10 Ways to Become a Happier Human
Betcha didn't think I'd list that one, did you? ;)
Here we go again with the journaling. It seems like a fad you hear about everywhere now, doesn’t it? You hear 'influencers' and celebrities raving about the positive effects of writing their thoughts out each morning and it’s redundant and annoying. I get it.
But here’s the thing….there is something to it. When I was younger I was very much into journaling. I would come home from school and transcribe my day from start to finish. Before bed, I would jot down my final thoughts before nodding off and it would help quell my anxiety - especially in my teen years. As I got older though, this practice fell away from me. With technological advances the ease of mindlessly scrolling through Netflix/Instagram, I never made the time to write out of my feelings. I made excuses — work was too busy, I was exhausted, my relationships needed more attention, blah blah blah. The few times I did try to journal, it felt stupid and I gave up. I was all over the place in my late teens/early 20’s and I’m not saying there is a direct correlation between my non-journaling days and my mental wellbeing, but maybe there is?
This is a practice I picked back up within the last few years. I was going through a lot and was willing to try anything. It seemed like every book I read, every podcast I was listening to, all recommended the art of journaling as THE answer. Beginning was tough but slowly I got back into it. It was nostalgic in a way..picking up a pen and letting it all out. After a month or so, I began to crave my morning routine and putting pen to paper.
Here is my tip: don’t overdue it. Don’t get a big, fancy journal and have sparkly goals of filling pages and pages of gold leaf paper with your innermost secrets and feelings. That's too much pressure. Instead, get a dinky three ring notebook from CVS (I still have my OG notebook I started with a few years ago) or a little prompted journal (The 5 Minute Journal is awesome) and spend 5-10 minutes each morning and/or night getting it all out.
Nobody is going to read this so who cares what you put in it. The point is to get it out. Write out what you’re grateful for, what is stressing you out, who is pissing you off, something fun that happened to you - just get it out. I promise, you have a lot more built up inside than you realize and I promise that you will feel better once those feelings/ideas/thoughts are staring back at you on paper. You don’t even have to re-read your pages, I usually don’t. It is refreshing, however, to go back and read old journals. It might surprise you how far you have come and how much you have grown over the years.
Another classic. I won’t ramble on about this one. All I will say is don’t knock it til you try it….and try it again, and again, and so on and so forth. Because for the first 10 tries, you probably won’t like it. It’s uncomfortable and may feel like a waste of time. You won’t know if you’re doing it right (and you probably aren’t) for a long time. But stick with it. I only do about 5-10 minutes every day. Sometimes I feel like I am making a breakthrough while other times I feel fidgety and annoyed. Sometimes I can block out the noise while other times I can’t stop thinking about what I’m going to eat for breakfast. I know some people who can sit for 45 minutes and that is amazing for them, but not for everybody. Start slowly like with journaling. The minutes add up. Try an app on your phone. Sit outside. Sit inside. Put a timer on your phone. There are so many options and variations of ways to meditate, you just need to find what works for you. But TRY it and stick with it. I promise you will be happier for it.
One of my favorite apps for meditating is the Calm app but it is somewhat pricey so I would recommend just going on Spotify and searching meditation playlists — there are tons. Youtube has a bunch of great options as well.
Sometimes the idea of getting up and doing a full workout is daunting. It’s too much — you’re exhausted, you’re not in the mood, you’d rather spend those free 20 minutes you have catching up on the laundry pile that keeps building up — this is where walking comes in. Just put on your sneakers, pop in your headphones and walk.
I try to walk every day, even if it is just for 15 minutes. It’s a great way to wake up the body, call that person who has been on your mind, catch up on your favorite podcasts, or go au naturale and just listen to the sounds of nature. If you have a dog, bonus. If you go barefoot, double bonus *grounding*.
In all seriousness, I never realized how beneficial walking was to my mental health until I began implementing daily walks on a regular basis. The difference in my mindset on the days that I walk and days that I don’t is pretty illuminating. On my best days, I am walking 2 to 3 miles but realistically about 1 mile or ~30 mins. This time allows me to clear my head, get centered, release any tension that has been building up and is some of my most creative time to myself. I make some of my best playlists during my walks, finalize my weekly To-Do lists, mentally draft my upcoming blog posts, call family or friends I’ve been neglecting, etc.
I can’t stress enough the good vibes that a simple walk can bring. Highly, highly recommend to get you out of any funk.
4. 80/20 Eating
What is the 80/20 way of eating you may be wondering. It’s simple: 80% of the time I am trying my best to eat healthy, colorful, nutrient-dense food while the other 20% of the time I am eating whatever I feel like, good or “bad”. Essentially, Monday through Friday, I try to stick to veggies, fruits, lean proteins, grains and healthy fats. When making meals, I try to make sure half of my plate is fruits & veggies with the other half being a protein and some kind of grain. I will allow myself as many “treats” or snacks as I feel like having, but in all honesty, I don’t have much of a sweet tooth so I rarely crave sweets. Salt is my vice and where I need to check myself (I could crush a bag of Goldfish or ChexMix in one sitting no problem). I could also eat nachos every day for the rest of my life and be happy.
One trick to maintaining this type of “diet” is to shop strictly healthy. If you don’t have it, you can’t eat it. I love TraderJoes and could make an entire blog post dedicated to my favorite staples, but for the most part, I try to only shop the perimeter of the store. Once a week, I stalk up on fresh produce, meats, eggs, almond milk — the necessities. As a rule of thumb, rarely are there many necessities in the center aisles and its usually best to skip them altogether.
Another tip when it comes to eating healthier is planning meals ahead. My cousin and I have our weekly meal list on our fridge and we shop/cook around that plan. It makes it easier to know what groceries we need, what we plan on eating throughout the week and keeps us organized and regimented when it comes to eating healthy. Another big thing that helps is to allow yourself to have things you are craving. Maybe you want something sweet after dinner — that’s totally fine. Don’t deprive yourself because that leads to a scarcity mindset and you’ll find yourself binging later on. The key is portion. Instead of having a big bowl of ice cream, make yourself a cup of frozen yogurt, strawberries & dark chocolate chips. Yum. You shouldn’t feel guilty for eating foods that make you happy and taste good. Everything in moderation! We usually like to make tea after dinner and have some dark chocolate covered almonds :)
As for the weekends, I still try to maintain a healthy mindset but definitely don’t hold back when it comes to dining out or having a few glasses of wine. Like I said, I’m not a huge sweet tooth person, so weekends are usually my cheeseburger-bolognese-pizza-tacos-wine-margarita time. I never restrict or beat myself up over what I put in my body. Eating healthy should be enjoyable, not restrictive or shameful.
One of my favorite books that helped inspire my healthy eating is The Body Book by Cameron Diaz. There is so much inspiration in this book and I recommend it to anyone looking to jumpstart a healthier relationship with food!
5. Gratitude Lists
I heard recently on a podcast that the human brain cannot process negative feelings while simultaneously thinking of things that we are grateful for. In other words, the positive thoughts cancel out the negative. This could be BS but it has proven true for me. If I’m in a funk or feeling especially down in the dumps, if I just sit back and begin listing things I am grateful for, it is impossible for me to sink into the negative head space I was previously occupying. Whether it’s done mentally or physically on a piece of scrap paper, jotting down reasons to be grateful is never a bad idea and will almost always make you happier.
This is something that at first feels silly or unimportant. It’s not like we are handing in this assignment for a grade, so what is the point? **This practice is strictly personal and you are the only one who will receive the positive effects from it.
I am consistently mentally stacking up all the things I am grateful for, just out of habit now. It almost becomes addicting. Also, if you’re someone who is prone to anxiety, try this practice and watch and see how it almost immediately relaxes you.
“Wear gratitude like a cloak and it will feed every corner of your life.” - Rumi
Big fan of checklists. You can find them in any of my bags, in my car, on my computer, phone, bedside table, etc. Lists are the sh*t. It’s pretty self-explanatory but the feeling that comes with checking something off your To-Do list is *insert chef's kiss*. Checklists make the day go by faster, they allow you to see that you’re actually accomplishing things, they keep you organized, you get it. Lists are something they teach us to utilize in elementary school but few apply in adulthood. It blows my mind how people can just willy nilly through their day and not realize how less stressful their day-to-day would be with a few lists at their disposal.
If you find yourself frazzled and your brain clustered with your days flying by in a hectic frenzy, try jotting down some lists to help break it up. I find myself making separate lists throughout my days; one for grocery shopping, one for my daily goals, one for weekly goals, gifts I need to buy people, dates I need to put on my calendar later, songs I heard that I want to add to my Spotify playlist later, seriously, lists for days. They work! Try them, you won’t be disappointed. Also, if you’re already a fan of lists, maybe try different methods or different colored pens, Post-It notes, etc. to keep things exciting. Switch it up!
** I am 100% that person that will have already accomplished something but go back and write it on my To-Do list just so I can have the satisfaction of checking it off.
I will keep this one short. I could have listed music rather than Spotify. Music makes you happier, duh. We all know that. But I wanted to get specific and talk about how much Spotify has improved my life. That may sound dramatic but it really has. I was a Pandora gal for the longest time. Spotify came out and everyone was talking about it but I wanted to stay faithful to Pandora - she was a good friend and had gotten me through a lot over the years.
Reluctantly, I made the switch and WOW. The clarity I get from creating playlists or going for 2 hour walks jamming out to Bon Iver and Novo Amor when I’m deep in my feelings..just wow.
I'm constantly sharing new songs I discover, forwarding playlists to friends, replaying the same song over & over until it makes me sick..
It’s not enough to recommend blasting music to get you out of a funk. You need to download Spotify and watch your world transform.
If you don’t like it, you can blame me and switch back to Pandora!
8. Doing Something Out of the Norm
One of my favorite things to do is go on a solo adventure/date. Shout-out to Covid and working from home for making this more of a possibility for me.
I usually do this once every couple weeks during my lunch break. By doing something totally out of the norm, I usually get a renewed sense of inspiration and excitement. It’s hard to be in a bad mood when you’re in a fun, foreign place or doing something you don’t have a ton of experience in. This can be anything from getting in the car and going to a new coffee spot, driving aimlessly exploring new roads I didn’t know existed, or visiting a friend I haven’t seen in a while. Anything that you’ve been meaning to do/try, places you’ve wanted to venture to, just do it!
I realize not everyone can relate to this sentiment — maybe you’re a mom and have three kids strapped to you at all times, or you’re working around the clock in an office in the city. Who has time for solo dates!? Must be nice. I totally get it. If this is you, maybe do a mini version of this. Maybe your ‘something out of the norm’ could be quickly getting on your laptop and donating to a charity you care about, or buying that book you’ve been dying to read. Maybe you take 30 mins and go get a smoothie or manicure. Whatever it is, it’ll break up the monotonous Mo-Fri shuffle that your brain is used to and it’ll spark creativity and a sense of newness!
9. Reading Self-Improvement Books
This is something I put off for a long time. I had tried the popular ones — Lean In, The Power of Now, The Four Agreements, etc., and I felt no connection. Looking back, I can see now that I was not in the position to be picking up those books. I wasn’t ready. Some might say that that is exactly when you should seek out “self-help” books. I disagree. If you’re not ready for these types of books, then you won’t absorb any of the meaningful tidbits they bestow upon you.
It wasn’t until the last few years that I was able to fully grasp the beauty of self-improvement books. But, the secret is, they only work if you want them to — you have to want to improve. That’s the key. After you’ve established that and you are committed, it’s a matter of finding which genre of self-help books work for you. There are so many different gems out there so don’t be discouraged if after picking up your first one it isn’t clicking. There are some really corny reads out there. Trust me, I’ve probably read them. Try lots of different ones and don’t judge a book by its cover! Some of my favorite books have been the ones I least suspected or judged the hardest.
Some of my favorites:
* The Universe Has Your Back by Gabrielle Bernstein
* Big Magic by Elizabeth Gilbert
* Love Warrior by Glennon Doyle
* Untamed by Glennon Doyle
* You Are a Badass by Jen Sincero
* You Are a Badass Every Day by Jen Sincero
* Stay Sexy & Don't Get Murdered by Karen Kilgariff & Georgia Hardstark
* You Can Heal Your Life by Louise Hay
* Tiny Beautiful Things by Cheryl Strayed
* Dear Sugar by Cheryl Strayed
* Wild by Cheryl Strayed
* Greenlights by Matthew McConaughey
* What I Know for Sure by Oprah Winfrey
* The Daily Stoic by Ryan Holiday
* The Obstacle is the Way by Ryan Holiday
* The 50th Law by Robert Greene & 50 Cent
* Girl, Wash Your Face by Rachel Hollis
* The Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod
* Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom
* Women who Run with Wolves by Clarissa Pinkola Estes
10. Connect with Someone
Sometimes the best way to get out of your own way, is to do just that — get out of your head and focus on someone else. A lot of the problems we think we have are self-inflicted. It is easy to get wrapped up in our emotions but if you take a step outside of yourself, you will feel 10x better. In essence, get over yourself.
I try to make it my daily practice to reach out to someone; not my usual group text convers