Do you want to know what I value most of all? It's not my Bon Jovi concert ticket stub collection. It's not my shoe collection either. It's this: my happiness. You see, I understand the true value of happiness. I also understand how fleeting it can be.
Today is International Happiness Day and I had a happy day. It was hectic at work and I was running from meeting to meeting but I was happy. It's a feeling that I am lucky enough to experience on a regular basis these days.
Happiness has also been impossibly out of reach to me through much of my adult life. I have experienced three major depressive episodes and, if I am being completely honest (and that's the point, isn't it?), the majority of the past ten years have been spent in a depressed state. Moments of happiness, short periods of happiness, but most of my life during the last decade was spent in darkness, under the heavy cloak of depression.
I have spent the last six months recovering. Today my illness is in remission for the most part and I am doing what I can to manage my health and reduce the risk of relapse. But here's the bad news: with every major depressive episode that a person suffers, the chance of suffering another increases. The good news? There is a lot that I can do to reduce the risk of relapse. Here are some proven ways to increase your overall wellness and happiness:
Laugh! I think this is a given, but sometimes we forget to laugh in life. According to Psychology Today, the average four-year-old laughs 300 times a day, a 40-year-old, only four. Laughter has been shown to reduce stress hormones and it's just plain fun.
Smile! I am a recruiter by profession. If I am having a bad day and I have to interview someone, I always feel happier afterwards. Know why? Because I literally had to put on my happy face. Smiling makes me feel happy. Can't think of anything to smile about at the moment? Then watch this from Kid President (try not to smile!).
Buddies! I have said it before but it bears repeating - strong social connections equal happier and healthier people and communities. No, you don't need to have twenty best friends, just a few friends and loved ones who you can count on to help you through the tough times and to laugh through the easy times.
Nap! This might be my favourite, go-to tip. Sleep, like happiness, is a precious commodity in my life. When I feel rested, I can take on the world. When I am not rested, I am not happy. Plain and simple. So I prioritize sleep in my life and I do what I can to ensure that I get enough rest. Lack of sleep can negatively impact not only your mental health but your physical health as well. Next time you feel cranky maybe try a nap!
Music! Listening to happy music while actively trying to elevate your mood works! At least according to a small study from the Journal of Positive Psychology. Oh, and according to my personal highly scientific study that included one middle aged female Canadian, the Spice Girls' Wannabe and Pharrell Williams' Happy.
Depression taught me a lot and made me experience some really awful things. But the gift it gave me was the true understanding of what happiness is and it's value.
P.S. For more great scientifically-proven ways to boost your happiness, please take a look at this article and infographic courtesy of the Huffington Post. Which one is your favourite?