Feeling better, happier, and more productive doesn’t need to be complicated. Sometimes it is the simple things that make the biggest difference. Try these easy ways to increase happiness by reducing stress and finding time to take care of you.

1. Drink more water: Your body is 90% water. As we age, we lose our ability to recognize thirst, and our kidneys lose some of their precision in regulating the water supply in our bodies. Medications can affect this as well – diuretics, antihistamines and some antidepressants. A study by the National Center for Biotechnology Information showed the greater the intake of water the better the mood. Staying hydrated can help you lose weight, keep your joints lubricated and help maintain your body temperature. Who doesn’t need that at this point in life?

increase happiness - hug2. Hug someone: Virginia Satir, a respected family therapist says, “We need four hugs a day for survival. We need eight hugs a day for maintenance. We need twelve hugs a day for growth.” Not being a hugger myself, I should be dead already, it seems. Hugging relieves tension, boosts self esteem, lifts serotonin levels which elevates your mood, and can reduce feelings of isolation and anger. Go wrap your arms around someone you like and increase happiness for both of you.

3. Breathe: Even if you don’t take time to meditate, take 5 minutes out of your day to consciously breathe deeply. By doing so you reduce stress hormone levels. It can slow your heart beat and lower your blood pressure. By breathing deeply, we aid the oxygenation process to our cells, strengthen our immune system, our lungs and muscles. It can even improve your posture and help you feel more centered.

4. Practice gratitude: At the beginning or end of the day, write down 5 things for which you are grateful. It will help you sleep better, reduce aggression, improve self esteem and contributes to longevity. Grateful people take better care of their health through exercise and regular doctor’s visits.

5. Pay it forward: Doing good for others can actually help you live longer. Researchers from the University of Buffalo found a link between giving, unselfishness and a lower risk of early death. Also, doing good once a week leads to happiness – and it becomes addictive. As you reflect on your good deed and how it helped someone else, it makes you want that feeling again and again.increase happiness - walk

6. Get moving: Take a walk. Whether through the mall or around your block, our bodies are meant to move. Walking can improve your mood by increasing mood elevating endorphins. Studies have found walking is as effective as drugs for decreasing depression. It relieves every day stresses and can help clear your mind. Start taking steps to increase happiness!

7. Listen to music: When you listen to music you like for as little as 15 minutes, your brain releases dopamine, which is a feel-good neurotransmitter. It reduces the stress hormone cortisol, and can help fight depression – especially if you listen to classical or meditative music. If you have trouble sleeping, try listening to classical music 45 minutes before bed.

increase happiness - read8. Read a book: Use it or lose it applies to your brain as much as to your muscles. In this time of so much frenetic input from electronic devices, 15 or 20 minutes a day spent reading a book can make a huge difference in your ability to focus. When you are absorbed in a story, the rest of the world falls away, which in turn helps reduce your stress levels and anxiety. Reading improves your analytical thinking and can slow the progress of (or possibly prevent) Alzheimer’s and Dementia through mental stimulation.

9. Laugh: Lauughter IS the best medicine. According to the Mayo Clinic, laughter enhances your intake of oxygen-rich air, stimulates your heart, lungs and muscles, and increases endorphins. Laughter can stimulate your circulation and aid muscle relaxation, reducing the physical symptoms of stress. Laughter has been shown to help ease pain, and can make it easier to cope with difficult situations. Not surprisingly, laughter helps lessen depression and makes you feel happier.

increase happiness - intimacy10. Get intimate: A deep connection and frequent affection with your partner releases oxytonin and makes you feel fulfilled. Sex releases feel good hormones such as seratonin, which can increase happiness and energy. Like exercise, it increases your heart rate and uses all the large muscle groups. Studies have shown that sex leads to the growth of new brain cells and can improve your confidence. Best of all, if you achieve climax, it calms your nervous system, allowing you to sleep better and more deeply.

There you have it. 10 ways to increase happiness. Give one – or all of them a try!

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