7 Tips For Feeling Happier Every Day, Straight From Therapists
If there's one thing we can all agree on, it's that 2020 hasn't exactly been a walk in the park. The COVID-19 pandemic has affected millions of people and their loved ones, and many who have been spared from contracting the virus are coping with social isolation and financial difficulties.
Even if you don't have a mental illness like depression or anxiety, it's nearly impossible not to experience stress during this unprecedented period in American history. We could all use some tips to boost our moods, especially as we enter the dark winter months. So, take a break from doomscrolling and try these seven practices that will make you happier each day.
"Focus more on gratitude and [refocus] attention to things you appreciate rather than the things that aren't going well in your life," Tatyana Mestechkina, PhD, founder of Cognitive Behavioral Therapy (CBT) For Better Living in New York City, told POPSUGAR.
To make this a habit in your daily life, Dr. Mestechkina recommends starting a gratitude list. Each day, write down three things, big or small, that you are grateful for. The list can range from a flavorful cup of coffee to appreciation for your family, friends, and health.
Do One Thing Every Day That Helps You Unwind
Sari Chait, PhD, clinical psychologist, psychotherapist, and owner of the Behavioral Health and Wellness Center in Newton, MA, suggests identifying one thing you can do every day that will be enjoyable for you. Dr. Chait said some ideas are listening to music, going for a short walk, reading a book, or even taking a hot bath — but of course the possibilities are endless depending on which activities you find relaxing.
"I always encourage people to make a list of all the enjoyable things they can think of, so when their mood is low they can look at their list to easily remember something to do," Dr. Chait said.
Write in a Journal
"Journaling can be an effective way to manage your mood," Dr. Chait told POPSUGAR, noting that research has shown the practice can help with depression, anxiety, and stress management. Writing is a cathartic way to get your thoughts and fears on paper and there's no wrong way to do it, but Dr. Chait recommends incorporating — you guessed it — gratitude at least once a week. "What's important is that you truly spend time reflecting on what you're grateful for and not just go through the motions," she explained.
Stay in Touch With Family and Friends
"Social interactions play a big role in maintaining or increasing happiness," Dr. Chait told POPSUGAR. Of course, during the COVID-19 pandemic, this can be a challenge — but she explained that even a weekly "coffee date" or phone call with a friend can make a difference. "Some people derive a lot more pleasure from social interactions than others, but research shows that everyone benefits from some socializing," Dr. Chait said. If you're not a fan of phone calls, try emailing back and forth with some friends. And if you can safely socialize during COVID-19, like taking a walk outside wearing masks, she recommends trying that as well.
Really Savor the Good Times
Sabrina Romanoff, PsyD, a clinical psychologist at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City, emphasized the importance of savoring everyday moments. "This involves stepping out of your experience to review it, and really appreciate it while it's happening," Dr. Romanoff explained, adding that this can boost your mood and increase gratitude.
To try this, engage in a gratifying activity — say, making or eating dessert — and instead of allowing your mind to wander, focus on the joy it brings you. "Other ways to increase savoring are to think about how lucky you are to experience [something], look for other people to share it with, think only about the present, be absorbed, and talk to another person about how good it felt," Dr. Romanoff said.
Try Negative Visualization
It's easy to focus on the negative, especially during such a trying time. Dr. Romanoff suggests counteracting those thoughts by thinking about what life would be like if you hadn't achieved certain accomplishments or met some of the wonderful people in your life. "This breaks you out of the here and now," she explained.
Now more than ever, it's important to look out for one another. But an added bonus is that acts of kindness also improve your mood and your feelings of social connection, according to Dr. Romanoff. She recommends performing one random act of kindness each day — it can be anything from giving a compliment to doing charity work.