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7 Simple Happiness Hacks That Fight Back Against Stress

Stress can sometimes feel like it’s in the driver's seat. Try using these daily habits to take back control over your mental health.

Taylor Leamey Senior Writer
Taylor Leamey writes about all things wellness, specializing in mental health, sleep and nutrition coverage. She has invested hundreds of hours into studying and researching sleep and holds a Certified Sleep Science Coach certification from the Spencer Institute. Not to mention the years she spent studying mental health fundamentals while earning her bachelor's degrees in both Psychology and Sociology. She is also a Certified Stress Management Coach.
Expertise Sleep, Mental Health, Nutrition and Supplements Credentials
  • Certified Sleep Science Coach, Certified Stress Management Coach
Taylor Leamey
5 min read
Brain made up from flowers and leaves.
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Stress isn't just annoying, it can be detrimental to your health. High levels of stress might be comparable to smoking, according to a June 2023 study in the Journal of the American Psychosomatic Society. On the flip side, happiness is associated with a wide variety of physical health benefits.

Being intentional about focusing on positivity each day can go a long way when things are stressful. It sounds small, but it can make a big difference in boosting your satisfaction and mood. I'm not talking about big, sweeping changes to your life. It can be as easy as making yourself laugh and meeting up with friends.

Taking the time to nourish our mental health will help you connect more deeply with others, reduce anxiety and boost your confidence. The best part is: it doesn't cost a thing. Start with these seven happiness hacks today and watch your mental health transform.

Also, see how to naturally relieve anxiety without medication, and check out these tips for improving your mental health without therapy.

Simple mental health habits to start using today

1. Make relaxation a routine

Very few things in life are promised, but stress-free times are unfortunately guaranteed. There will be times when you feel overwhelmed or stressed out, but you can control how you respond to the strain. Implementing relaxation techniques into your daily routine can help you manage stress. 

Meditation is a popular way to relax as it can help reach a state of calm, decrease stress and improve your mood. Some people even use music to guide them through their meditation sessions. If meditation isn't your thing, deep breathing, reading or taking a hot bath are also popular relaxation techniques. No matter how you choose to relax, try to make it a habit.

2. Practice gratitude 

Including gratitude in your life is a way to create a positive outlook on your life. More than that, it has tangible benefits for your mental health, including reducing stress, lessening depression symptoms and boosting your mood. 

Gratitude is a simple concept but sometimes can be difficult to keep up with. Take time for self-reflection and share your gratitude with the people around you. If you like to journal, regularly write down a list of things you're grateful for.

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3. Value social interaction

Sharing our time with others is sometimes just what we need to boost our mood or change our perspective on things. By making time for friends and family, you will decrease feelings of loneliness and ensure you have an emotional support system at your fingertips. If you can't regularly meet in person, text messages and Zoom calls are all meaningful ways to connect with others without actually seeing each other. 

The other side of valuing social interaction is knowing when you've had enough. Boundaries are an essential part of mental health that helps keep you from pushing yourself too far. Feel empowered to say no or move plans around when your body tells you to. 

4. Take care of your physical health

Mental health is directly tied to physical health; one cannot flourish without the other. The three main areas to target are sleep, nutrition and exercise. 

Let's dig into each target area:

  • Sleep: The state of your mental health is influenced by the sleep you get. If you don't get enough sleep, your brain doesn't have the chance to rest and recover. Sleep deprivation makes it harder to regulate your emotions and cope with stress, which can amplify the symptoms of existing mental illnesses. Being intentional about prioritizing your sleep is a simple way to value your mental health. 
  • Food and hydration: Giving your body the nutrients and hydration it needs to function is another essential part of mental health. In addition to eating well-balanced meals, try adding foods to your diet that boost happiness. Make sure you drink enough water; hydration is linked to a decreased risk of anxiety and depression
  • Exercise: Being active is another way to boost your mood and make you feel good. Adding exercise to your routine gives you a chance to bond with others, reduce anxiety and boost your confidence. It doesn't have to be heavy lifting or intense workouts; regular walks or bike rides can also boost your mental health.

5. Monitor your social media intake

Our phones are our lifelines. Most of the time, they're beside us, keeping us connected to the outside world through calls, texts and social media. The hours spent scrolling through social media, comparing ourselves to the snapshot of perfection people post, can seriously impact our self-view and stain our mental health. Constant social media use has been linked to worsened anxiety and depression symptoms, feelings of inadequacy and unhealthy sleeping habits.

You can use social media in a way that doesn't deplete your mental health. Use these tactics to make social media work for you:

  • Put a limit on how long you can spend on social media. 
  • Don't start or end your day with social media. 
  • Use the time you used to spend on social media to do something that brings you joy or relaxation. 

6. Journal your feelings

Journaling is a powerful tool to cope with mental health disorders by working through emotions and channeling thoughts. A 2018 study found that journaling for 15 minutes each day significantly reduced stress and feelings of anxiety. Other research has linked it to helping work through PTSD symptoms or depression.

There is no right or wrong way to journal. Many people journal daily, others may journal only when stressed or need to work through something. No matter how you use it, journaling is a way you can track your progress and growth throughout the year. 

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7. Make yourself laugh

Sometimes, laughter is the best medicine. When you're feeling stressed or down, do things that will make you laugh to reduce anxiety and stress. Watch your favorite TV show or movie to give your mood a boost or find the source within yourself. Sing while you're in the shower or dance while cleaning your home. Dancing reduces the stress hormone cortisol in the body. 

Improving your mental health is a journey; it doesn't happen overnight. You can make lasting tweaks to your well-being by intentionally adding habits to your routine.

The information contained in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. Always consult a physician or other qualified health provider regarding any questions you may have about a medical condition or health objectives.