What are the most significant steps to follow if you want to feel good from morning to night?
David Rakel, MD, spends his days helping people figure that out. He's the director of the integrative medicine program at the University of Wisconsin and to him, feeling good means that your body and mind are working at their peak level, and you have a general sense of well-being.
To feel good day after day, he suggests these tips:
#1. Smile, Especially if You Want To Feel Good.
There's scientific evidence that smiling can help the body and mind recover from stress. In a 2012 study published in the journal Psychological Science, researchers induced stress in 170 students by asking them to perform a dexterity test and then plunge a hand into ice water.
When the subjects were made to smile during these tasks, their heart rates returned to normal levels more quickly after they recovered from the stress. They were also better at maintaining positive feelings during the plunge than were those who held neutral expressions.
Moreover, scientists observed an even greater drop in heart rate when students broke into a "Duchenne smile" (the type that engages the eyes and the mouth). "Smiling can jump-start the process of happiness," says Jeff Brown, MD, a Harvard psychologist and the author of Chicken Soup for the Soul: "When you smile, you trigger a psychological and neurobiological alignment with positive emotions."
#2. Sleep Enough to Feel Good
Most of us spend one-quarter to one-third of our lives asleep. The amount of sleep we need varies slightly by individual, but the importance of healthy sleep habits is clear.
Without enough quality sleep, our minds and bodies just don’t work as well. In the short term, even after one or two terrible nights’ sleep can affect your memory, judgement and reflexes.
You’re at greater risk of crashing your car. In the long term, sleep deprivation can cause weight gain, increase your risk of diabetes, elevate your blood pressure and weaken your immune system. Plus it will make you cranky.
#3. Get Some "Exercise" to Feel Good
"Studies show that everything from cognition to the lymphatic system improves if we are more consistently active throughout the day," says David Agus, MD, professor of medicine and biomedical engineering at the Keck School of Medicine of USC. "Our bodies were designed to move. Yet we've designed our world to have everything within arm's reach."
That means you need to take every chance you get to add extra activity into your day. In fact, research published in the American Journal of Health Promotion suggests that short periods of activity really add up. When researchers analyzed data from more than 6,000 adults, ages 18 to 85, they found that those who got short bouts of exercise (between one and 10 minutes) through everyday activities experienced the same benefits, including lower blood pressure and cholesterol, as did those who continuously exercised for 30 minutes.
#4. Go Outside To Feel Good And feel Better.
Even 20 minutes spent outside, in your yard, a park or on a walk, can change your mood for the better. Studies have shown that stepping outside lowers stress, heart rate and blood pressure. It can boost creativity and optimism. Best of all? It’s free, and right outside your door.
#5. Help Someone to Feel Better.
Whether you volunteer regularly or help your elderly neighbor take his trash out, doing for others is a known, studied, powerful way to increase your life satisfaction, boost happiness, find meaning and connect.
For a quick boost, write someone a thank-you note or a quick hello, or pay for the coffee of the person in the drive-through line behind you. Kindness is also incredibly contagious! It creates a virtuous circle. Doing good/giving makes us happy, which makes us want to do/give more, which makes us happier.
#6. Meditate To Feel Good.
What if I told you that if you commit to meditating 5-10 minutes a day on most days you’ll feel calmer, more focused and happier? Can I guarantee it?
People notice short-term benefits, including improved circulation, less anxiety and stress, lower blood pressure and blood cortisol levels, increased feelings of well-being and peace… even bliss!
#7. Eat Some Dark Chocolate To Feel Good
In addition to its other documented health benefits, dark chocolate may help sharpen the mind. When participants in a study at Northumbria University in England were given a drink containing high levels of cocoa flavanols (a type of antioxidant in chocolate), they performed significantly better on a math task than they did after having a placebo drink. Why? Researchers say that it's possible that flavanols help improve blood flow to the brain.
Even better, chocolate may help take the edge off stress. When Swiss researchers asked stressed-out people to eat 1.4 ounces of dark chocolate each day, the researchers found that after two weeks, the subjects had lower levels of the stress hormones cortisol and catecholamines.
#8. Focus on What's Good in Your Life Show Gratitude.
Pick up a pen and list at least a few things you’re grateful for today. Think about your relationships, things that went well, and any positive parts of your life -- big or small. People who do this feel better and are less bothered by stress. And it can take very little time to do.
#9. Appreciate Others And Practicing Compassion
Practicing compassion for others tends to make you feel better, too. Choose someone: a friend, family member, co-worker, or even a stranger.
In your mind, send them wishes to be happy and healthy and live with ease. This quick exercise can make you more satisfied with your own life.
#10. Stop Looking at Your Phone or Television an Hour Before Bed
Curling up with a book on your tablet is the perfect way to end a busy day, right? Not if you want to sleep well, experts warn.
The short wavelengths of light emitted by electronics can help suppress melatonin, the hormone that signals your body that it's night and time to sleep.7 "An hour or two before going to bed, switch off all electronic devices," says Frank Lipman, MD, the founder and the director of the Eleven Eleven Wellness Center, in New York City.
It's possible that the closer you hold a device to your face, the more likely it is that the emitted light can interfere with your sleep, which is why tablets may be especially disruptive.
And research published in the Journal of Applied Ergonomics found that spending two hours or more in front of a backlit display can suppress melatonin production.
What to do with the time after you unplug? Take a bath, read a (real) book, write in a journal, meditate, do light stretches—anything but scroll social media.
#11. Eat Healthy To Feel Good.
Want to live longer, maintain a healthy weight, reduce your risk of certain cancers and lower your risk of heart disease? Also, not to be indelicate, but you’ll have better bowel movements. So eat more fiber. There are two kind: soluble and insoluble.
Soluble fiber dissolves in water and turns into a gel inside your colon, where it is digested. The gel blocks some of the fat and cholesterol you’ve eaten from being digested and it slows how fast you digest carbohydrates.
That helps keep your blood sugar levels steady. Eating plenty of soluble fiber can also lower the risk of heart disease. Great sources of soluble fiber include black beans, brussel sprouts, asparagus, sweet potatoes, avocados, apples and carrots.
Insoluble fiber does not digest or dissolve, it just cruises through your digestive tract picking, um, material up along the way, which you then eliminate when you poop. Your mom might have called insoluble fiber ‘roughage.’
It keeps you feeling fuller longer, which allows you to eat less. This is also the stuff that helps you avoid or treat constipation, by moving your digestion along. Plenty of insoluble fiber can be found in
#12. Connect With a Friend
Call a friend to catch up, email a family member to check in, or text a colleague to meet you for coffee. Making contact with other people builds social connections and gives you more support. Studies support this:
Better relationships are one of the best ways to feel good and become happier
#13. Do Creative Stuffs to Feel Good
Daily creativity is great for your mood and sense of wellbeing. I’m not saying you have to write the great American novel or paint a mural, although you’re welcome to!
Or you could learn to knit, take up cooking, sing a song or doodle a little picture. Gather pretty leaves and make a collage. You get the idea.
You can try and do whatever creative things you want to feel good. The idea is to improve the happiness level of your mind, body and soul by feeling good from inside.
#14. Laugh a Lot to Feel Good.
In the short term, cracking up with your bestie or rewatching that hilarious scene can ease tension, release a burst of feel-good hormones, AKA endorphins and stimulate your heart and lungs. I
n the longer term, laughter can give your immune system a boost. When you’re happy, your body releases stress and illness-fighting neuropeptides.
#15. Hug Someone to Feel Good.
Find a friend or family member and ask for a hug. That warm squeeze will give you a lift -- and could even make conflict less upsetting, according to one study. Hugging could also help your immune system, reduce crying, improve sleep, sense of body ownership, reduced anxiety.
Hugging also corrects production of growth hormone, leading to correct physical development. Increased empathy for others as they grow up.
#16. Practice Positive Self-Talk To Feel Good
“I can handle this.”
Practice positive self-talk. Try to reverse any negative thoughts you have. If you’re worried about a mistake you made, tell yourself, “Everyone messes up. I can fix it.”
Say a few upbeat mantras to yourself out loud -- it can change your thinking and cut your stress.
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