10 Key Ingredients for Healthy Habits & Happiness

Throughout our lives, we often take for granted the little things that make us happy or inspire us to live a healthy and meaningful life. We feel our healthiest when experiencing positive emotions, when we feel calm and at peace, when we are connecting with others, and when we are taking in beauty with a sense of wonder. You don't always have to be doing big, significant things, like traveling the world or building homes for those in need, sometimes it's finding the small tasks throughout your day, that can make a positive impact on your mindset each and everyday. 

According to Leif Hass, from Greater Good Magazine, here is a checklist of activities that are key ingredients for healthy habits and happiness—and the rationale for their use.

1. Take a few deep breaths


We all know that a deep breath helps us relax. No surprise then that decades of research have demonstrated that by taking slow deep breaths, we calm the body and mind by activating the parasympathetic nervous system; when this happens, stress markers, heart rate, and blood pressure all decrease. That’s why taking deep breaths throughout the day can help keep us calmer and more balanced.

2. Call an old friend


Groundbreaking work by Julianne Holt-Lunstad, suggests that social connection’s impact on mortality is on par with blood pressure, cholesterol, and obesity. The benefits likely come from the immediate activation of prosocial emotions and the long-term benefits of social support.

3. Give someone a hug


Hugging releases oxytocin that helps build social bonds and lowers the levels of the stress hormone cortisol. When hugging, we also release endorphins that lead to a sense of well-being and relaxation. But does anyone really need a scientist to tell us that hugs are good?|

4. Help a friend in need


Helping others allows us to meet some important psychological needs, such as developing our senses of agency and competence as we strengthen social relationships. When we act on our values by being a good friend and helping those in need, we foster a sense of purpose, which is foundational to a meaningful life. In fact, research by Stephanie Brown suggest that those providing help may get more benefits than those receiving it.

5. Write a thank-you note


Many studies over the last two decades have found that people who express gratitude are happier and less depressed. While one thank-you note is not the kind of gratitude practice that leads to lasting, positive cognitive change, notes should be the beginning of a habit of counting their blessings in writing.

6. Sing in the shower…or anywhere


Making music, and in particular singing, just makes us feel better. And this happens through several mechanisms. We release endorphins when we sing; given this, it is not surprising that singing reduces pain. Stress hormone levels fall, leading to improved immune function. We make meaning as we embody the lyrics. 

7. Dance to your favorite song


We all know that moving our bodies improves our health, but moving to music has additional benefits. The mood boost from dancing lasts much longer than from exercise alone. And dancing often has social benefits. There is even data suggesting dancing prevents cognitive impairment in the elderly.

8. Go for a walk in a beautiful place


We all feel better after getting in nature, yet we underestimate the healing power of these experiences. Going for a leisure walk in fresh air not only provides you new scenery from your daily routine, but gets you moving and enjoying life around you. Walking in a beautiful area can help you destress and think about positive things in your life. 

9. Forgive someone


Forgiveness doesn’t mean denying we were wronged; it means we let go of our anger and other unhealthy cognitive processes. Forgiveness requires some hard work, but the benefits are profound: Those who have learned to forgive live longer. This occurs from less stress, depression, and better sleep and relationships.

10. Talk to yourself in a kinder voice


We are often our own worst critic and when our health goes bad, we can cast an unhealthy amount of blame upon ourselves. Self-compassion helps us heal ourselves rather than hurt ourselves. Talking to ourselves in a kinder voice is the key to this practice!

The exact nature of "Happiness Recipe" is tailored to match each person's values and passions. There is no better recipe than love and happiness. The more we love, the better and longer we live. By practicing these healthy habits in your daily lives, you'll feel the power of happiness, love, and gratitude that will make every experience a positive one.