Recently I came across something I wrote three or four years ago. It was a list of things that made me happy. It was very similar to those things that lift my spirits currently.
Here is the list I found -
• Family, friends, cheerful acquaintances
• My dog and cat
• Vegies in the garden
• Flowers in the garden
• Walking at the beach, park etc
• Doing something different
• Scents of vanilla, orange, mint
• Listening to music
• Sea shells, pine cones, gum nuts, natural decorations
Since making this list I have read numerous books and articles about happiness. Studies and research explain why many of these things make me feel happy.
Family, friends, cheerful acquaintances A strong social network is good for your health and increases self confidence and makes people feel they have more control in their lives. After a positive social interaction (you know, when you have had a great time with family or friends) the brain releases oxytocin, a hormone that increases a feeling of bonding, contentedness and decreases feelings of stress and anxiety.
My dog and cat People who own pets tend to have better health and are happier than those who have no connection with pets. Cuddling a pet makes people happy and can have a calming influence.
Vegies in the garden, flowers in the garden Gardening is good for the body and soul. Contact with a soil bacterium called Mycobacterium vaccae causes serotonin (the happiness hormone) to be released so it is not surprising gardening makes me happy. Some scents boost happiness and two of these are orange and mandarin. I don’t have either of these trees in my garden but I enjoy using citrus scented candles and soap.
Walking at the beach, park etc Contact with nature boosts the spirits. Happiness is increased by walking in a natural environment, handling natural objects such as seashells and pine cones and even looking at a natural scene in a photo or painting. Zelenski and Nisbet (two researchers) coined the term ‘nature relatedness’ when talking about the way humans connect emotionally to the natural environment. People with a greater level of nature relatedness get on better with others, are more positive and happier.
Doing something different I like to do something ‘new’ each week. This may not be anything big but even little changes such as trying a new recipe, listening to different music or trying out a new café break the routine. Trying something new prevents boredom and gives me a burst of energy.
Listening to music The brain releases dopamine, a chemical that is involved in feeling good. when a person listens to music they enjoy. Music relaxes the body and tension is released.
Cappuccino A study carried out in Germany suggests drinking coffee may help people have a more positive outlook. Whether this is so or not seems to be open to question but drinking a cup of coffee, especially a cappuccino, lifts my mood. It could be because I associate this activity with catching up with a friend, sitting in a cosy café or relaxing in my garden.
Image: Marie Vonow
It wouldn’t matter to me if there was no research to explain why certain things boost my spirits. If something makes me happy, well it makes me happy and that is good enough for me.
I enjoyed this article Marie. I find even the simplest things, make me happy. Birds singing their morning song or a cup of coffee. My list of thanks and being happy is endless. There is so many things that could make anyone happy if they only pause to enjoy that moment.
Thanks for your input, Janet. Simple things are more likely to make me happy than something complicated. I can be amazed at a complicated piece of machinery, computer, car etc but it won't make me happy or bring joy the way simple things do.