The focus of Act Happy Week is to educate the public about purposeful actions you can take to create chemical shifts in your body and new neural pathways in your brain to support more frequent experience of what we call Positive Emotions. When you “Act Happy” you train your mind/body/heart to find Happiness, Calm, and Resilience when you choose to visit them!
Here is today’s offer (575 words of content, Reading time ~2.3 minutes)
I. ACT HAPPY WEEK, DAY 2: SELF-CARE
Your Body is Your Brain
If you want to have a healthy emotional life, take care of your physical health. Your physical health has a direct impact on your mental health and the emotions you can support.
It’s a mistake to believe that your smart brain is separate from your whole body. While the brain may be the control center, your entire being is connected.
It makes sense that if you want to support more positive thoughts and feelings, you need to give some love to the vehicle that carries your brain around all day!
Pay Attention to the Big Five
When you feel good physically, it’s easier to act happy. Conversely, when you feel groggy or bloated or numb in your body, it’s easier to act irritated, impatient, or some other emotion supported by stress.
Here are the big five factors that impact your wellbeing:
- Adequate, good quality sleep. My health mentor calls sleep, “the Mother of Health.” Everyone’s body has different needs, but most adults require 7-9 hours of sleep each night and many of us get less than that. If you’re regularly under-slept, your body shows up every morning already carrying stress. Find one thing you can improve – shut down technology & media a bit earlier, start a bedtime routine so your body knows when to sleep, or try listening to a bedtime “story” or soothing soundtrack from an app.
- Food Choice and Portion Control. It’s less about what you eat and more about how much or how often. When what you eat causes your body to feel bloated or stressed a few hours later, try reducing or removing that from your plate. You might experiment with new foods, or with the time(s) of day when you eat to see if different eating patterns can help you feel less stressed.
- Eliminate Toxins. Of course tobacco, drugs, and alcohol are the headliners here, but anything you take into your body or mind in excess can stomp on your happiness, from snack foods to YouTube. Some can be fun and even beneficial (e.g. coffee or dark chocolate) but too much and you end up jittery, unfocused, sleepy, or angry. Pay attention for a day or two and you’ll probably notice your own patterns.
- Move Your Body. Every study ever done on health reminds us that our body likes to move, and when it does move everything gets better – our mood, our energy, our capacity to think, and even our resistance to germs and degenerative diseases of the brain! And recent studies have shown that as little as eleven minutes a day of movement can make a big difference in our wellbeing.
- Manage Your Stress. Stress is complicated. Positive stress helps create structure in our lives and get things done. But too much stress, over a long time, will literally start to break down the body and make Happiness a distant and foreign emotion. Interestingly, each of the first four factors can contribute to stress levels AND can be complicated by unmanaged stress.
The good news is that even small reductions in stress can help you. So take a breath, take a walk, take a nap, and notice that even if your stressors don’t disappear, setting down your cares for a few minutes increases your capacity to deal with them when you return.