Healthy habits that boost happiness

We do most of our routine activities out of habit. When you practice making healthy choices over and over, they become habits, too — habits that can boost your happiness.

By Amit Sood, M.D.

Half of your happiness depends on conscious choices you make every day — choices that, with time, become habits. In "The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness," I list several healthy habits that can help you boost your happiness. By choosing healthy habits, you can decrease your stress and increase the energy available to you each day — making it easier to do the things that bring you joy.

Here are three of the habits from "The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness."

  1. Eat a healthy diet. Physically, and to some extent emotionally, you become what you eat. That makes your diet extremely important. Three aspects to pay attention to are what you eat, how much you eat and how you eat.
    • What you eat. Eat a balanced diet. Choose whole grains, nuts, fish, vegetables, protein and fiber. Eat a variety of foods to get a broad range of nutrients. Avoid refined sugars, saturated fat, megadose vitamins and calorie-dense food. Eliminate trans fat.
    • How much you eat. Stop eating when you feel just a little full. If you pause a few minutes after feeling lightly full, you will soon feel comfortably full.
    • How you eat. Try what I like to call a "slow-small-savor" approach. Eat slowly, chewing your food well. Take small bites. And savor each morsel. The slow-small-savor approach may help you get more out of your food and help you lose weight, too, if that's your goal.
  2. Keep your body agile. Almost everything you want in life will be easier to achieve if you're more physically active. Each week, most healthy adults should get at least 150 minutes of moderate or 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity, in addition to muscle-strengthening exercises. Work toward getting enough physical activity with these ideas:
    • Find practical ways to fit in fitness. Park your car farther away from the store, walk up the stairs, walk to your co-worker's office instead of calling, schedule a meeting away from your office, walk to where you choose to eat, walk while talking on the phone in your office or at home, schedule a walking meeting, or join an athletic club.
    • Combine physical activity with joyful attention. Taking a walk in nature is one way to do this. As you walk, look at the green grass, the blue sky, and the sizes and shapes of the clouds. Look at the plants and trees as selfless sages standing quietly, an emblem of peace, purifying the air, holding the soil together, and giving us lovely flowers and fruits while asking nothing in return.
  3. Get enough good-quality sleep. More than half of us don't get enough sleep, and often, our sleep is not restful. Your brain and body age faster with lack of sleep. Sleep is brain food, so consider sleep a sacred time. Make restful sleep a priority with these tips:
    • If you can, try not to take your worries to bed with you.
    • Relax your body and mind before going to sleep. A relaxing routine may include a warm bath, soothing reading, deep breathing or eating a light snack.
    • If a worry keeps bothering you, write it in a journal or try your best to postpone thinking about it until the morning.

Adapted from The Mayo Clinic Handbook for Happiness, By Amit Sood. Learn more about the book and about Dr. Sood's Resilient Living program.

Experiments

  1. For one day, keep a food journal that lists what you eat, how much you eat and how you eat (quickly or slowly, while doing something else, and so on)
    • How mindful are you?
    • Are you an emotional eater?
  2. In addition to the regular physical activity you already get, take a 10-minute walk (outside if possible) three days this week.
  3. Do something relaxing each night this week to get ready for a restful night's sleep.
Dec. 24, 2016 See more In-depth

See also

  1. 3 ways to get closer to achieving your goals
  2. Make healthy habits stick
  3. 5 do's and don'ts for staying motivated
  4. 3 ways to avoid secondhand smoke
  5. 7 signs and symptoms not to ignore
  6. Energy management
  7. After COVID-19 vaccination: Is it OK to visit with friends and loved ones?
  8. Animal bites: Do you need a tetanus shot?
  9. Are you doing everything you can to stay healthy?
  10. Belching, intestinal gas, gas pains and bloating
  11. Bone health tips
  12. Can COVID-19 (coronavirus) spread through food, water, surfaces and pets?
  13. Cancer-prevention strategies
  14. Cellphones and cancer
  15. Colon cancer screening
  16. Coronavirus safety tips for going out
  17. Coronavirus: What is it and how can I protect myself?
  18. Coronavirus travel advice
  19. Plastic surgery
  20. Herd immunity and coronavirus
  21. COVID-19 and holidays
  22. Long-term effects of COVID-19
  23. COVID-19: How much protection do face masks offer?
  24. COVID-19 (coronavirus): Quarantine, self-isolation and social distancing
  25. Do adults need shots?
  26. Don't save leftover pain pills
  27. Exercise: Check with your doctor
  28. Find meaning in the small things
  29. Flu Shot Prevents Heart Attack
  30. Functional fitness training
  31. Overcome obstacles to your goals
  32. Healthy holiday habits: How to get back on track
  33. Hand drying
  34. Hand-washing tips
  35. Healthy heart for life: Avoiding heart disease
  36. Heart attack prevention: Should I avoid secondhand smoke?
  37. Home Health Hazards
  38. Brown fat
  39. How social support spurs you
  40. Break the busy cycle
  41. How to take your pulse
  42. How to safely go to your doctor during the COVID-19 pandemic
  43. How to take your temperature
  44. How well do you wash your hands?
  45. Injury Season for Snow Blowers
  46. Investing in yourself
  47. Is antibacterial soap a do or a don't?
  48. Keep the focus on your long-term vision
  49. Liposuction alternatives
  50. Lost in Space
  51. Making progress towards your goals
  52. Mammogram guidelines: What are they?
  53. Make over your mindset to make time for your health
  54. Mayo Clinic Minute: You're washing your hands all wrong
  55. Mayo Clinic Minute: How dirty are common surfaces?
  56. Measles vaccine: Can I get the measles if I've already been vaccinated?
  57. Medical family tree
  58. Infographic: Organ Donation Donate Life
  59. Infographic: Paired Donation Chain
  60. Infographic: Pancreas Kidney Transplant
  61. Personal health records
  62. Personalize your wellness journey
  63. Stick to healthy-eating goals at social gatherings
  64. Posture: Align yourself for good health
  65. Posture check: Do you stand up straight?
  66. New Year's resolutions
  67. Safe outdoor activities during the COVID-19 pandemic
  68. Secondhand smoke
  69. Creating a wellness vision
  70. Sitting risks: How harmful is too much sitting?
  71. Good posture tips
  72. Back exercises
  73. Proper lifting techniques
  74. Stay healthy during the COVID-19 (coronavirus) pandemic
  75. Stop multitasking and focus
  76. Telemedicine online doctor visits
  77. Thirdhand smoke: What are the dangers?
  78. Want good health? Build a solid base
  79. The benefits of gratitude
  80. Video: Travel safely for medical care during the COVID-19 pandemic
  81. Travel Safety
  82. Triclosan
  83. Using if-then statements
  84. Vaccines for adults
  85. Fight coronavirus transmission at home
  86. What are superbugs?
  87. What are superbugs and how can I protect myself from infection?
  88. Air purifiers and smoke