Sunday, 14 May 2017

Happiness Starts from Within: How to Let Go of Your Insecurities and Feel Good from the Inside, Out

Megan Hemsworth Photography

The UK ranked nineteenth in this year’s World Happiness Report. The report ranks countries according to factors such as equality, GDP per capita, social support, life expectancy, ‘perceptions of corruption’ ,‘freedom to make life choices’ and how people rated their personal lives on a scale of 0-10.

Whilst 19th place isn’t something to dismiss lightly – in fact, the UK leaped up four places – it is far from the likes of ‘the happiest place on earth’, Norway which took 1st place, closely followed by former champion Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland.

According to the Happiness Report, all of the top four countries rank highly in the main factors to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance.

But how are these ratings achieved?

According to Denmark – one of the happiest countries – happiness can be found through Hygge. Derived from the Norwegian term, ‘hugga’, which means to comfort, The Oxford Dictionary’s 2016 ‘Word of the Year’ finalist, Hygge embraces all things ‘cosy’. Associated with taking pleasure in the gentle, small things in life, such as a cup of tea or cashmere socks, the term is renowned for relaxation, indulgence and gratitude.

British-Danish author of Book of Hygge, Louisa Thomsen Brits, says that hygge is derived from a state of mindfulness. She says that it is ‘a quality of stillness born of contentment and awareness. It is a feeling of connection that surfaces when we stop whirling for long enough to enter our present experience by doing something as simple as eating a piece of cake on a park bench’.

An Oxford University study has found that out of 273 people who completed a ‘Be Mindful Online’ course, 58% experienced a reduction in anxiety levels, 57% experienced a reduction in depression and 40% experienced a reduction in stress. Meanwhile, The Oxford Centre for Mindfulness has found that Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy reduces the recurrence rate in those who have experienced depression three or more times, by 40-50%.

As the article, ‘The Sad Reality behind the Smiles: The Pressures behind Social Media and the Desire to Fit In, notes social media is often the cause of depression and anxiety. 

With mental health problems becoming all the more common, it is unsurprising that the act of being mindful has seen an increase.

Author of Growing Up Mindful, Christopher Willard says that: ‘Noticing how social media makes you feel can help you discover how to use it more mindfully'. 

'As you become more aware of the emotions you’re actually inviting into your day when you visit social media sites, you’ll be able to make better decisions about how often to visit those sites’.

But meditation isn’t the only cure for anxiety, depression and stress.

The initiative, ‘This Girl Can’ developed by Sport England, encourages women and girls to ‘get active, whatever their age, size, background or ability’, without the fear of being judged.  

Jessica, says that sport is now ‘an integral part of how [she] manages depression’.

‘My poor body-image was a big problem for me growing up, which led to me using exercise as a way for me to control my weight’. 

‘I needed something where I didn’t feel under pressure to perform, as I found was the case with team sports’. 

‘[Now] I’m definitely on my way to reclaiming exercise as something purely positive for myself’.

In 2012 a mind-blowing 40 million prescriptions for anti-depressants were prescribed throughout England. 

Stress, anxiety and depression are the price many pay for attempting to juggle life. 

Medication will always be required for some, but for those with less-severe forms of depression and anxiety, studies suggest that yoga may be the magic cure.

A 2013 study by Massachusetts General Hospital says that the deep psychological state of rest induced by the yoga elements, posture, breathing and meditation causes an instant positive change in immune function, energy metabolism and insulin secretion – known for triggering the feel-good neurotransmitter, serotonin.

Blogger and yoga teacher, Annie Clarke says that ‘the key thing is to get in touch with your body - to listen and learn from yourself and to just go with the flow’.

‘If something feels good then the chances are it is but if your intuition says no, then perhaps that is the guidance you need to take a step back and have a day off’. 

‘We are all so different, so only your body can teach you what will work for you’.

Annie's book, Mind, Body, Bowl is centered on what she believes are 'the three pillars of wellness', although she believes that food takes center stage. 

'[Food] is just one pillar in the 'trio of wellness', but in some cases it is the most essential one in terms of feeling our best'.

'The food that you eat has a big effect on how you feel. By choosing to fill yourself with healthy fuel that you respond well to, you can help your body to be its most efficient, enabling you to feel energetic, light and clear-minded'.

The Mental Health Foundation has also seen positive links between diet and mental health, as evidence suggests that food is important in managing depression, schizophrenia, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and Alzheimer's disease.

The website states that ‘Nearly two thirds of those who do not report daily mental health problems eat fresh fruit or fruit juice every day’.

Even chocolate can give you a more positive life as it is packed with chemicals such as serotonin, caffeine and phenylethylamine which trigger our 'happy hormones', studies suggest.

Now that is something to be happy about. 

For more information on how to live happily, physically, mentally and emotionally, visit: Oxford Life CoachingMind Body BowlNHS: Live Well, Mental Health , This Girl Can, Cheryl's Top Tips for Happiness.

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