Raise your hand if you’ve been looking forward to lounging on the beach, eating gelato and getting lost in a good book? Make the most of the season with these 16 inspiring ideas for a happy and healthy summer!
It’s an age-old question: is it possible to thrive, not just survive, in the face of adversity?
Countless of best-selling books and blockbuster movies have been made about unexpected heroes, people who succeeded despite the obstacles in their way. But how exactly can you flourish when you’re living with chronic illness, financial troubles or strained relationships?
For decades, the field of psychology focused mostly on preventing and treating mental health problems. But when you’re trying to fix problems and reduce suffering, by definition you’re working to get people to a neutral state, to “zero”. It wasn’t until twenty years ago that renowned psychologists started to investigate how you can lead a good and happy life – how you can get from a mediocre “5” to a blooming “8”.
Flourishing means you’re living in the optimal range of human functioning, where you experience positive emotions, find fulfillment and accomplish meaningful tasks, most of the time. It’s not the same as simply being happy. When people are asked how satisfied they are with their lives, their answer depends strongly on their current mood. But a ‘good’ life depends on more than fleeting feelings of happiness.
In his book ‘Flourish’, Martin Seligman, the pioneer of positive psychology, states that you need 5 elements for optimal wellbeing: positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaning and accomplishment. This PERMA-model is a good template for how to flourish in life, but how do you put these pillars into action, especially during tough times?
Have a look at these 32 actionable strategies from the world’s experts on how to flourish.
Compassion is a admirable trait that forms the heart of our society, religions and humanistic views. Our minds and bodies seem to be wired to care. When you see somebody else suffer, your brain reacts to their pain as if it was your own. Not only do you instinctively empathize with others, the part of your brain that wants to alleviate their distress also lights up. Studies show that when you feel compassion, your heart rate slows down and the bonding hormone oxytocin is released.
Tuning into other people’s feelings in a kind manner doesn’t just help them – it makes you feel good too. Feeling compassion can improve your relationships, boost your resilience and give you a more optimistic outlook on life – all factors that are linked to a happier, healthier you.
And the good news is, you don’t have to become the next Mother Theresa or Gandhi to cultivate compassion. Simple things like looking for similarities between yourself and others or really listening to what someone’s saying also encourages feelings of compassion.
In the Dutch language, there’s an important distinction between ‘medelijden’ (compassion or pity; literal translation: co-suffering) and ‘medeleven’ (sympathy; literally: co-living). It’s a good thing when you genuinely want to understand what somebody’s going through and taking action to help them, but that doesn’t mean you should take on their suffering.
Because compassion is about being kind to yourself too. True self-compassion is not the same as a narcissistic self-love, being easy on yourself or making excuses. It’s about paying attention to your needs and taking a caring approach, instead of a self-critical one.
Have a look at these 12 heartwarming quotes to encourage compassion for others and yourself.
Do you secretly swear internally when someone cheerfully tells you you have so much to be thankful for?
When you’re going through dark times, practicing gratitude can feel more like a mandatory exercise than a genuine act. I mean, when you suffer excruciating pain every day, struggle to make ends meet or are grieving the loss of a loved one, it’s hard to feel grateful for the things that are going well.
And yet, that’s exactly what happiness research tells you to do. Study after study shows that gratitude is one of the most powerful ways to feel happier. Being thankful improves your mental health, boosts your resilience and helps you cope better with everyday stress.
“It’s not that happy people are grateful, it’s that grateful people are happier.” – Erik Barker
But how do you cultivate gratitude when you feel sick, sad, disconnected or cheated on by life?
Don’t just go through the motions. True thankfulness goes deeper than rattling off a list of things you know you’re supposed to feel grateful for, like having a roof over your head and food on the table. Practicing gratitude shouldn’t be a chore. You can only tap into a deeper experience of gratefulness when you sincerely like to make your life – and that of the people around you – better.
Here’s how you can feel thankful for the good things in life, even when life is hard.
So you’ve begun the new year bursting with good intentions to eat healthier, move more and meditate daily. In your enthusiasm, however, it’s tempting to go overboard, trying to go from midnight-snacking coach potato to a gym-loving, juice fasting fit girl/guy in a few weeks time.
Unfortunately, drastic lifestyle changes usually don’t lead to lasting results. It’s much easier and more realistic to take small, doable steps towards your goals. So have a look at these 101 simple things you can do today to boost your health and happiness!