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Why You Don’t Need More To Be Happier And Live Better

You Already Have the Keys to a Better Life

(Here’s How to Use Them)

What would make your life better? A new house or car? A bigger paycheck or bank account?

It’s easy to want more when you think of being happier and living better.1 And there’s little doubt that money can buy some (more) happiness.2 But the happiness we get from money is fundamentally limited.3 It leaves us wanting more, and it’s not enough on its own to enjoy a truly satisfying life. The reality is a lot of the things that can make us happy and enrich our lives have nothing to do with money.4 And some of the things that may bring us the most joy could already be within our reach.4

What are they and how can they improve our lives?

Find out the answer with these simple life upgrades. They can transform the way you experience and enjoy life.

7 Little Upgrades that Can Make Life Better in Big Ways

1. Go Outside

As little as 20 minutes outdoors can make you happier and healthier. Even if you don’t exercise, simply being outside can be good for your mind and body. It can relax you and lower your blood pressure, heart rate, and stress levels. And it doesn’t take long to feel the effects.

That’s why some doctors are even writing “nature prescriptions” these days, prescribing time outdoors for all sorts of conditions.5

Make It a Habit: Set aside at least 20 minutes a few times a week to get outside. If you’re short on time, try bringing parts of your daily routine outdoors, like dining al fresco or exercising outside, weather permitting.

2. Say No to Things That Drain You

How often are you scrambling for time? Most of us say we’re too busy to enjoy life at least sometimes.6 About 1 in 8 folks feel that way most of the time.6

Whenever we get busy and stressed for time, it’s often our own psychology, not the clock, that’s the source of our stress.7 In fact, we tend to feel the most pressed for time when it seems like we don’t have control over our schedules, and we fill our time with activities we don’t really enjoy.7

Saying no to activities that drain us can help put a stop to that. It can open up more time and more opportunities for happiness.

Make It a Habit: Identify the activities in your schedule that are draining your time and energy. Delegate what you can. Say no to any extra favors. Consider setting up some boundaries for your time, like “off limits” days for certain activities.

3. Practice Gratitude Daily

Gratitude is closely linked to happiness and wellbeing.8 When we appreciate the things that bring us joy, we focus on positive words and emotions.8 That positivity can radiate inward and outward, benefiting both the person expressing gratitude and the recipient of it.8

It’s no wonder, then, that gratitude can be a mood and relationship booster.8 It can also strengthen immune systems, promote better sleep, and make us more resilient.8

Make It a Habit: Commit to expressing gratitude at least once a day. Tell someone why you appreciate them or write a Thank You note or email. For a more meditative practice, journal or think about the three things you are thankful for at the beginning or end of each day.

4. Prioritize Self-Care

Nearly half of us put self-care on the back burner because we don’t think we have enough time for it.9 When we do that, we’re just making life harder for ourselves—we’re making it harder to manage our emotions, cope with stress, and stay connected to the things that matter.10 And we’re undermining our self-esteem.10

Investing in some genuine self-care is the antidote to all that.11 It can help you focus on your physical and psychological needs while making room for self-compassion.11 It can also help you accept your imperfections and discover new paths to self-improvement.11

Make It a Habit: Make self-care a habit. Prioritize eating healthily, getting enough sleep, and exercising regularly.9 Also, recognize that self-care is about nurturing, not shaming, yourself. That means appreciating the value of self-care over getting one more task done by the end of the day.

5. Don’t Let Negativity Take Over

Negativity has a place in our lives, but optimism can do a lot more for our health and happiness.12, 13 Studies show optimists have lower risks of heart disease and higher rates of cancer survival, when compared to pessimists.13 Optimists also tend to be more persistent and better at managing stress. That can give them better chances of achieving their goals.13

Still, that doesn’t mean optimism should go unchecked or blind you to real risks. Finding a balance between staying positive and acknowledging life’s challenges is the healthiest approach.13

Make It a Habit: When you talk about your day, bring up the best parts first, even if you have had a rough day. If certain situations or people bring up negative emotions for you, do your best to minimize or avoid them. And try to turn disappointments into learning lessons.

6. Volunteer

Volunteering can support the causes and communities you care about while being personally rewarding.14 It can strengthen your social connections and give you a greater sense of happiness, purpose, pride, and accomplishment. It can also spark creativity and renew your motivation.15

Beyond mental benefits, volunteering can also improve your physical health.16 It’s been linked to lower risks of hypertension and slower cognitive decline as you age.16

Over time, all of these benefits can add up, making volunteering a deeply enriching and fulfilling experience.17

Make It a Habit: Consider your skills, interests, and time as you choose volunteer opportunities. Try out a few options to find out which organization and opportunities will be a good fit. And, remember, volunteering should be fun instead of draining. So, start small while you figure out what time commitments work for you. Even just a couple of hours a week can benefit you and the cause you volunteer to support.18

7. Nurture Your Relationships

Good, strong relationships benefit our health and wellbeing.19 Beyond making us happy, the emotional support we get from the people we care about can help us through trauma while influencing us to make better choices and adopt better habits.19 Psychologically, that can fulfill our need to belong, give us better coping skills, and improve our quality of life.19

Physically, good relationships can boost our immune systems and even help us live longer.20 In fact, not having strong relationships can increase the risk of early death by about 50%.20 That has roughly the same impact as smoking 15 cigarettes a day.20

The impact of having positive relationships is also why some say that doubling your group of good friends can benefit you as much as seeing your income go up by 50%.21

Make It a Habit: Connect with at least one person you love every day. If problems arise, try to listen, show understanding, and don’t jump to conclusions. And, be honest. Admit your mistakes and apologize if you’re in the wrong. Remember to find even small ways to show you care, by giving a thoughtful compliment or anticipating a loved one’s needs.

“For most of us, the barriers to being happier come down to a few things—our attitudes, behaviors, expectations, and fears.”

Financial Lesson

The Things Holding You Back Could Be in Your Power to Change

Living better doesn’t mean we have to make radical changes. And we don’t have to wait for some benchmark or goal post to start enjoying life more. With a few simple upgrades, we can reshape the way we experience life every day. And we’re likely to be happier and healthier for it.

That sounds simple. And it is. So, what stops us from getting there? And why can happiness and a better life feel elusive sometimes? The answer can be different for everyone. For most of us, though, the barriers to being happier come down to a few things—our attitudes, behaviors, expectations, and fears.22-24

We can start to break down those barriers by not trading what we really want in life for what we want right now. And we can stay in touch with what we really need to be happy and live better by staying connected to the people we trust.

Sources

1 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/hedonic-treadmill

2 – https://www.cnbc.com/2021/01/22/new-wharton-study-people-are-happier-when-they-earn-more-money.html

3 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/social-instincts/202101/money-can-buy-least-one-type-happiness

4 – https://www.theatlantic.com/family/archive/2020/04/how-increase-happiness-according-research/609619/

5 – https://time.com/5539942/green-space-health-wellness/

6 – https://www.pewresearch.org/fact-tank/2020/02/05/how-americans-feel-about-the-satisfactions-and-stresses-of-modern-life/

7 -https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/why_you_never_seem_to_have_enough_time

8 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/basics/gratitude

9 – https://www.healthline.com/health-news/self-care-is-not-just-treating-yourself

10 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/modern-mentality/201906/the-cost-caring-without-self-care

11 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/blog/the-couch/201905/self-care-is-important-why-is-it-so-hard-practice

12 – https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_to_overcome_your_brains_fixation_on_bad_things

13 – https://www.verywellmind.com/the-benefits-of-optimism-3144811

14 – https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm

15 – https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/how_volunteering_can_help_your_mental_health

16 – https://www.nbcnews.com/better/pop-culture/volunteering-has-some-surprising-health-benefits-here-s-how-find-ncna932196

17 – https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/does_the_warm_glow_of_giving_ever_get_old

18 – https://www.helpguide.org/articles/healthy-living/volunteering-and-its-surprising-benefits.htm

19 – https://www.apa.org/monitor/2018/03/life-saving-relationships

20 – https://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletter_article/the-health-benefits-of-strong-relationships

21 – https://www.takingcharge.csh.umn.edu/why-personal-relationships-are-important

22 – https://time.com/5356657/trying-to-be-happy/

23 – https://www.verywellmind.com/science-says-these-3-things-will-make-you-happier-1717532

24 – https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/321248

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Post-Pandemic Travel Planning: How To Make Safe Choices & Still Have Fun

For the first time in a long time, travel is becoming a real possibility.

The pandemic hasn’t disappeared (and it’s not going away anytime soon) but we’re turning a corner. More of us are getting vaccinated against COVID-19 every day, and more of us have a ready-to-travel mindset.1

After months of doing everything from home, we’re ready to get out — and really get away!

And we’re not wasting time. About 2 in 3 folks say they have a trip planned within the next 3 months.1

Most are looking to get out of state or go abroad. That’s more than since the beginning of the pandemic.1

TSA airport screenings are up.2

As excited as we are to get out of our COViD-19 caves, we’re also anxious. We’re worried about getting sick or stuck in our destination. And we fear the unknown.3

These worries are valid. But we can manage our stress about traveling by taking action. The right planning can help us manage our anxiety and prepare for the changes that will come with post-pandemic travel.4

So, if you’re just starting to think about getting out or you’ve already booked a trip, here are some of the most important things to consider so you can make smart, safe choices and still have a great time.

Ready to travel? Enjoy it more by planning for these things first.

Your Destination

How far away do you want to go, and how will you get there? These are always key questions to consider when planning a trip. These days, though, they carry more weight. Will you need to quarantine after your arrival or before your return? What are the chances of having to stay longer than expected?

Think about these possibilities as you make your plans. Also, consider the positive impacts that your choice in destination can have. Where could your tourism dollars do more to help harder-hit places and add that much more value to your trip?

TIPS: Check the U.S. State Department’s website for travel restrictions and bans. Also, look at the CDC’s Travel Recommendations by Destination to see how risky different areas may be. You can make better choices about where to travel and enjoy a great getaway if you have a better idea of how restricted, risky, or safe different places are.

Your Personal Travel Companions

How at-risk are your travel companions or the people you plan to visit during your trip? Does anyone need a COVID-19 test before traveling?

Also, what do your travel companions need in order to stay healthy and safe during the trip? Think about the medicines and personal protective equipment everyone will need. And don’t forget about mental health and what your companions may need to cope with travel anxiety or jet lag.

TIPS: Check in with your doctor as you plan a trip and encourage your travel companions to do the same. Pack extra medication for your trip in case you end up staying longer than anticipated. And read up on local health care at your destination so you know what to do and where to go if anyone does need medical attention during the trip.

Your Travel Documents

Will you need proof of a negative COVID-19 test or vaccination to enter your destination — or to reenter the U.S.? If you need to bring medications with you, are those legal in your destination, or do you need to bring special documentation?

Also, think about who’s traveling with you and what you plan to do. If you’re traveling with a minor, you may need a written, notarized letter from a parent (or the other parent if it’s your child). If you plan to drive abroad, determine whether your destination recognizes U.S. driver’s licenses; if not, you may need an international driving permit.

TIPS: Make copies and take pictures of all your travel documents. Store the backup copies in secure places, separate from the set of travel documents you carry with you. And consider filling out any paperwork you need to enter another country ahead of time.

Your Personal Risk Tolerance

How much risk do you want to take on during your getaway? Do you want to be in a high-rise hotel, with shared elevators and crowded spaces? Or do you want private, remote accommodations to avoid crowds and have more space?

Beyond where you plan to stay, your mode of transportation and your excursions can bring risks too. Think about these up front and consider what you and your travel companions need to feel safe and comfortable while you’re away from home.

TIPS: Ask how flexible cancellation policies are up front, and consider accommodations that give you more functionality, like rentals with kitchenettes. Also, think about the options for outdoor activities and excursions that are lower-risk, and have a plan ready for how you’ll deal with unexpected travel stress if it does arise.

Your Back-Up Plans

If things don’t go as expected, what’s your Plan B? Or your Plan C? Think about this for various points of your trip: the mode of transportation, the accommodations, your plans at your destination, and your return.

You may want to travel somewhere close to family or friends in case of a lockdown. Or maybe you’d rather be in a remote area where you can be outdoors if your destination shuts down. No matter what suits you, a backup plan can save a vacation if things go off the rails.

TIPS: Consider travel insurance so you’re covered in case of a medical emergency or cancellations. Also, you may want to sign up for the U.S. State Department’s Smart Traveler Enrollment Program (STEP). It’s a free service that keeps you informed of the latest security updates from local consulates and the nearest U.S. embassies if you go abroad. It can also help the embassy get in contact with you if there’s an emergency.

You can’t totally avoid risks in traveling or in life, but you can manage them better with thoughtful planning.

Financial Lesson:

PLANNING AHEAD CAN HELP INCREASE THE FUN FACTOR (AND MANAGE RISKS)

Traveling can be a wonderful, deeply enriching experience. It’s an exciting way to recharge, enjoy the world, and open up to new perspectives.

It also takes us out of our element. By nature, traveling puts us in unfamiliar places. There’s always going to be some level of uncertainty when you take a trip, because there’s no way to be 100% sure that everything will go as planned.

The pandemic only amplifies that. But it doesn’t take away our ability to deal with it.

Despite the new risks in post-pandemic travel, it’s not the first time many of us have had to deal with more travel anxiety as a result of current events.

If you flew after 9/11, you saw firsthand how tense airports became and how much changed.5,6

Still, we found ways to cope and overcome. We made new plans and adapted to new travel screenings and restrictions. And some of the changes we made became our “new normal” for traveling. We’ve been taking our shoes off for TSA airport screenings for about 20 years now because of a single incident in December 2001.7

The point?

You can’t totally avoid risks in traveling or in life, but you can manage them better with thoughtful planning.

The truth is that the choices you make as you prepare for your trip can affect your whole experience — from the risks of getting stuck, to how prepared you are if the unexpected happens.

And, although there’s a lot you can’t predict, you do have total control over your decisions. You can make more informed choices about where to go, how to prepare and get there, and how much risk you’ll take on to get where you want to be.

That doesn’t just apply to post-pandemic traveling. It can help you be better at facing many other uncertainties life throws your way.

 

SOURCES

1 – https://www.destinationanalysts.com/2021/04/

2 – https://www.tsa.gov/coronavirus/passenger-throughput

3 – https://www.usatoday.com/story/travel/advice/2021/01/08/what-travelers-do-and-dont-need-worry-about-in-2021/6579534002/

4 – https://www.cntraveler.com/story/what-does-travel-anxiety-look-like-in-2021

5 – https://www.psychologytoday.com/us/articles/200201/anxiety-after-911

6 – https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7112671/

7 – https://www.tsa.gov/news/press/releases/2019/05/22/tsa-explains-security-protocols-travelers-departing-us-airports

Is Aging the Secret to Happiness?

I’ve always wondered if older people become happier. My mother is 83 and really happy, but then again she’s always been happy. It would be kind of cool to know that even though we age, get wrinkly and our bodies starting hurting, we become happier. In this article we found on: https://www.verywellmind.com/aging-the-secret-to-happiness-2224100, we find out.

Happiness and age are related, but not in the way you might think. For the most part, our culture is youth-driven, so we assume that the young and beautiful also happen to the be the happiest. A young person who has time on their side may appear happy, but the notion just is not true. Happiness actually increases with age.

It might be unfathomable for some young people to believe their grandparents are happier than they are, but research shows that Americans actually get happier as they age despite the health conditions and other problems that arise. Before we celebrate, though, let’s take a look at the evidence on aging and happiness.

Trends in Happiness

Let’s face it: research related to happiness is filled with judgments and subjectivity because happiness is subjective. How can you be sure a research participant who says, “I’m pretty happy,” truly is happy? Maybe they’re content with less? Maybe their happiness is based on material possessions? Maybe each generation has different expectations of happiness? Researchers needed to find a way around these kinds of problems.

Luckily sociologists have consistently conducted more that 50,000 interviews since 1972 for the General Social Survey, a sociological survey conducted by the National Opinion Research Center at the University of Chicago. The survey, which is open to the public, provides a wealth of insight into our society and measures happiness over time. By comparing differently-aged individuals over time within the same year, researchers were able to get around some of these limitations, and what they found is that happiness increases with age.

Aging America: A Happy Place

“How happy are you?” That is the big question researchers ask year after year. Not only did researchers find that older people tend to be happier, but that happiness is not something older participants had all their lives. In other words, as people get older, say starting at age 50, happiness comes to them.

As media continue to warn us about the dangers of an aging America, keep this in mind: An aging America may be the happiest America we have ever seen. Perhaps this is because of the wisdom that comes with age or because older people adjust their expectations in life, but whatever the reason there is solid evidence that older Americans are truly happier than younger ones.

How to Maximize Your Happiness

Improve your own happiness by ignoring the societal norm that youth = happiness. Allow yourself to feel happy as you age. Don’t get caught up in worrying about the small stuff. Take good care of your health and, most importantly, let yourself go. Don’t think that you have to act your age. Here are some more tips to keep you active, happy and having fun as you age:

·         Exercise for more energy

·         Be social for healthy aging

·         Live long, have fun

·         Play games for brain fitness