Okay, so we can all agree that there’s no such thing as a checklist for happiness. Or a recipe for success. But back in March, in response to International Happiness Day, I compiled a list of my favourite things to do when the world is getting me a little down.
So here they are, my top 5 activities for ensuring a little pick me up when life gets a little blue.
It may seem counter-intuitive but hauling your ass out of bed on a weekend morning, or switching your work shoes for trainers on a weekday evening, is one of the most positive things you can do for your mind. Studies show that the endorphins released during exercise stay in your body for up to three hours afterwards, meaning that that exercise high stays with you into the rest of your day. The sense of accomplishment after just thirty minutes spent in the gym is another reason to give exercise a go when you’re feeling a bit down. It also renders that post-gym croissant totally guilt free too, obviously.
This may be very personal to me (hello, English literature student), but whether they’re read in a book or listened to on a podcast, stories are always a great stress reliever and happiness bringer. A balm and a solace for the wounds of everyday, they transport you into other lives, let you explore other realms and open up new modes of thinking. As well as offering escapism, they also often force you to look at the world in a fresh light, which when you’re blue can be a welcome relief.
Whether it is writing, drawing, painting or sewing, I firmly believe allowing your creative spirit freedom to express itself is one of the best routes to happiness. Life is difficult, jobs are hard and relationships with other people tricky to navigate. However, I find taking on a practical task that absorbs both the hands and the brain destresses and offers an almost meditative moment away from the pressures of everyday life. The recent BBC Women’s Hour series on the importance of crafting is one I’d definitely recommend listening to on this subject.
Although existing in the same realm as creating, I firmly believe in the restorative powers of baking. A few months ago, after a particularly difficult job rejection, I baked a banana, apple and almond cake and found it almost instantly therapeutic. It’s about creating something from scratch and concentrating all your thoughts and energy on a task that is one part science, the other part magic. And then you get to eat something delicious afterwards, so it’s a win win really.
5. Sharing food with friends
Sharing food with friends is perhaps the most direct route to happiness I know. At university my flatmates and I instigated group meals in our student house most Sundays, with one of us doing the honours and creating a three course meal (often themed) which we would then sit and eat en famille. It was the perfect antidote to the stresses and worries of our final year at university, and allowed us all to come together and talk as one. Sharing food with friends is still the best way we know of ensuring happiness, sharing experiences and raising morale as a group.