20 Ways to be a happier person in 2020

If your mental & emotional wellness has taken a backseat lately, there’s no better time than right now to prioritize it. Your mood affects everything in your life; your relationships, work, self-care, so improving it should be at the top of your goal list. That might feel like a huge task, but small, actionable habits can help you get there, according to experts.

1. Conquer one anxiety Give yourself a motivational benchmark to start conquering your biggest fears this year. Single out the goal of selecting an anxiety that is holding you back & thoroughly commit yourself to obliterating that fear. Hold nothing back in your assault; treat that fear as though it is enemy #1. Perhaps you’ve been worried about signing up for a half marathon. Maybe you’re afraid to switch jobs because you don’t want to be rejected. Perhaps you’re fearful of having a difficult conversation with a toxic friend or family member & you’re putting it off. Set the goal, pick a reward you’ll get when you complete it, then get to it.

2. Lock down a sleep schedule that works for you Take a closer look at your schedule. Are you really getting optimal hours? Are you maintaining relatively the same bed time every night? If you’re constantly shaving off an hour here or there {thinking you can get by on 5 hours a night}. It’s time to reevaluate that sleep schedule. Start with small steps by giving yourself a sensible and realistic bedtime. Try to go to bed ½ hour before your usual bedtime & stick to it. Evaluate this new habit every day by having a journal & writing down your progress. This new routine will improve your memory, reduce anxiety & “transport toxins out of the brain” to potentially prevent chronic illnesses.

3. Find one small self-care act that works for you & prioritize it Pick a you-centric activity & engage in it regularly. The most impactful mental health goal a person can set is the commitment to balance workload & responsibilities alongside activities that bring a sense of well-being & enjoyment. When there is an imbalance in what we’re giving out to the world & what we’re taking for ourselves, that’s when our psychological resources get depleted. Try beginning each day with a 5-minute mindfulness meditation session. Want to go further? Go to therapy, get a personal trainer, or make time for reading. This commitment can be broken down into specific & concrete goals, depending on your personal preferences.

4. Spend 10 minutes a day outside Go for a walk during your lunch break, spend a few minutes drinking your morning coffee outside or pick up running. It doesn’t even have to be for a long period of time. This year, resolve to spend less time inside & more time outdoors in natural settings. Research in multiple countries show that spending time in green spaces can lift your mood & relieve anxiety in as little as 10 minutes.

5. Regularly practice a simple mindfulness exercise Many of us spend our days worrying about the future or ruminating about the past & missing out on the here-&-now. Making an effort to be more present increases the sense of well-being, promotes vitality, heightens our awareness, helps train our attention, improves the quality of our work & enhances interpersonal relationships. Spend 5 minutes daily noticing your surroundings & how you feel. Do this by naming 5 things you see, 4 things you can physically feel, 3 different sounds you hear, 2 things you can smell & 1 thing you can taste. Then take a second to label how you’re feeling in the moment (frustrated, bored, or excited). This grounding exercise helps with anxiety.

6. Say nice things about yourself Instead of focusing on the negative, flip your dialogue to only positive outcomes. Instead of saying, ‘If I get that job,’ say ‘When I get that job.’ Subtle changes in using positive language help to change your mindset to a glass half full instead of half empty. Try stating one thing you like about yourself when you look in the mirror each morning.

7. Give up or cut back on one unhealthy habit We know when things are bad for us, which can cause stress. You can curb that by reducing them or giving them up entirely. Think activities like high alcohol consumption or excessive caffeine consumption. Getting those things in check will all help to manage stress levels.

8. Find a physical activity you love Exercise plays a large role in mental health. 30 minutes a day can produce the most benefit for improving mood & reducing stress levels. The most important part is finding something you enjoy. It doesn’t matter if it’s pilates, martial arts, running, dancing or lifting weights, just make sure the activity is something that excites you.

9. Try meditation A mindfulness meditation practice will have a tremendous positive effect longterm. 30 minutes daily can be divided into morning & evening. Feeling intimidated by the concept? Try a local class or an app like Headspace. Research has shown that the regular practice of meditation can actually improve your health because it lowers the negative effects of not only high cortisol, but also high cholesterol & high blood pressure. Other great benefits of meditation include mental clarity, focus, improvement of memory & higher level of mental performance.

10. Stop negative thoughts in their tracks Our thoughts are not always reality. We need to get into the routine of challenging them & changing our relationships to our thoughts. You can do this by asking yourself a simple question when you’re beating yourself up. Next time you have a negative thought, ask yourself: Does this completely & accurately capture what’s going on? From there, you can transform the thought using one of two tactics. One is called “yes, but” & one is called “labeling.” ‘Yes, but’ involves recognizing a not so great thing, & [adding] something that is positive or shows progress. Example: I did eat 3 cupcakes while trying to cut down on sugar, but I have been doing a great job with healthy eating & can start fresh tomorrow. As for labeling, try mentally recognizing or acknowledging that the thought you’re having is toxic. This reminds you that a thought is just a mental event, and nothing more.”

11. Invest in a quality relationship If you want to have good long-term mental & physical health, you need to first see if you have meaningful, loving relationships. Who knows you better than anyone & who do you know better than anyone? Have you invested in that relationship by staying in touch & talking on the phone? When was the last time you got together? Picking one person close to you this year & planning to spend quality time together is a great goal. Study after study finds that meaningful relationships are good for our mental and physical health.

12. Read self-development books Read at least 1 book on someone you admire & how they have dealt with the struggles in their life. There are a lot of ways to learn about your mental health, from therapy to self-help to the lives of other people. You can pick up many tips & find a lot of inspiration in these motivational books, whether they’re memoirs or expert-backed advice.

13. Cut back on your social media use So often we view people’s highlight reels on social media. This can lead to feelings of inadequacy in our own lives. Given that research shows spending too much time online is linked to poor mental health, now’s the perfect time to cut back. External validation is temporary; it’s difficult to maintain the pressure to chase ‘likes,’ Build your self-esteem from doing something important to you & by being of service to others.

14. Set better boundaries Did you find yourself feeling chronically overwhelmed & stretched thin in 2019? Time to reel that in & make more space for you by setting boundaries. This one is more important than people realize, & they have way more control than they realize. If you don’t want to go, then don’t go! Consider: Is it something you think you “should” do? If so, then why? Set those boundaries to thrive in 2020.

15. Make a progress list each week Expecting perfection guarantees you’ll feel like a failure at least part of the time, & can lead to serious anxiety. Learn the art of progress, not perfection. We are setting ourselves up for failure from the get-go [when we expect] to ‘have it all’ perfectly balanced. In other words, we will always feel like we are failing. From “doing it all” as a mom to building your entrepreneurial business to perfecting your talent, it’s time to let go of that expectation that things are always going to be perfect. Instead, try writing down the incremental improvements you made each week. Celebrate small successes that eventually will lead to big ones.

16. Allow yourself to be sad We experience a range of emotions for a reason: They’re necessary to our overall well-being. Research even shows that crying can feel incredibly therapeutic. In order to truly feel happy, you need to “stop chasing happiness.” That can lead to more feelings of inner peace & calm, which of course, can lead to a more improved mood. So embrace times when you feel disappointed, angry or sad instead of trying to rush through them.

17. Get a therapist if you’re able to do it If you were trying to get in physical shape & had no idea where to start, you might turn to a coach or personal trainer. Mental health works the same way. There are so, so many benefits to seeing a therapist. There are affordable options, too: Attend group therapy at a local mental health center, seek free options in your community, opt for a sliding-scale psychologist, find a provider through your health insurance or try an app like Talkspace to get started.

18. Write in a gratitude journal Practicing gratitude is so essential for a full & happy life. Instead of allowing your brain to go to a place of anxiety & stress, arm yourself with grateful thoughts. Writing them down helps. If you wake up & focus on that which you have to be grateful for, your brain becomes better at finding even more gratitude.

19. Turn your phone off It’s been shown in many studies that too much tech time can negatively impact mental health. Become less available via text & email so you don’t feel emotionally tethered to your phone, & spend more time off your devices. Opt for screen-free activities ― especially at night ― that help you disconnect from certain social & work stressors.

20. Reduce food shame and stress through mindful eating Have thoughts around food, calories, dieting, etc. been weighing on you in 2019? It’s time to kick this to the curb. When we feel nervous, scared, anxious, or even unsure of what to eat or how much, our stress hormones begin to fire. Our sympathetic nervous system becomes activated, & we’re no longer making empowered decisions. Does this sound like you? Are you constantly thinking about what a food choice might “do” to your body? Breathe! Your body knows what it wants & how much it wants, when it wants it. Listening to it is called intuitive or mindful eating: enjoying whatever you want & taking cues from your body when it’s hungry & full. Decreasing stress around food choices is not just good for the body, it’s good for the mind and the soul.

From Huffington Post December 2019