Happiness is almost as important to human survival as food, clothing and shelter. Vital as it is, few of us truly understand how happiness works. Common misconceptions include the idea that we can successfully pursue happiness. In fact, people who highly value personal happiness generally display significantly more symptoms of depression than folks who don’t think about it much. And though happiness is half genetic, about 40 percent of what makes us happy involves our daily thoughts and deeds.
When my focus is kindness, each day is delightful.
Happily, there are proven ways to be of good cheer during stressful times. For starters, think about the last time you had a good laugh. Brain scans show that thinking about laughing affects us just as positively as real laughing does. Next, listen to music. Any kind of music that you enjoy hearing can quickly improve your emotional state. You can also eat fish or take a daily high-quality fish oil supplement. A 3.5-ounce serving of wild-caught salmon provides about a gram of omega-3 fatty acids, which help the brain process serotonin, contributing to mental health and a sense of well-being.
I approach each person I meet with a friendly spirit.
Turn off the TV and read an absorbing book. Studies show that avid readers rate their state of happiness higher than frequent television viewers do. Plan a vacation. Anticipating a vacation can boost happiness for several months (though the benefits of actually taking one vanish almost immediately). Better yet, go outside. Spending as little as ten minutes in a natural environment can positively affect our sense of well-being for a full day.
Happy, Healthy Holidays
To keep holidays joyful, choose simplified, lighter versions of traditional foods and concentrate on enjoying the company. To feed a small group, serve a smoked turkey breast, which only needs a brief reheating. Replace fatty gravy by adding quartered onions to the roasting pan with turkey, chicken or goose. When the bird is done, skim off the fat and puree the onions with an immersion blender for delectable gravy.
Partner rich holiday foods with fresh salads, lively with winter greens, green onions, bell peppers and Kalamata olives. Toss chopped, unsweetened fruit (Honeycrisp apples, Bosc pears, or Ruby Red grapefruit) with cinnamon, chili powder or smoked paprika, and a little sea salt for a tantalizingly savory fruit salad. Serve light, fat-free desserts like lemon sorbet and crisp meringues, and your guests will feel satisfied but not stuffed.
Hot Cranberry Ginger Cider
2 inches fresh ginger root, finely chopped
1 tablespoon ground ginger
1 quart fresh cider
2 cups unsweetened cranberry juice
2 cups ginger tea
2 cups chamomile tea
1 tablespoon stevia powder or 1/2 cup honey
Place chopped and ground gingers in a saucepan, cover with 2 cups boiling water and steep for 30 minutes. Strain into a soup pot and add cider, cranberry juice, and ginger and chamomile teas. Bring to a simmer over low heat, adding stevia or honey to taste. Serves 8-12. Refrigerate leftovers for up to 3 days.
— by Ann Lovejoy – excerpted from The Year of Healthy Living