The Natural Anti-Depressant: 7 Ways to Get Happier

7 Easy Ways to Change Your Habits and Feel Better

Photo by Marques Jackson.

Before you scoff at another New Age-y article on happiness, wait! Besides helping yourself, your happiness will also improve your relationships and make life better for those around you. So it’s a win-win.

Miserable people blame others, bully, cast stones, hold grudges, get caught up in insignificant matters, and basically make the world unnecessarily difficult for all of us. So being happy helps not only yourself but everyone around you as well.

And you can be happier by practicing some simple habits that will change your life.

Although I’m a naturally pretty easygoing, happy person (starting as a baby, they used me as a model for the “How to Give Your Baby a Bath” class in the hospital because I laughed so much, according to my mom), and I tend to see the good in people, I’ve had times where I struggled with depression.

At times when I’ve become too bogged down by problems or feeling depressed, these lifestyle changes have really helped me get back on track to being that happy kid. Taking action is key to feeling better.

When you feel down, it’s easy to get caught up in laying around feeling bad, avoiding people, and even neglecting simple things like your health, a trip to the grocery store or errands. But this is the time you need to act the most! Fight that crippling inner voice.

Here’s how:

  1. Connect with others. Loneliness is a struggle and can easily leave you trapped in your head, magnifying your faults or those of others, and replaying unhappy and unproductive thoughts. Get out of your head and reach out to a friend. In-person connection is the best — like getting a coffee with a friend or seeing your sibling for a catch-up session. If you don’t live near people you’re close to, give them a call to chat. And then take yourself out to do something you like — go to a museum, movie, or sports game — and you’ll interact with strangers who also like the same thing. This will definitely boost your mood.
Get active for a guaranteed mood boost.

2. Exercise. I am a running coach so people assume I live to run and compete. In fact, the main reason I run is to de-stress and feel happier. Although I competed in cross country and track in college, serious competitive running isn’t a big focus for me anymore. I mostly love the way I feel during and after a run — seeing the world and people around me, exploring new places (you can check out my running blog for more running inspiration), and getting the adrenaline pumping. I am an adrenaline junkie so I love to workout. Besides running, lifting weights, rock climbing, and pole dancing also give me an endorphin “high.” In addition to getting those “feel good” hormones pumping from your workout, you’ll be grounded by your senses. Something as simple as feeling a rush of warm water in the shower after a sweaty workout, or a sip of cool water to drink, invigorates your senses, and your body will feel good. So whether you love dancing, running, or playing basketball, go out and do it. Double points if you go with a friend.

3. Stop comparing. Take some time to “do your own thing” and focus on taking care of yourself. Self-care will make you feel happier and less caught up in what so-and-so is doing on Instagram, or who has “the best” family on Facebook. Take a social media break if you need to (a 24-hour or even a week “detox”), and connect with people (and yourself!) more in real life.

4. Relax. Stress got you feeling like the weight of the world is on your back? Believe me, as a New Yorker, I completely understand. Make some time to unwind. Whether that means taking a bath, watching a movie (comedies are best for a mood boost), going on a fun date, seeing your best friend, or taking a weekend getaway, do what you need to do to relax and let your hair down. Your mind will appreciate the break from whatever it is worrying about. And you’ll gain some perspective.

5. Play. As adults and with all our technology, it’s easy to feel like there’s never enough time, and everything must be done immediately. Make some time for play. This can tie in with the earlier tips, with activities like playing a sport with a friend, or it can be solo, like coloring, making art, reading, or cooking. Think about what you enjoyed doing as a kid or that hobby you feel like is silly or unproductive. The less productive, the better really! Just enjoy doing something small. And who knows, you’ll probably even realize you’re (gasp*) enjoying yourself.

6. Write. Writing is a great way to connect with yourself and express any bottled up worries, feelings, and thoughts. You don’t have to publish or post anything, just sit down and write for 10 minutes each day about whatever is on your mind. Who knows, you may find some great story ideas in there for the future.

7. Meditate for 10 minutes a day. You can try a guided meditation app like HeadSpace or Calm, take a meditation class, or simply do some deep breathing exercises. I could never sit still or quiet my mind when I tried to meditate. So I took a meditation course at the Art of Living NYC. I found it really amazing for de-stressing, clearing my head of all the stuff I didn’t realize normally bounces around in there, and met such interesting people along the way. Art of Living is an international non-profit that teaches different breathing exercises you can do at home. You can check them out. Or try a simple count to 10 as you breathe in, 5 counts hold, and 10-count breathe out. Repeat and feel the stress melting.

These steps are actions that helped me feel better and get back on track with my life when I was depressed. Please add your tips below of things that make you feel happy. Think about your daily life. It’s usually small things that you don’t even realize lift you up.

If you have depression, it is important to see a licensed mental health professional and get treatment. This is not intended to replace professional treatment but rather a complimentary guide for ways you can make your life happier.