4 happiness-boosting strategies in the Northwest
Nobody likes being stressed out, but did you know that stress can have a negative impact on your health?
Stress activates the fight-or-flight system in your brain, which dumps stress hormones into your body. These hormones can overwhelm the brain’s pre-frontal cortex — the part that makes rational choices. The result? It’s easy to become overwhelmed and find it more difficult to make important decisions and feel happy.
Dr. Suzanne Deschamps, a family medicine physician with Kaiser Permanente Northwest in Salem, Oregon, says there are simple lifestyle changes that can help you reduce your stress and ultimately increase your happiness — no prescription required.
1. Connect with friends
We increasingly rely on technology to communicate — but that may make us less connected. Instead of texting, call a friend and make plans to spend time together. Laughing with or hugging someone you love releases oxytocin — also called the “love hormone” — which helps reduce activity in the parts of the brain that trigger stress hormones.
2. Make decisions to curb worry
Decision-making engages the rational thinking brain and reduces the involvement of the more reactive emotional brain. Making a decision, even a small one, will help calm your brain — so you can focus on long-term plans and move forward with intention.
3. Focus on gratitude
Sure, it might be hard to focus on what you’re grateful for when you’re feeling upset and stressed. But gratitude boosts the production of dopamine and serotonin, which are chemical messengers our bodies produce that contribute to feelings of happiness. Try keeping a gratitude journal — each day write down 3 things you’re grateful for or that you’re looking forward to.
4. Practice mindfulness
Dr. Deschamps recommends meditation to patients who have chronic pain or anxiety. Incorporating mindfulness into your daily routine doesn’t have to be time-consuming. Carving out just 10 to 15 minutes daily for quiet, focused breathing is ideal. There are apps that can help you get started, like Calm, Headspace, and Stop, Breathe, and Think.
If you’re feeling overwhelmed with stress or sadness — we’re here to help. Learn about ways to get help and resources available to you.