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Free Ways to Be Happier

Posted 3/28/2016 by UHBlog

Becoming your happiest self won’t cost you a thing. We’ll show you how.

Free Ways to Be Happier

Forget the new car, big promotion or winning the lottery. Studies show that once your basic needs are met, money has nothing to do with happiness.

“Once you’re living above the poverty line, money won’t make you happier,” says stress resilience specialist Heidi Weiker, MSSA. “Happiness has everything to do with the free things in life that bring us meaning.”

Happiness is defined as a subjective sense of overall life satisfaction, coupled with moments and minutes each day that make you feel good.

To boost your overall satisfaction and happiness in life, Weiker recommends following these six steps:

  1. Get into the moment – Use mindfulness and breathing to get into the here and now.
    “When you’re back in the past or up in the future, there’s a real disharmony in your system,” she says. “You can’t change the past or control the future, so it catapults you into a stress reaction and away from peace and joy in the moment.”
  2. Construct meaning – When you can see the lessons learned or gifts in adversity, you’ll have a higher level of subjective happiness.
    “That means no matter what’s happening in your external world, you can see it as an opportunity for you to grow, develop and become,” Weiker says.
  3. Be generous – The act of giving something of yourself boosts your happiness and increases dopamine – a feel-good neurotransmitter – in your brain.
    “People think they need to give financially, and that’s absolutely not true,” Weiker says. “Whether it’s opening a door for someone, volunteering or a random act of kindness, the act of giving releases dopamine in the brain. It feels good and gets you in a cycle of giving.”
  4. Practice gratitude – Be grateful for your strengths and talents, as well as the positives in other people and in your life.
    “We see sustained levels of positive emotions and thoughts by practicing gratitude for 10 minutes a week,” she says. “You can write it down, say it out loud, dance it – however you feel good processing gratitude.”
  5. Immerse yourself in nature – Studies show that being in nature will boost your happiness.
    “Savor standing on the earth by feeling the breeze on your face or appreciating the shape of snowflakes,” Weiker says. “Nature really impacts the harmony of our bodies.”
  6. Listen to music – Music feeds the circuitry in your brain with motivation, reward and emotion. For best results, Weiker suggests you pick a song between 120 to 140 beats per minute, such as “Happy” by Pharrell Williams or “Shake it Off” by Taylor Swift.

According to Weiker, studies have shown that practicing these steps – all of which are free – will cause changes in your brain that increase your happiness levels.

“If you’re someone taking longer to notice changes and feel the urge to use money to get happy, stay with the process,” she says. “Some people may find listening to two songs during the day lifts them, while others may need to practice all of these methods regularly.”

Beware of things that can interfere with your happiness, which Weiker calls “happiness killers.” These include:

  • Guilt and shame
  • Over attachment to the past and future
  • Comparison to others
  • Resentment and bitterness
  • Lack of connection to another human being

It’s important to note that you can’t combat happiness killers by buying a new outfit or taking a trip.

“What will last to combat those happiness killers are experiences,” Weiker says. “We find happiness in the moment. When we’re in the moment and build throughout the day, we build happiness.”

Heidi Weiker, MSSA is a stress resilience specialist, life coach and HeartMath interventionist at the University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Weiker or any UH Connor Integrative Health Network provider online.

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