Happiness and health. These are probably the two biggest things that we all want in our lives.
And every once in a while, we’ll find that amazing thing that is both healthy and makes us happier!
Man, I love it when that happens. Anyways, here are ten things you can do that are scientifically proven to make you both a happier and a healthier person.
1. Eat Dark Chocolate
Attention ladies: this is my one weakness. Give me dark chocolate and I will love you forever. And I’m not alone on this one.
A lot of theories have been tossed around as to why people love chocolate so much, including the existence of drug-like chemicals found in chocolate, such as anandamides, which act on the same part of the brain as marijuana, and phenethylamine, which has amphetamine-like effects.
But there is nowhere near enough of these chemicals to have any real effect. My theory: chocolate just tastes delicious. Dark chocolate (emphasis on dark) is loaded with antioxidants. Try to consume it without milk, since this seems to block the absorption of these antioxidants.
Moderate consumption of dark chocolate has been shown to help prevent cardiovascular issues, lower blood pressure, increase insulin sensitivity, and more. Of course, the tough part with keeping dark chocolate consumption healthy is that you must use moderation. Eat too much and the risk of wait gain counteracts all the benefits you could have gotten.
2. Have A Glass Of Wine.
Or sip on your favorite alcoholic beverage. I’m sure you don’t need “science” to tell you about the mood enhancing effects of alcohol. Wine and beer are delicious, but they also promote relaxation and reduce anxiety.
Red wine is loaded with antioxidants such as resveratrol which have been shown to help protect the heart from damage. But it’s not just red wine that can be good for you; light to moderate alcohol consumption has been shown to reduce all cause mortality, particularly relating to cardiovascular disease.
Yet again, moderation is key here. Moderate drinking in women is one drink per day and for men is up to two drinks per day. Start going much above that and the negative health effects of alcohol will wreck your body.
3. Drink Green Tea.
In addition to caffeine, a less known component of green tea is the amino acid l-theanine. Theanine is known to induce calmness and relaxation, and has been shown in animal studies to increase levels of serotonin and dopamine, which help regulate mood.
In addition, the primary antioxidant in green tea, EGCG, has been shown to improve mood. In case you haven’t noticed the pattern here, antioxidants seem to be a really key player in these healthy choices.
Green tea has a huge number of health benefits, including a substantial decrease in all-cause mortality for those who drink it. I’m way too lazy to list the health benefits of green tea here, so just check out this other post I wrote with more than you could ever want to know about green tea.
4. Take A Nap.
Sometimes people will hassle you for taking naps. But you know how good a nice mid-day nap feels. In fact, napping doesn’t just improve your cognitive abilities and mood.
Napping is pretty darn good for you too, and finally its not about the antioxidants. People who regularly take naps have a greatly reduced risk of cardiac mortality. The expectation of a nap could even be enough to reduce blood pressure.
If you can find time during your afternoon to nap, you have every reason to do so! Believe it or not, napping is not that simple. To get the most out of your zzzzz’s, you should learn more about how to nap strategically to get the effects you want.
5. Meditate For Five Minutes Per Day.
It’s so easy to implement this into a morning routine that I simply don’t understand why it isn’t more common. There are many types of meditation, but lets keep it simple. Just get comfortable, close your eyes, and focus on your breath for five minutes.
It’s incredibly relaxing and sets a positive tone for the rest of the day. Meditation is one of those habits that is incredibly rewarding, but hard to understand why until you try it. Unfortunately, most studies done on meditation and health are of poor quality, so it is hard to say what physical health benefits, if any, we know for sure come from meditation.
However, those who meditate have been shown to have considerably higher functional health, including better scores on vitality, bodily pain, mental and emotional health, and social functioning.
6. Smile More Often.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: smiling makes you happier. Just try to be upset and smile at the same time…it’s basically impossible. Besides, you look better when you smile anyways, so just do it.
Turns out smiling more could increase your longevity as well. While the evidence is very preliminary, baseball players smiling in their baseball cards tended to live seven years longer than those who didn’t smile.
7. Sleep Enough.
Obviously if you have things to do, you should probably get up. But when you can, it’s totally ok to sleep in. Getting enough sleep will make you feel a lot better. Your brain replenishes the neurotransmitters that it used up the previous day while you sleep, so you’d better get enough. Of course, getting the right amount of sleep is an important part of your health.
When I say it’s OK to sleep in, I don’t mean do it every day. Sleeping too much, like sleeping to little, is unhealthy. So if you are sleep deprived, feel free to get a couple extra hours next Saturday and catch up.
8. Hang Out With Your Friends.
We all love to spend time with our friends. Building close relationships with others is one of the best things that life has to offer. It is usually the times that we are with our friends that we are happiest, and happy moments in our lives are always better when shared.
Having a large social circle with high quality, close relationships is beneficial for our health. More friendships means decreased mortality, and this has been repeatedly shown to be the case. Don’t forget to cultivate positive relationships with others, because not only will your quality of life be better, but you might also live longer.
9. Laugh More.
Is it any surprise that laughing makes you happier? Even if you are alone or you force the laugh, you still experience a boost in mood. So laugh whenever you feel like it, or even when you don’t. It doesn’t matter, you’ll still be better off.
Laughter seems to have a whole bunch of health benefits, potentially including decreased blood pressure, stress hormone reduction, pain reduction, and improved immunity. This seems to me to be the perfect way of boosting both your happiness and your health, except maybe….
10. Have More Sex.
Sex is pleasurable. Duh. But the great thing is, sex is most certainly not a vice, at least not when it comes to your health. Obviously, there is the exercise component, but there are other health benefits of regular sex as well. Those who are sexually active have lower blood pressure, improved immunity, reduced risk of heart attacks, and improved sleep, among other benefits.
A lot of times we think that if a behavior is healthy, it must suck to do. This is totally understandable, considering how our moms all told us to eat our vegetables when we were younger. But as you can see, there are plenty of things we can do that are not just good for us, but awesome.