Many Malaysians probably already know that heart disease is the largest health issue in the country. But do you know what is expected to be in the second spot during 2020? Well, according to the 2015 National Health Morbidity Survey, the issue will likely be mental illness. A different study during 2017 revealed that 29% of Malaysians had depression and anxiety disorder.
Mental health is actually similar to physical health. There are times when we are sick and require treatment. However, mental health is still largely misunderstood. For example, it is often associated with personal weakness and the patient is expected to snap out of it with sheer willpower. In truth, treatment is not as simple as that.
Sadness is a natural emotion. But we’re sure most of us would rather feel the opposite — to be happy. Experiencing joy is a blissful feeling. We’re not claiming this to be a simple treatment for depression but the pursuit of happiness is a worthy cause. So, let’s now learn how to turn that frown upside down.
Here are 7 scientifically-backed ways to achieve happiness:
1. The open secret: exercise
A study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies even when they saw no physical changes. Yes, you don’t need to go hardcore in your sessions to reap benefits. Even if your actual appearance doesn’t change, how you feel about your body does change. Therefore, even short sessions will be adequate. You can no longer give the excuse of not having the time to exercise.
2. The healing powers of sleep
People in the corporate world seem to perceive a lack of sleep as a badge of honour. They proudly boast how little sleep they need to function.
As sleep scientist Matthew Walker revealed in his bestselling book ‘Why We Sleep’, we are exposed to a multitude of health perils with anything fewer than eight hours of sleep per day. There’s a significant decrease in mental capabilities after staying awake for 15 hours. Additionally, driving after 19 hours without sleep is as dangerous as being legally drunk! Furthermore, there are correlations between depression and a lack of sleep.
Adequate sleep keeps us energised, healthy, and emotionally happy!
3. Surrounded by love
It has been revealed that one of the top five regrets of dying people is not staying in touch much with family and friends. Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness. This also applies to introverts!
According to an 80-year Harvard study of the lives of 1,300 people, it is not money or fame that keeps people happy throughout their lives. Instead, it is close relationships and bonds that people forge.
4. No need for drama
We’ve all probably come across a social media post or motivational poster which reads: “Eliminate toxic people from your life”. Turns out, it’s a scientifically-backed method to achieve happiness.
Negative energy is contagious and leads to an increase in your level of stress. As a result, your immune system gets messed up. It’s hard to experience happiness when you’re constantly stressed and physically ill, right?
5. The therapeutic powers of nature
We’ve all read it in the news. Nordic countries are regularly placed at the pinnacle of the World Happiness Index. This achievement has been attributed to various social and economic factors. But there’s one particular concept which we find interesting. It’s the Norwegian philosophy of ‘Friluftsiv’.
With a literal translation of “open-air living”, it describes a lifestyle powered by nature. People are encouraged to spend as much time as possible exploring the outdoors. The Japanese have similar concepts of connecting to nature called ‘kachou fuugetsu’ and ‘shinrin-yoku’. All these concepts provide scientifically proven therapeutic benefits such as better health, sense of calmness, and happiness.
6. Lend a helping hand
Altruism is defined as a disinterested and selfless concern for the well-being of others. You reap plenty of benefits by engaging in acts of altruism. It turns out that making other people happy helps you yourself feel happy.
According to a study published by the Journal of Happiness Studies, spending money on other people can make us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. They describe this as a ‘feedback loop of happiness’.
This might seem like an obvious tip but it works! The only catch is that you have to back it up with positive thoughts.
According to a study led by a Michigan State University business scholar, customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts–such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital–improve their mood and withdraw less.
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