Following These Five Steps Can Help You Feel Happier

— Written By Lethia Lee and last updated by Patricia Burch
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You probably don’t need research to tell you we’re living in a stressful time. A recent survey by the American Psychological Association proves that point. People are worried about politics, money, work, crime, and national divisiveness. That’s bad news. The good news is that there’s something each of us can do about it.

Samantha Meltzer-Brody, MD, MPH, a psychiatrist with the UNC School of Medicine, says you can be happier by following five steps. These are all about your mental health.

  1. Set boundaries and say “no” more often. We all know that life can get busy. The kids need you, your partner needs you, projects at work may seem never-ending; the list goes on. But try to remember, while everything can feel like a priority, that doesn’t necessarily mean it is. Setting boundaries with others to allow more time for yourself is ok — you don’t have to feel guilty about it.
  2. Exercise! You don’t need to hold yourself to impossible standards. And you don’t need to exercise because you aren’t beautiful enough. Rather, physical exercise is important for ways it makes you feel. Above the neck that is, it’s important for your brain. Exercise decreases stress and anxiety and a bonus, improves heart health. Moving is a great way to get your brain to release endorphins, which improve your mood. And yes, getting a little exercise can make you feel better in your own skin. It’s true that people who feel more fit often have better self-esteem. There are no rules about what exercise you have to do. You can play basketball at the gym, sign up for a yoga class or walk your dog more, Figure out what works for you, because putting some exercise into your life is a great way to make sure you’re going into this year feeling good about yourself.
  3. Practice mindfulness. The word is everywhere: mindfulness. What does it really mean? It’s simple. Mindfulness means being consciously aware about how you approach life. It means slowing down and turning into your thought process. For example, mindfulness applied to eating means instead of shoveling popcorn into your mouth by the handful while your eyes glaze over in the glow of your favorite TV show, eat the popcorn slowly and with attention. Notice the texture, the flavor. You avoid guilt by slowing down and enjoying your food.
  4. Be kind to yourself and others. We’re living in a time when a lot of toxicity and hostility are flying around. We may underestimate how difficult this environment can be for us. We don’t have to be on the receiving end to feel stressed out by it. Simply observing hostility can make us want to hang our heads. That is why now is the time for us to show a little kindness. And kindness doesn’t have to just apply to others. Be kind to yourself, too.
  5. Try something new. We all need some fun and excitement in our lives. The same old routine can get monotonous and boring. Counter that with a little variety. Do something silly or something that would be fun. Sign up for a pottery class. Take your spouse or friend to hear live music. Make sure to schedule things that you want to do. It’s amazing what having things to look forward to can do for your mood.

This is a healthy tip for you to consider as you finish out the rest of this year so that you will be ready to go into 2019 with a new mindset for healthy living.

For more information contact Lethia Lee at the N.C. Cooperative Extension, Sampson CountyCenter at 910-592-7161 or