(BPT) - Saving money and staying fit are traditional New Year’s resolutions, but overly packed schedules and the materialistic focus of modern day life are inspiring a new goal for many people: to live happier in 2016 and beyond.
“To make 2016 the happiest year ever, think about how you rest, eat and move,” says Matt Johnson, health and performance expert and president of On Target Living. “I am a believer that mental health is directly related to physical health. For most of human existence we have viewed the mind — the head — different from the physical body of the neck down. New research is showing they have everything to do with each other. If you want optimal physical health, you need optimal mental health and happiness. When people are happier they tend to improve all aspects of their life.”
Johnson offers six surprisingly simple, yet profoundly effective ways to boost mood and overall happiness in the new year:
1. Make sleep a priority
Getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night is critical for the body to produce hormones that trigger happiness, explains Johnson.
“I am a big fan of always going to bed with a positive attitude,” he says. “If you go to bed angry, worried or stressed, that tends to come back the next day. Do what you can before bed to reset your mood. Read, take a bath, exercise or talk face-to-face. Try to avoid screen time.”
2. Make more time for family
“Over the last 20 years, family time has vanished. Sporting events, projects, work and technology have swallowed this time,” says Johnson. “As the author of the cookbook Target to Table, I think family face-to-face time is the most important part of a healthy family relationship and happiness.”
Johnson suggests planning family dinner two to three times a week. “When we start to eat dinner as a family in the home, our health and happiness will follow,” he notes.
3. Carve out whitespace
Whitespace is time you dedicate to yourself to refresh, unplug and rejuvenate. This could be making time to do yoga, enjoy a hobby, read, meditate or take a bath.
“People who have hobbies and activities that give them balance tend to be happier,” Johnson says. “If your hobby is texting, checking social media or watching TV, this will set you up for a feeling of emptiness. These things are fine in short periods, but too much will take away what life is giving us.”
4. Achieve work-life balance
With the expanse of the Internet and mobile commuting, workers are now connected more than ever before. But this connectedness can get out of control when answering emails 24/7, so work-life balance is important for overall happiness.
“We all want to be successful, but with anything you need proper balance,” says Johnson. “If you look at professional athletes, the best ones try to find activities outside of their sport that help them stay hungry, engaged and excited. Find things that help you create balance in your life.” Johnson suggests:
* Don’t check email after 8 p.m.
* Go on a date night or family night
* Exercise at a time that fits your schedule
* Walk during lunch
* Schedule a massage once a month
5. Fuel happiness from within
“I believe we have more behavior and mental health issues than we should, and a big part of this is the lack of proper nutrients,” says Johnson. “The most important nutrient when it comes to brain health and mood is omega-3s.”
America is one of the most deficient countries when it comes to omega-3s, with an estimated 91 percent of people not getting enough. “The way that I encourage people to get omega-3s is Nordic Naturals orange-flavored Arctic Cod Liver Oil — it tastes like an orange oil drop,” Johnson says. “Adding Nordic Naturals cod liver oil to your diet can be a game changer for your mental health.”
6. Embrace gratitude
Thinking of the things you are grateful for can have a dramatic effect on your satisfaction and overall happiness. Do this daily as you wake up or make it a conversation you have with your children right before bed.
“Telling yourself you are grateful for your health, family, friends, job and life gives you that pat on the back we all need,” Johnson says. “I also think we don’t tell people how much we appreciate them until they are gone. I encourage everyone to write a handwritten letter to one person each year who made a huge impact in their life. They may not know or maybe you don’t tell them often enough. My last letter was to my Mom. She is the glue in our family.”
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