Ask Deeper Questions

Do you ever feel like people around you don’t truly know you? Maybe you only know basic facts about the coworkers you’ve been working with for years, or you never scratch beneath the surface with a certain family member. Many conversations stay surface level, and it can be hard to go deeper. One way to start is to look at the questions you are asking others. We  often don’t give the people around us the option to be more open. People are accustomed to reciting pre-formed responses to common questions like “How are you?” instead of truly answering it honestly, so instead you might ask “How have things been going for you lately?” or “How are you feeling?” Try open-ended questions like “What were you up to this weekend?” instead of close-ended questions like “Did you have a good weekend?” Another thing to consider is that asking people about their feelings and inner-world often results in deeper responses than asking about their actions and outer-world. For instance, instead of asking someone what they like to do in the city or town you both live in, you might ask what about the city/ town they connect with the most. Getting creative with your questions often allows for more creative, deeper answers. 

Get Up and Dance!

Get Up and Dance!

Along with burning calories and getting physical benefits, dancing helps your mind. Any type of dance helps, but there are different benefits to different kinds of dancing. Free-flowing dancing improved 98% of participants’ mood and increased their confidence and compassion. Choreographed dancing positively affects “wiring and gray matter of the aging brain.” Synchronized dance created and fostered friendships. 

According to VeryWellMind, the following are the mental health benefits of dancing, in general:

  • Keeps mind sharp
  • Improves self-esteem
  • Involves social skills
  • Increase endorphins
  • Easy to bond with others
  • Improves your mood
  • Lessens loneliness
  • Eases depression
  • Lowers anxiety
  • Decreases rumination
  • Helps memory
  • May prevent dementia
  • Raises pain threshold
  • Reduces pain perception

So, the next time you feel like you are in a rut, try moving your body!

Giving Thanks Makes Both People Happy

Not only does saying thank you to another person make that person feel appreciated and happy, it makes you feel good too! Every Thanksgiving people focus on being thankful for what they have, which is a good habit to get into all year round. According to research from Harvard, giving thanks can make you happier! “In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”

So take time whenever you can to be thankful for all you have, and to say thank you to others for all they do!

Take Deep Breaths

Deep breathing has numerous health benefits: it decreases your stress response, blood pressure, and heart rate, making you calmer. Shallow breathing is associated with tension and anxiety. Many people don’t breathe deeply due to societal pressures to have a flat stomach. Breathing deeply will push your lower stomach out. 

Since deep breathing is unnatural for many, you must make a conscious decision to breathe differently to practice it. It might feel odd at first, but you might start breathing deeper naturally with practice over time. Some breathing exercises are also targeted explicitly towards decreasing anxiety: alternate-nostril breathing, belly breathing, box breathing, 4-7-8 breathing, lion’s breath, etc. 

Next time you notice your breathing becoming shallow, try making a conscious effort to take a deep, belly breath. 

Watch Comedians!

We all love a good laugh—that type of laugh where you can barely breathe because of how funny a joke was. While cheesy, according to science, laughter is the best medicine. Short-term effects include organ stimulation, stress relief, and tension relief. Long-term effects include immune system development, pain relief, a more positive mindset, and mood improvement.  The benefits of watching comedy shows, specifically, have been shown: stress relief, muscle relaxation, reduction of blood pressure, brain stimulation, etc. If you can’t get to an in-person comedy show, don’t worry! There are many comedian videos on Youtube and Netflix (other platforms, too!): including John Mulaney, Dave Chappelle, Taylor Tomlinson, Gabriel Iglesias, etc. While not every comedian may make you laugh, there’s bound to be one that shares your humor style!

Good News Network

Do you ever get tired of the endless depressing stories presented on the news? Watching the news helps keep you informed of current events. But watching too much, especially considering the negative tone of most channels, can harm your mental health. Covid-19 news has added a whole other layer of stress to people. 

Because of these things, looking at Good News Network is a great way to stay informed and happy! As the name suggests, this website only shares the good news. The first story from them I saw detailed how staff at Cornish Seal Sanctuary made a dating site, Fishing for Love, for an otter. He ended up finding a girlfriend, and they now live together! Along with silly stories, they also have more informative information: for example, “Australia [set]… aside 30% of its land mass to protect its unique species.” 

Even though the bad news is thrown at us so often, that doesn’t mean good news doesn’t exist! So, next time you want to get news updates (or just want to see some cute stories!), try going to the Good News Network!

Be Yourself

“Be yourself; everyone else is already taken.” – Oscar Wilde

I admit this saying is a bit cheesy, but it’s true! A study in 2014 conducted by Guler Boyraz et al. at Louisiana Tech University found that “those who showed greater authenticity at the first time point were more satisfied with life and less distressed at the second time point; but distress and satisfaction at the first time point did not predict authenticity at the second time point” (Joseph, 2017). Therefore, happiness results from authenticity. 

Many people will emulate those around them (especially those they admire) for many reasons: they don’t trust their judgment/thoughts, want to fit in, or want to impress other people. Imitation is normal human behavior, but if it’s overdone, it can have dire consequences. 

But how can you “be yourself?” That seems like a very abstract concept. Some people like a more concrete approach. Below is a list of steps provided by Psychology Today to help people be themselves: 

  1. Accept yourself.
  2. Identify negative self-talk.
  3. Celebrate your strengths.
  4. Express yourself.
  5. Show your vulnerability.

You can look at the websites linked to see a further breakdown of each step! 


Drink a Moderate Amount of Caffeine

Your parents might have told you to avoid caffeine like the plague if you don’t want to damage your health. According to several studies, however, coffee and tea have both been linked to a reduced risk of depression. There are many other benefits. Caffeine also boosts energy levels and might protect you from neurodegenerative disorders (including Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, and dementia). One study found that drinking four cups of coffee per day decreased the risk of depression significantly more than drinking one cup per day. Some studies have even linked coffee consumption to a lower risk of death by suicide. Along with making people happy when they start their morning, a morning cup of joe may benefit you in more ways than one!

The Importance of Breathing

Have you ever been so overwhelmed with work (or life in general) that you slip into a cycle of anxiety? Sometimes breathing the right way is the best way to calm your mind and focus. We tend to tense up and breathe less deeply and quicker when stressed. Then, because you’re breathing so fast and shallow, you actually make yourself more anxious. It’s a cycle. To break that cycle, you have to make an active effort to change how you breathe. You’ll be surprised to find out that after a minute or two, you’ll feel yourself getting calmer! 

Try some of these techniques

  • Alternate-Nostril Breathing
  • Belly Breathing
  • Box Breathing
  • 4-7-8 Breathing
  • Lion’s Breath
  • Mindful Breathing
  • Pursed-Lip Breathing
  • Resonance Breathing

Different techniques work for different people. If one of these doesn’t work for you, don’t worry! Simply try another one until you find one (or maybe more!) that helps you de-stress.

The Growth Mindset

Have you ever made a goal, tried to meet it, and thought to yourself, “I can’t do this.” The problem might not be your abilities; it might be your mindset. A growth mindset describes a mentality characterized by the following:

  1. I can grow from failure.
  2. Constructive feedback is not an attack on my work; it’s a chance for me to improve. 
  3. With enough effort, I can do anything I put my mind to. 
  4. You have the power to change your intelligence.
  5. Embracing challenges will help me grow. 
  6. The success of others inspires me.

Conversely, a fixed mindset describes a mindset characterized by believing that your intelligence cannot change with effort. Some people believe that you are either born with particular skills or not. However, this couldn’t be farther from the truth. Our brain has something called neuroplasticity, meaning our neurons can form new connections as we have new experiences. Neuroplasticity is at its best when we are young, but that doesn’t mean it completely goes away as we age. To learn, we need to take action and practice skills. Doing so will literally rewire your brain, leading to new knowledge and skills. Just believing your brain can grow will cause you to behave differently. You will achieve more if you think you can work to get smarter. It’s kind of like manifestation (turning the ideas in your head into a reality). When you tell yourself you can’t, you won’t. But when you tell yourself you can, you will. So next time you think to yourself, “I can’t,” see if changing your outlook changes your success.

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