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Wellness
Published Thursday Dec 19, 2019 by Sara Lesher

8 Tips for Improving Happiness (That Actually Work)

Personal Growth
Expert Advice
Motivation

Happiness—the seemingly simple concept that can often be so difficult to obtain. If you've ever found yourself on a quest for happiness or wondered how you can bring a little more smile to your life, here are a few happiness hacks to boost your mood!

Clean

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: this is supposed to be an article about finding happiness, not doing chores. But oftentimes, our living spaces can be reflections of our mental health. You may have noticed when you’re feeling extra stress in your life, your clothes and dishes start piling up. Of course, this leads to even more stress—it’s a vicious cycle. When you’re feeling unhappy, I’m sure the last thing you want to do is start scrubbing last week’s breakfast (or was it lunch?) off your pan, but trust me, you should. You’d be surprised how much your overall mood can change once your home is clean. Plus, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and productivity! (It’s the little things).  

1
Clean

Okay, I know what you’re thinking: this is supposed to be an article about finding happiness, not doing chores. But oftentimes, our living spaces can be reflections of our mental health. You may have noticed when you’re feeling extra stress in your life, your clothes and dishes start piling up. Of course, this leads to even more stress—it’s a vicious cycle. When you’re feeling unhappy, I’m sure the last thing you want to do is start scrubbing last week’s breakfast (or was it lunch?) off your pan, but trust me, you should. You’d be surprised how much your overall mood can change once your home is clean. Plus, you’ll feel a sense of accomplishment and productivity! (It’s the little things).  

Diffuse

The moment your house is clean, you’ll want to plug in your diffuser. Each of our senses is powerful in affecting our mood, and smell is an important one. Try using essential oils to help boost your spirit and bring out that beautiful smile!  We’re all thinking it—a spotless house that also smells ~amazing~ sounds like the perfect combo.

2
Diffuse

The moment your house is clean, you’ll want to plug in your diffuser. Each of our senses is powerful in affecting our mood, and smell is an important one. Try using essential oils to help boost your spirit and bring out that beautiful smile!  We’re all thinking it—a spotless house that also smells ~amazing~ sounds like the perfect combo.

Munch

Just like smell is powerful in affecting our overall mood, taste is crucial as well. I mean, how can you be sad when you’re eating good food? Cook up your favorite meal (and don’t forget to wash your dishes after), or if you don’t feel like messing up that beautifully clean kitchen of yours, go out for a bite. Bring on the dopamine and ditch those negative thoughts!

3
Munch

Just like smell is powerful in affecting our overall mood, taste is crucial as well. I mean, how can you be sad when you’re eating good food? Cook up your favorite meal (and don’t forget to wash your dishes after), or if you don’t feel like messing up that beautifully clean kitchen of yours, go out for a bite. Bring on the dopamine and ditch those negative thoughts!

Plan

Remember when you were a little kid and couldn’t contain your excitement? You’d stay up all night, too anxious to go to sleep. Think Christmas Eve or the night before Disneyland. That feeling doesn’t go away as an adult. Finding something to be excited about in the present moment is a great way to boost your overall happiness. Plan a trip, an outing, even just a quick happy hour with friends. Try to have something fun on the calendar to look forward to whenever you can, because the days leading up to it will be better too—discussing your excitement with friends, planning activities, outfits, etc. We all need something to be excited for! 

4
Plan

Remember when you were a little kid and couldn’t contain your excitement? You’d stay up all night, too anxious to go to sleep. Think Christmas Eve or the night before Disneyland. That feeling doesn’t go away as an adult. Finding something to be excited about in the present moment is a great way to boost your overall happiness. Plan a trip, an outing, even just a quick happy hour with friends. Try to have something fun on the calendar to look forward to whenever you can, because the days leading up to it will be better too—discussing your excitement with friends, planning activities, outfits, etc. We all need something to be excited for! 

Go...

Outside! Sunshine is nature’s medicine, seeping into our skin and making us feel good. But even if you live somewhere the sun doesn’t shine this time of year, going outside for some fresh air is great for your mental state. Get out of the office on your lunch break and go for a quick walk. Being outdoors is an amazing (and free!) mood booster. Grab your friends for a hike, bundle up and eat your dinner on the patio, or even just step outside for a quick fix. Cooping up inside all day is never fun. (Unless you found a new binge-worthy show. Then we understand).

5
Go...

Outside! Sunshine is nature’s medicine, seeping into our skin and making us feel good. But even if you live somewhere the sun doesn’t shine this time of year, going outside for some fresh air is great for your mental state. Get out of the office on your lunch break and go for a quick walk. Being outdoors is an amazing (and free!) mood booster. Grab your friends for a hike, bundle up and eat your dinner on the patio, or even just step outside for a quick fix. Cooping up inside all day is never fun. (Unless you found a new binge-worthy show. Then we understand).

Sing

Alright, you don’t actually have to sing (unless you're like me and just want to make your friends laugh), but at least listen to music. Yeah, we’re using another one of our senses—shocker! The incredible power of music not only brings people together and increases social connections, but can help us access any of our positive or negative emotions. If you want to feel happier, play a happy song! Tip: turn on some fun dance music while cleaning, it’ll definitely make it more enjoyable.  

6
Sing

Alright, you don’t actually have to sing (unless you're like me and just want to make your friends laugh), but at least listen to music. Yeah, we’re using another one of our senses—shocker! The incredible power of music not only brings people together and increases social connections, but can help us access any of our positive or negative emotions. If you want to feel happier, play a happy song! Tip: turn on some fun dance music while cleaning, it’ll definitely make it more enjoyable.  

Hug

That’s it! We can dive into the science behind human touch, or you can just trust me—a nice big hug can make you a whole lot happier. You’ve probably experienced this boost in your own happiness, but you may not know all of these benefits of hugging (hint: check out #4). 

7
Hug

That’s it! We can dive into the science behind human touch, or you can just trust me—a nice big hug can make you a whole lot happier. You’ve probably experienced this boost in your own happiness, but you may not know all of these benefits of hugging (hint: check out #4). 

Sweat

For some, working out might fall into the same category as cleaning: things I really don’t want to do right now. Others might’ve already experienced the uplifting effects of getting their sweat on! Exercise naturally releases endorphins and the chemicals in our brains that lead to positive emotions (AKA norepinephrine and serotonin), so even if you hate your life during that cycling class, you’ll sure feel good after. If you don’t know where to start, you can find classes near you on Mindbody.io or the Mindbody app

8
Sweat

For some, working out might fall into the same category as cleaning: things I really don’t want to do right now. Others might’ve already experienced the uplifting effects of getting their sweat on! Exercise naturally releases endorphins and the chemicals in our brains that lead to positive emotions (AKA norepinephrine and serotonin), so even if you hate your life during that cycling class, you’ll sure feel good after. If you don’t know where to start, you can find classes near you on Mindbody.io or the Mindbody app

Sara Lesher
Written by
Sara Lesher
Marketing Content Associate
About the author
Spoiled by the San Diego sunshine, Sara’s hobbies include beaching, hiking, concert-going, and brewery-hopping. As Mindbody’s Marketing Content Associate, she naturally loves reading and writing… so if you have any book recommendations, let her know. And just between us: she’s committed to health and wellness but loves a good taco (shoutout TJ Tacos in Escondido).
woman with crystal bowl
The Latest
Published Tuesday May 19, 2020 by Shanila Sattar

Top Breathing Exercises for Anxiety and Depression and The New Normal

Meditation
Renewal
Personal Growth
Expert Advice

Inhale. 
 
 
Have you been feeling it? The big emotion floating around the last few weeks is the Big Anxiety. Coupled with the stress of what the COVID-19 pandemic has bought for millions of people, disturbed wellness routines, and worry, we have a recipe to create massive damage to ourselves. 
 
 
Exhale. 
 
 
Adjusting to the new normal, with social distancing practices in place and adapting to precautions and routines, may be the root of even more anxiousness for many as we’re navigating uncharted territories.  


Long-term anxiety and stress can harm our bodies 

During times of high stress, our bodies experience a physiological strain, where essentially everything from our heart, muscles, blood, and energy have to work harder than needed in order to keep functioning at a minimum. Our body’s natural processes, like breathing, can get compromised, lessening the healing functions of the nervous system, and overworking our adrenal system. Stress management is almost non-existent. This overtaxing of the body disrupts the natural flow of energy and resources, and puts us in something known as the “fight or flight” mode. In this mode, we are constantly deciding if there is some kind of real danger and how to survive it. We feel these signals when our heart rate and blood pressure rise, our stress responses like sweating and either constricted or super fast breathing occur, and our feel-good hormones become compromised. 
  
As we process anxiety, not only do we mentally and emotionally feel the repercussions, we also physically confuse our systems that are doing their best to naturally heal us. Staying in a state of continued anxiety with an overactive sympathetic nervous system can be incredibly damaging to your health, even if it is a small amount of stress that collects over time. Stress suppresses our immunity, digestion, deep breathing, disrupts sleep, and eating patterns, impacts mood, energy levels, and much more.  


We are holding our breath

Studies show that over 50% of adults are essentially holding their breaths. They do a shallow type of breathing known as thoracic breathing, where you breathe lightly into your chest instead of into your diaphragm. For example, notice how you’re breathing right now. You’re likely holding your breath to some extent and you’re probably not breathing much at all. If you’re asked to partake in a deep breathing exercise now, you’ll puff up your chest and shoulders, and empty out your stomach. Guilty? 
  
If you’ve ever seen a baby breathe or the breathing technique of someone in deep sleep, you’ll notice that their bellies rise and fall; the oxygen goes directly into a natural deep belly breath. Adults, however, have become acclimated to holding our breaths without meaning to. When we can slow down and practice deep breathing, we send physical and neurological signals through our entire body that asks us to rest.  


Breathing exercises can reduce stress and anxiety

The great news is that there are easy breathing exercises we can do at home that do not take a lot of time or effort. An incredible tool that anyone can use in times of high stress is remembering to inhale and exhale. Yes, breathing. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention also recommended breathwork not simply as an immunity building tool, but as a way to balance emotional and mental wellbeing. Deep breathing and other breathwork improves the body’s overall functions; improves the respiratory system, builds protective mucus in the nose, oxygenates and blood and brain, improves digestion, alkalizes the full body, and much more. Each style of breathwork sends special physiological signals—some ask us our bodies to slow down and chill, to get out of fight mode, and bring us back to equilibrium where our body’s natural healing systems can be activated; some styles of breathwork ask to pump up and energize


Top breathing exercises to reduce anxiety and stress 

It’s common to find yourself rushing through breathing practices or feel like you need to set aside special time for it. But that’s the point. We get to slow down, and we get to implement these practices even if there are distractions, business, and no perfect zen meditation corners in our homes. We can do these anytime, anywhere. 
  
If you’ve been feeling any small symptoms of anxiousness or stress, now is the perfect time to incorporate some incredibly easy and effective breathwork techniques into your day-to-day. 


Belly breathing 

This breathing technique can be done at any time of the day, for as long as you want. It’s recommended to practice this for at least 30 seconds to start and several times throughout the day. It’s a breath technique to practice before going to sleep as well. As you’re doing this breath, imagine your stomach like a big pump. As you breathe in, you’re expanding; as you breathe out, you’re emptying out. 

1. Put your hands on your belly/abdomen area. 
 
 

2. Take a big breath through the nose and PUSH your hands away from the belly as you breathe in. Expand your stomach as much as possible and try not to puff up your chest. 
 
 

3. Slowly exhale through the mouth and constrict your belly inwards. Feel free to make a sound with the mouth when you do this.  
 
 

4. Repeat for a minimum of 30 seconds. 
 
 
  
  

6-7-8 Breath 

The 6-7-8 breath can be done at any time of the day to calm anxiousness and stress, especially before doing to sleep. It’s a self-soothing technique that helps relax and calm the nervous system. You can do this practice sitting up or laying down.  
  
1. Close down your eyes. 
 
 

2. Relax your mouth. 
 
 

3. Take a deep breath in through your nose for 6 full seconds. Count in your head and maintain an even pace. 
 
 

4. Hold this breath for 7 seconds. 
 
 

5. Pucker your mouth and exhale out through the mouth with a “whoooooossh” sound for 8 seconds. 
 
 

6. Repeat this 6-7-8 breath for at least 5 rounds, or as long as you wish. 
 
 


You can adjust the 6-7-8 counts to accommodate your pace. You can try a 4-5-6 sequence, or an 8-9-10 sequence. Play around with the length of time that feels good for your body. Some people love to sit by an analog clock for the ticking sound to help keep pace; some love to incorporate music. 


The Box Breath 

This is another easy technique that can be done at any time of the day. 

1. Breathe in for 4 seconds through the nose. 
 
 

2. Hold for 4 seconds. 
 
 

3. Exhale for 4 seconds through the nose. 
 
 

4. Hold for 4 seconds. 
 
 

5. Repeat at least 5 times. 
 
 

You can play around with the timing for 6 seconds, 8 seconds, and so on to see what works best for your body.

These are the top three breathwork techniques to manage anxiety and stress. Plenty of other techniques work on sleep, inner healing, subconscious programming, altered states of consciousness, and more. Play with the three techniques above and see what feels great for you. It’s common to find a sense of calm almost immediately, some gentle tingling, and relaxation! As we’re adjusting to the new normal, let’s all contribute to creating peace both inside and out. 

If you'd like to try a guided breathwork class with me, click here to find one that works with your schedule! For other breathwork classes, browse Mindbody

Shanila Sattar
Written by
Shanila Sattar
Founder, AlwaysPlay Studios
About the author
Shanila is a sound healer, breathwork coach, women’s researcher, and speaker. She trains sound healers and breathwork facilitators through her mobile studio, AlwaysPlay Studios, and is the founder of the Integrative Wellness Leaders based in Los Angeles. She practices integrative wellness - considering a person's emotional, mental, physical, and spiritual wellbeing. Her background is in tech, having co-founded an award-winning web agency, and in women’s research, specifically in mindsets, implicit bias, perfectionism, women's health, and societal experiences supported through the National Science Foundation, National Institute of Health, and several universities. She has implemented several health and wellbeing programs in underserved populations throughout Los Angeles. Shanila mentors women who are wellness entrepreneurs and on their confidence journey.