It may seem simple, and you’ve heard it over and over, but having a positive outlook on life can do wonders for you.
Research now proves happiness positively influences health, leading to a better quality of life and personal relationships, and turning you into a magnet for career success. Happy folks are committed to taking better care of themselves through habits like exercising and proper sleep.
We asked experts for their best tips to help make tomorrow brighter.
1. Get moving
Make a point to increase your exercise and physical activity. “Regular exercise, whether going to a gym, walking around the block, or playing tag with your kids, improves your mood,” says Sheri Traxler, M.Ed., a personal trainer and intuitive eating counselor in Nashville, Tennessee.
For an added boost of happiness, try to work out when there is still daylight. “If you exercise in the sunshine, you get the triple bonus: exercise, the mood-boost of sunshine, and deeper sleep from having been in sunshine during the day.”
2. Limit sweets after dinner
Eating processed foods with processed sugar at night can impact your sleep, according to Traxler. “When you eat sugar-filled foods your insulin spikes and then your blood sugar crashes, leaving you hungry,” she says.
“When you eat sugar-filled snacks before bed, the sugar rush not only keeps you awake past your bedtime, but it also may wake you up in the middle of the night. There goes that seven to nine hours of sleep you need.” And not getting adequate sleep can definitely make you grumpy the next day.
3. Turn off the news
It’s nearly impossible to watch the news without hearing about the negative events in the world, which makes you feel like the world is a scary, dangerous place.
“It isn’t,” says Sandy Weaver, an Atlanta-based based author, speaker and trainer. “You see plenty of evidence of the goodness of people every day. Focus on those events instead of what the news wants to feed you.”
4. Focus on every small win
Before you get out of bed, lie there and think of what’s great in your life right at that moment. Lots of small wins equal a lot. Appreciate the little things.
“Maybe it’s that the sheets are soft, warm and cozy. Maybe it’s that your old dog is sleeping at your feet, snoring softly. Maybe it’s your birthday and you anticipate having a fun day,” says Weaver. “Whatever you can find to appreciate, focus on that for a minute or so before starting your day.”
5. Look for more to appreciate
As you prepare to start your day, head outside and look for even more to appreciate.
“Revel in the glorious sunshine,” suggests Weaver. Take comfort in the everyday pleasures. “Don’t take the normal, good things in your life for granted — notice and appreciate them and allow that appreciation to lift your mood.”
6. Praise strangers
Weaver advises to give sincere compliments to people you don’t know.
“If you see a particularly well-dressed person, tell them that they’re winning at fashion today or if you see someone with fabulous hair, tell them so,” she says. If you see a child behaving well, tell her parents. “They’ll glow for the rest of the day when you praise her for that. And your spirits will soar with every smile you collect.”
Your purpose is what gets you out of bed in the morning. But, to truly harness the power of your purpose, you need to define why it’s important to you, says Stephen Box, a nutrition and fitness coach in Sugar Hill, GA.
For example, instead of “I want to be a role model for my kids,” define what a good role model looks like. Which specific behaviors do you want them to learn? What values do you want to instill?
“Once you answer those questions, you’ll have a clear vision of how to move toward that purpose and you’ll feel great about the direction of your life,” says Box.
8. Have self-compassion
Give yourself a break: You’re not perfect — none of us are. “We tend to hold ourselves to some pretty high standards and if we fail to meet them, we can be pretty hard on ourselves,” says Box.
Instead, he suggests focusing on what you did well. For example, if you missed a workout, you might be tempted to beat yourself up for it. But you could choose to focus on how you did more workouts this week than last wee, or maybe you were extra aware of your food choices this week.
“Focusing on the positive makes you want to do more of it, focusing on the negative makes you want to quit,” adds Box.
9. Amp up your self-acceptance
Accepting yourself and other people and situations for who or what they are is one of the fastest ways to happiness, says Jerry Haffey Jr., president of business development at Ambrosia Treatment Center in Juniper, Florida.
“A big part of acceptance is letting go of control. It’s easy to want to hold on to the idea that we can bend and manipulate situations to our liking, but it isn’t realistic,” he says.
To practice acceptance on a daily basis, pause when you are feeling overwhelmed and take a minute to digest what is happening. Why is this upsetting you? Is this something you can change? Is this something worth worrying about?
“Just asking yourself those simple questions and answering them honestly is enough to straighten out your head and let go of the negativity,” says Haffey.
10. Stop judging
Judging people is a natural first reaction when meeting them, but it breeds negativity. Shifting your mindset towards a more understanding and compassionate outlook gives you the opportunity to see things differently, explains Haffey.
“The best way to stop judging is to recap your day and try to think about how you judged others and how that made you feel. If you were judgmental towards another person, it is often a reflection of what is going on within yourself,” he says.
Knowing this, try to stop yourself the next time you automatically jump to a conclusion about someone else. It doesn’t happen overnight, but eventually, you will be able to stop yourself from thinking reacting out of judgment. “It will make you feel better about yourself and increase your confidence.”
Add your entries in the gratitude journal before you go to sleep. The feeling of fulfillment will do wonders. “A good night’s sleep is key to feeling happier in the morning,” says Amy Morin, a psychotherapist and bestselling author of books on mental strength based in Marathon, FL.
“So, jot down a few things that you’re grateful for before you go to bed and you’ll automatically wake up feeling better equipped to face the day.”
12. Play with your pet
Studies have shown that pets provide many psychological benefits for their owners, including increased social support and reduced stress.
“So playing fetch with your dog or petting your cat can be a simple but effective way to feel happier,” says Morin. Pair the playtime with a brisk walk you get exercise along with that quality time with your pal.