Happiness Starts Within
1. How would you define happiness? Happiness is a choice, a result of one’s thinking and being. It is an emotional state that is cultivated from the inside out and it’s a daily process and practice. It’s feeling fulfilled, centered, and aligned with not only your true self but also with your meaning and purpose. Happiness offers a sense of wholeness in mind, body, and spirit.
2. What are some creative ways that you might advise your patients to try if they are trying to improve their happiness? 1) Pay attention to your thoughts as what we focus on we create more of. If you want to increase your happiness, then it’s important to deliberately choose to focus on who and what brings you happiness. 2) Practice the 17-second rule which is: If you focus on someone or something that makes you happy for 17 seconds by holding the same thought your mind will begin to shift from negative to positive. This is a simple skill that any person can use at any time to increase happiness. 3) Practice daily gratitude as gratitude is the gateway to happiness. 4) Use affirmations to increase happiness (For example: I am happy, Today I choose happiness). 5) Practice mindfulness as the present moment is the most generous moment and there is typically always something that one can find to support happiness in the moment.
3. How does a healthy diet affect mental health/happiness? It’s estimated that about 90% of serotonin also known as the “happy chemical” is produced in the gut. This fact by itself speaks to the connection between food and mood. If a person has an unhealthy diet that directly will impact their mood, whereas, if a person has a healthy, clean diet that will help to boost their mood and overall happiness. Research shows people’s thoughts, feelings, and behaviors, including “disorders,” both mental and physical, are directly linked to their diet. Research also shows how certain foods create an increase in higher levels of dopamine and norepinephrine which are brain chemicals that play a part on mood, motivation, and concentration. It's also important to note that nearly all mental, emotional, and physical ailments are linked to the “gut health.” In other words, if one is consuming unhealthy, processed foods or high sugar this can cause an imbalance in the gut, which leads to inflammation, and inflammation leads to disease. With food, we either create illness or wellness, the choice is ours.
4. How important is socialization for people who want to be happier? We are hard-wired for connection biologically, physically, and spiritually. In order for a person to truly thrive and maintain a state of happiness, it’s important to have meaningful connections. This doesn’t mean a person can’t enjoy alone time, but it’s rather saying, if a person is isolated then they will likely experience depression. Research shows individuals who have healthy relationships are less likely to experience depression and other areas of struggle. We heal and thrive in the community and we tend to stay stuck and sick in isolation.
5. Can exercise help someone become happier? How? Yes, exercise can help someone become happier because every time we exercise the body releases chemicals that boost our overall sense of well-being. Exercise also allows stress hormones to subside or decrease. Another reason exercise can lead to more happiness is because it offers a sense of accomplishment by choosing yourself. When we feel good, we do good and when we do good we experience not only an improvement in our mood but also good outcomes.
6. When should someone talk to a mental health professional about their mental health? There is not a one box fits all for knowing this, however, the body is always communicating to us what it needs. Here are some signs and symptoms that would indicate it could be time to seek help: increase in anxiety, difficulty getting out of bed, loss of interest in day-to-day activities, constant sadness, easily triggered or agitated, racing or suicidal thoughts, nightmares or flashbacks of trauma, difficulty leaving the house or being in public spaces, unable to complete activities of daily living (showering, brushing teeth, completing laundry, keeping your living space clean, etc). Seeking help is one of the most courageous acts a person can do and we are all worthy and deserving of receiving help so we can evolve
Stephanie Robilio, LCSW