Five ways to feel happier

Pretty young woman relaxing after hard working day

More and more of us are feeling stressed and anxious thanks to busy lives, long working hours and financial pressures, but stress can negatively affect the way you react to people or situations, not to mention being bad for your health. If you regularly feel negative, stressed or depressed, here are five tips to help you find the path to happiness.

Be healthy
In times of stress, it is common to turn to a bottle of wine or a comfort takeaway to make you feel better. But the truth is, while those things might temporarily cheer you up, in the long run you're likely to feel worse. Try to keep your alcohol intake to the recommended daily limit - three to four units a day for men and two to three for women - and eat a healthy, balanced diet that will allow your body and mind to function at its most efficient, thereby equipping you with the tools and self esteem to make more considered choices and decisions when things become stressful.

Moderate daily exercise will also help to lift your mood by causing the body to release endorphins, and help you to sleep better, which is key to reducing stress.

Laugh and enjoy
They say laughter is the best medicine, and while it's often the last thing you feel like doing when your day is going badly, a sense of humour is a great coping mechanism. In those moments when you feel like screaming, count to ten, take a step back and try to see the funny side. You might be surprised at the difference it can make, helping you to cope better with stressful situations and allowing you to think more reasonably about how to remedy your troubles.

Similarly, it's essential to spend some time each day doing something you enjoy. That doesn't mean you have to spend money on going out. Simple things like reading a few chapters of a book, cooking, dancing around the kitchen, meeting a friend for a coffee and a chat, or watching sports together, or even just a long soak in the bath, can all help to give you a lift.

Build your self-esteem
Whether it's a relationship break-up, not getting that perfect job, struggling to lose weight or loneliness, there are many things that happen in life that can seriously damage your self-esteem, and that can lead to feelings of depression and anxiety. Speaking to the NHS, clinical psychologist Isabel Clarke advises treating yourself "as you would treat a valued friend" in order to boost your self-esteem. That means instead of putting yourself down over a recent setback, ask yourself what a good friend would tell you. It can help change a negative into more positive thinking.

Take control
When you're stressed out, even little problems can seem insurmountable, and it's easy to overreact. In order to reduce your stress levels, you need to take control and make those lifestyle changes that could make the difference. If you're too busy, ask your partner or family members to help out around the house. Make time for yourself, whether it's to read a book, take a relaxing walk, or go to a class. By better managing your time, you'll find you are better able to cope with stress. Just don't expect the change to happen overnight. Lifestyle changes can take time to bed in.

Stress, anxiety and depression can quickly leave you feeling overwhelmed, and talking can make help you to put things in perspective. Chatting to close friends or families, even if it's about something trivial that gets your blood pressure rising, can help to relieve tension, and letting it out often feels like a weight has been lifted off your shoulders. You may even end up laughing, and as we've already mentioned, that's a great stress reliever.

If you don't feel comfortable talking to friends or relatives, talking therapies such as counselling might help so don't be afraid to talk to your GP to see if they can refer you. Alternatively, try websites that offer support to people suffering with depression and anxiety, such as Depression UK, Sane or Mind. Many such charities have forums where you can discuss your feelings with others in the same situation, or free helplines if you need to talk.

Have you managed to take control of your stress and feel happier? What advice would you give to others? Leave your comments below...
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