resilience.

Be kind to your body

It may sound obvious but your physical health will really impact on your happiness too. It often comes down to the usual culprits:

Alcohol: don’t fool yourself, it might cheer you up temporarily but it’s a depressant and will leave you feeling worse than you did to start with. Read all about it here. (LINK: to new alcohol article in this section)

Eat well: You may think chocolate or crisps will make you feel better but the best way to feel emotionally stronger is to give your body all the nutrients it needs to be at its best. Read more about having a balanced diet, here.

Exercise: It’s a little known fact that doing exercise boosts your mood. If you’re not naturally sporty, it may sound really boring but why not start off with a half an hour walk, listening to your favourite music, and see if you feel better by the end? You might surprise yourself.

Sleep: You need to be getting 7 or 8 hours sleep a night. If you’re getting less than that, it might explain why you’re not feeling as happy as you could. If you’re not getting enough or if you’re not sleeping well, write a list of the reasons you think that might be and make a plan to improve it. You could also try this brilliant NHS trouble sleeping audio guide, which will take you thorough some simple steps you can take to improve your sleep.

Talk and share

‘A problem shared is a problem halved’. It sounds like a cliché but in many ways, it’s true. Talking about how you feel, to someone who you know has your best interests at heart can make a problem seem much more manageable. And it doesn’t have to be a deadly-serious or in-depth chat if you’re not ready for that. It could just be trying to see the funny side of a situation and having a laugh.

If you’d like more tips on how to be happier, visit the brilliant Action for Happiness website. It’s packed with brilliantly simple ways to feel happier.

The five steps to happiness

Evidence suggests that there are five super-simple steps we can all take to feel happier. They are often referred to as the Five Ways to Wellbeing. Why not give them a try today? They are:

Connect: Spend time developing relationships with your family, friends, colleagues and neighbours

Be active: Find an activity you enjoy and make it part of your life. Being active causes your body to release endorphins which fight stress and pain and make you feel happier.

Learn: Learning new skills can really be a confidence-booster and can give you a sense of achievement

Give to others: Small acts of kindness can make a huge difference to another person and are guaranteed to give you a warm glow inside.

Take notice: Often referred to as ‘mindfulness’, being less inward-looking and more aware of your surroundings can change the way you think about life and how your approach challenges.

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