Are you sabotaging your own happiness? What you’re doing – and not doing – could be keeping you from a happy, healthy life. Mental wellness is one of our passions at the Healthy365 Connection Center, and we want you to enjoy the happiness every person needs. Let’s look at some of the risk factors that endanger your contentment and talk about how you can turn things around with simple changes.

1. Lack of a good sleep routine

What’s so great about sleep? Those hours of peaceful slumber allow your brain to get ready for the demands of the day. While you’re snoozing, your brain is working to develop new pathways and enable better thinking and memory. Sleep deficiency does more than make you tired. Over time, you could notice that you’re having trouble making decisions and solving problems. You may also experience an increased risk of suicide, depression and risky behavior.

Most adults need between seven and nine hours of sleep daily. Are you struggling to fall asleep and stay asleep? A good sleep routine gives you a head start to being happy:

  • Stick to a sleep schedule, going to bed and getting up at around the same time each day, even on weekends.
  • Turn off the screens 30 minutes before you go to bed. Go old-school and read a book instead. (Remember that novel you were assigned in high school that put you to sleep every time you started reading it? Use that for nights that nothing else seems to work!)
  • Resist the urge to take a daytime nap.
  • Use nicotine, caffeine and alcohol sparingly at bedtime.

If you are regularly experiencing sleepless nights, see your physician. Many sleep issues can be addressed medically.

2. Unmanaged stress

We all encounter stress during our day. Our bodies are actually quite adept at reacting to stressful situations – our muscles can tense, our hearts will race and our short-term memory becomes more effective during this “fight or flight” reaction that helps us escape dangerous situations. That’s not a bad thing, especially if you’re trying to meet a deadline or running from a tiger. But too much stress can strain our mental health and interfere with our happiness. If stressful situations are causing you to withdraw or feel perpetually anxious, you may experience long-term consequences. Unmanaged stress may also be linked to substance misuse.

Nobody can completely avoid stress in their lives, but anyone can take steps to address stress appropriately. Consider working these habits into your daily routine:

  • Exercise regularly. Exercise gives those “fight or flight” hormones something to do and helps them work through our bodies.
  • Find a hobby. You don’t have to be Picasso to enjoy painting. Carve out time to do something you enjoy.
  • Make a list. Your responsibilities can seem overwhelming, but sometimes it helps to write them down. Pick the easiest task first so you can enjoy the rush of scratching it off the list when you’re done. If you can’t finish the list, give yourself permission to work on it again tomorrow.

3. An unhealthy diet

A handful of peanut butter cups may give you an instant sugar rush during the day, but they’re not the answer to long-term happiness. Instead, consider that Mom may have been right when she told you to eat your vegetables. Healthy food choices can have positive implications on our mental health and well-being and may even make us happy. But it’s not always easy to make healthy eating decisions, especially if food has emotional implications. Remember, you don’t have to struggle for mental wellness alone. Talk to your physician about nutritional resources or check out the nutrition and weight loss programs through Hancock Health.

4. Physical inactivity

A century ago, people’s daily activities included more active minutes. Your great-grandmother spent the day working in her garden, canning the produce and sweeping the floor with a broom. Your great-grandfather stood at a factory machine all day. Even people who were lucky enough to own an automobile weren’t as dependent as we are today. Combine this with an abundance of sedentary pastimes and screen-related activities, and we’re missing out on the relationship between physical activity and overall happiness. Physical activity can help your brain release endorphins, those feel-good neurotransmitters that can boost your mental health.

According to the World Health Organization, adults need a minimum of 150 to 300 minutes of moderate activity each week or 75 to 150 minutes of vigorous activity. If that sounds intimidating, consider that it averages to about 21 minutes daily on the low end. Are you looking for ways to add more activity into your life? Consider these options:

  • Find something you like to do. Give yourself a chance to explore different exercise options, from outdoor walking to working on the machines at one of the state-of-the-art Hancock Wellness Centers.
  • Build in exercise throughout the day. Park far away from your office entrance. Take the stairs. Do some stretching exercises while dinner is in the oven.
  • Involve the family. Busy parents may feel like they don’t have time to exercise. Invest in an exercise stroller or take the kids on a family bike ride.

5. Tobacco use

Almost everyone knows that smoking isn’t good for you. But did you know it can make you unhappy as well? Despite the stereotype of enjoying a relaxing cigarette, tobacco actually increases your stress levels and anxiety. Smoking has also been linked to depression and other mental health problems, which can put a hurt on your happiness levels. If you’re ready to kick the habit, talk to a medical professional about different strategies.

Many factors also play a role in your daily happiness, including issues related to substance misuse, recreational drug use and the harmful use of alcohol. You don’t have to tackle life alone. The Healthy365 Connection Center was designed to assist Hancock County residents who are struggling with life’s challenges. If you or someone you love is struggling with substance misuse, depression, anxiety or other mental health conditions, reach out to the Healthy365 Connection Center now at 317-468-4231. Our support navigators can help connect you to important resources throughout the community. Let us help you find the happiness everyone deserves.