Can you become happier in just one week? Making small changes in each area of your life day by day will make a big difference - fast!
Fact Friends are a vital part of happiness - economist Professor Andrew Oswald at Warwick University reckons it would take an extra £50,000 per year to make up for them.
Know this 'If your friend has an annoying habit, such as being late, don't seethe in silence - it's destructive to relationships and will make you unhappy,' says Alyssa Abbey, author of forthcoming book Stop Making Excuses And Start Living With Energy (Capstone, £10.99). 'Accept that they'll be late, take a book, have a coffee and enjoy some time alone while you wait. Or tell them that it upsets you when they're late and that you'd like them to make the extra effort to be on time in future.'
Do this 'When you've spent time with a friend, ask yourself whether you feel energised or drained. If you always feel deflated, ask yourself if it's time you moved on,' says Abbey.
Make a note Think of someone who's done something positive for you. Write 300 words about how that person touched your life, then read the letter to that person. US psychologist Professor Martin Seligman's says that this 'gratitude visit' leaves people feeling much less depressed and happier.
Fact About 20% of women worry about their bodyshape at least ten times a day, according to research.
Know this When you think, 'I hate my hips/bottom/chunky thighs...' stop! Focus on a body part you like instead, such as your slender neck or shapely calves, and, if you can't, distract yourself. 'A negative thought can be a small panic response,' says Charmaine Yabsley, author of The Happy Plan (Collins & Brown, £12.99). Make yourself a cup of mint tea and sit outdoors in the sunshine - it will soothe a busy mind. 'Mint creates calm and allows stresses to fade away, leaving room for contentment and satisfaction,' says Yabsley.
Do this Bounce up and down on a trampoline, suggests health and wellbeing consultant Liz Tucker (www.behappybehealthy.co.uk). Bouncing on a trampoline makes for a great workout as it leads to improved posture, better muscle tone, greater co-ordination and elevated energy levels. 'It will also give you a natural high,' says Tucker, 'and make you feel like a child again. It's harder to be down about your body and focus on its faults when it's making you feel this good!'
Fact Acting as if you are an extroverted person makes you happier, even if you are an introvert at heart, according to US research. So work on your confidence and happiness will follow.
Know this Picture someone in your life who makes you feel small. 'Now picture them half as tall and wearing a baby's nappy,' says Dr Mark Atkinson, a doctor with a specialist interest in holistic medicine who's also the author of The Mind-Body Bible (Piatkus, £12.99). 'This humorous image will help to deactivate the negative feelings. Imagine yourself feeling relaxed with this person - and notice how much better you feel.'
Do this Walk with a sense of purpose, your head held high and your eyes looking directly ahead. Raise the corners of your mouth and breathe slowly. Then think of a friend you love and create a giant ball of happiness to send to them. Feel their happiness as they receive your gift and enjoy it as they return the favour. 'Changing your thoughts and your body posture are the keys to changing your state of mind,' says neuro-linguistic practitioner Rob Mesrie (www.allergy-alternatives.com).
Make a note 'When you feel confident and happy, find a quiet spot, sit down and write a letter to yourself,' says Alyssa Abbey. 'Include messages about how capable you are, what's really important to you and reasons to stay motivated. Put it somewhere easy to access (stick it on a kitchen cupboard, your bathroom mirror or your diary) or alternatively give it to your partner and ask him to read it out to you whenever you need it.' Simply reading or listening to these positive and self-affirming words will give you an instant confidence hit.
Fact 'There are many things that can cause day-today stress, such as self-appointed chores, saying "yes" too much or trying to be the perfect wife, mother or friend,' says Alison Kerry, spokesperson for mental-health charity MIND. 'Focusing on eliminating these pressures will help reduce tension and improve your wellbeing and happiness.'
Know this 'Panic breathing tends to be rapid and shallow, so try taking a few deep breaths, which is often enough to switch off your stress response,' says Liz Tucker. 'Get into the habit of taking five minutes out, five times a day to enable your body to recharge.'
Do this Sign up as a volunteer. Over 60% of 25- to 34-year-old volunteers say that volunteering helps them feel less stressed, while 71% of volunteers who offer their professional skills and experience say it helps combat depression. Feel happier and help others - it's win-win!
Make a note Write down the five places you last walked. If most of them were in urban areas, resolve to take more walks in parks, the countryside or along the beach. Research by MIND found that 71% of people felt their mood improved after a 'green' walk while only 22% felt an urban walk had the same effect.
Fact People in relationships are generally happier than singletons, according to research at Cornell University, US.
Know this Trust is vitally important. The countries where people agree with the statement: 'I think most people can be trusted,' are also the happiest - Denmark comes top! 'You build trust by repeatedly doing what you said you would - by keeping promises,' says Carmel McConnell, author of The Happiness Plan: Simple Steps To A Happier Life (Prentice Hall Life, £9.99).
Do this 'Make your relationship happier,' says McConnell. 'Think about what makes each of you happy and try to build one of those things into your life every day.'
Make a note 'List what you need in your relationship to feel happy,' says McConnell. Do you feel you'd be happy if he bought you diamonds? If you talked more? Then rate them according to their realism. 'Often it is time, not money, that makes you happiest.'
Fact A fifth of female UK office workers are unhappy with their jobs, with those aged 25 to 34 the most dissatisfied.
Know this 'Stop being a perfectionist,' says career consultant and occupational psychologist Sherridan Hughes (www.sherridanhughes.com). 'Perfectionists associate balance with being side-tracked from their goals, moderation with mediocrity and compromise with defeat. Envisage and create a more well-balanced life by letting go of your obsession with constant productivity.'
Do this 'If you're feeling completely overwhelmed by the demands on your time, write yourself a list of what you have to do,' says Hughes. 'Once it's down on paper, your todo list will seem less daunting and you can start to prioritise. As you tick off the tasks, you will start to feel less anxious.' You could even start by listing a couple of things you've already done as this will make you feel instantly in control!
Make a note What are your motivations, skills and goals? Write them down. How well do they match your current career? 'If the answer is, not very well or not at all, it's time you did something about it,' says Hughes. 'Work out if it's simply a role change you need, or if it's time you moved companies - or whether, in fact, you need a totally new career. Having a plan will instantly ensure you feel more positive and will become the catalyst for lasting change.'
Now you've taken a 360° look at your life, it's time to focus on everything you've learned over the past six days and resolve to continue making life-affirming changes in the future.
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