Saturday 15 December 2018

It's Monday... here are 100 simple ways to be happier


Alison Canavan
Alison Canavan
Alison Canavan
Well-being expert Alison Canavan
Alison Canavan on Cutting Edge
Alarm clock
Drinking tea
Finding happiness

Alison Canavan

From daily discos to dark chocolate and stopping bitching, well-being expert Alison Canavan shares her top tips to a more joyful, less stressed you

1 Smile

Even if you don't feel like it. Wearing a smile sends a signal to your brain, telling you to experience that positive emotion.

2 Help someone

Carry a bag, open a door, or pick up an extra carton of milk for a neighbour. I don't believe that manners and kindness ever go out of fashion.

3 Ask for help

This is an area where a lot of us can fall down. We think that going it alone is better. This one applies to new mums in particular. There are no prizes in life for being a martyr. Asking for help creates a chain of connection and support. People love to help others; you just need to ask.

4 Spend time with the sun

Yes, I know that's a rare opportunity in Ireland, but when the sun does shine, take advantage. Twenty minutes of sunlight a day improves mood, and helps to ward off SAD (seasonal affective disorder).

5 Drink more water

As our bodies are 60pc water, it means they depends on water to survive. Every cell, tissue, and organ in your body needs water to work properly. Your body uses water to maintain its temperature, remove waste, and lubricate your joints, so drink up!

6 "Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions" The Dalai Lama

7 Start your day the right way

How you start you day is really important. I used to wake up full of dread for the day, but now I consciously start my day by saying thank you, stretching, hydrating, meditating and practising gratitude. It sounds like a lot, but it takes no more that 20 minutes.

8 Don't have regrets

Stop making excuses, and do what you fear most. Are you doing the things that put you in a position to succeed in both business and life, or are you making excuses and blaming other people?

9 Take a magnesium bath

Throw on some slow tunes and scoop some magnesium into your bath for a destressing session from heaven. Magnesium induces calmness, and helps you to relax.

10 Email or text someone and thank them for something they did for you.

11 Lose the victim identity

I used to play the victim card, and I always found someone to blame for my shortcomings in life. I blamed other people when work didn't go my way, or when my relationships were breaking down. Looking honestly at where you are and who you are allows you to move forward with freedom. Shed your skin of entitlement and watch a whole new world open up.

12 Have a daily disco

Dancing helps us break out of a funk. So crank up those tunes and dance like no one is watching. We have daily discos in our house, and they are great to help start your day or shake off the stress in the evening.

13 "Happiness is a habit - cultivate it" Elbert Hubbard

14 Good relationships keep us happier and healthier

One of the longest studies ever done on human happiness, The Harvard Study of Adult Development, tracked the lives of 74 men over 75-plus years, and it is still going on. The study has found that people who are more socially connected to family, friends and community are healthier and happier and live longer. People who are lonely are less happy, their health declines earlier, and brain function declines sooner. Remember, you can be lonely in a bad marriage and in high-conflict relationships, so the study showed that it's the quality of your relationships that matter. People most satisfied at age 50 were the healthiest at age 80. Good relationships don't just protect our bodies, they also protect our brains.

15 Get daylight every day

We need daylight every day to function at our best and regulate our circadian rhythm. So many of us spend our days in artificial light, so getting some daylight is really important. Go for a 10-minute walk at lunchtime to help balance your melatonin and serotonin hormones, which help to regulate mood and sleep.

16 Take a home spa

Have a long bath or shower, drink tea, sit around in your bathrobe, and read magazines all day… heavenly.

17 Drink matcha tea

Matcha tea contains 137 times more antioxidants than regular green tea. It releases energy slowly over three to six hours and, because of the amino acid L-theanine, which helps to calm the central nervous system, it's great for anxiety. (See

18 Take a walk in nature

Believe me, there's a lifetime's worth of wonder out there.

19 Meditate

My daily meditation practice has enabled me to see happiness in the normal, everyday things I have in my life, and, in turn, I have stopped seeking it outside of myself. Meditation teaches us that everything we need, we already have within us. It's not about stopping your thoughts or controlling your mind, but rather observing how you are in the moment without wanting it to be any different.

Simply sit with your back straight and your hands in your lap. Close your eyes, and start to notice the natural flow of your breath as it enters and leaves your nose. If your mind wanders, very gently bring your attention back to your breath. If you try this for a few minutes each day and build from there, you'll notice so many benefits.

These include lower stress levels and a better mood. You will sleep better, and be more creative. Meditation actually increases the grey and white matter in our brains, and rewires our brains for more happiness. It also boosts immunity and lowers blood pressure, and can help with anxiety. Take three to five minutes each day, and build from there. It's the consistency of the practice that works. I do live meditations on my Facebook page each week, so come join me. (See

20 "Don't put your key to happiness in someone else's pocket"

21 Ground yourself

An increasing number of scientific studies show us that 'grounding' or 'earthing' has real health benefits. The Earth is like a gigantic battery that contains a natural, subtle electric charge - a special kind of energy present in the ground. When we connect with this energy, it carries information and helps align us with the greater network of intelligence of our planet. So, head outside and kick off your shoes, and see how you feel!

22 Unplug

Recent research shows us that if we look at our phone first thing in the morning, it sets us up to be reactive for the day. So here are my personal digital rules: no phone for an hour after I wake up, and no phone in the bedroom. (Buy an old-fashioned alarm clock!) This will give you a break from the electromagnetic waves, and help you to sleep better, ensuring a better mood and stress level each day.

23 Small moments often

Rome wasn't built in a day, so introducing small, sustainable habits over time will create the greatest change in the long run.

24 Check in with your emotions

Sit quietly and just name, without judgment, what you're feeling. Emotions are energy in motion, so they are just visitors, and sometimes when you allow the visitor in for a chat, they will leave soon after. Know that your feelings will move and change.

25 Use positive affirmations

Think it, say it, sing it and see it! "Everything is always working out for me"; "I love and accept myself exactly as I am"; "I am at peace"; "All is well".

26 Congratulate yourself

Say 'well done' to yourself for big and small achievements.

27 Keep stress low

We actually need a certain amount of stress in our lives, so it's not about eliminating stress, but rather managing it. Keeping stress low requires small moments of real self-care. So good sleep, good food, good words, good company, and not taking too much on.

28 "Happiness is when what you think, what you do and what you say are in harmony" Mahatma Gandhi

29 Let go of resentment

Resentment can destroy relationships, so talk it out, write it out, or ask for help.

30 Practise gratitude

In my opinion, gratitude is the most powerful spiritual practice there is. It has helped me to completely change how I think and live. Every morning, for about six-and-a-half years now, I have written in a gratitude diary. I top and tail my day with gratitude. It helps to rewire the brain, and changes how our neurons speak to each other.

For me, understanding that we can change our brain enabled me to work on myself and move out of 20 years of depression and anxiety. Previous to that, I was told that I would never change. We can all change our lives and how we think and live at any stage, regardless of what we have been taught or told. So choose three different things you are grateful for each day, and why. In the evening, I have a gratitude stone beside my bed (you will get one if you attend one of my Full 360 events) and I place it in my palm and scan through my day. I choose the one thing I am most grateful for, and go to sleep in an energy of appreciation.

31 Dump your day

Following on from gratitude, it's important that we dump our day and let go of what doesn't serve us. Carrying our stresses into another day just serves to cause us more pain. The energy you go to sleep in is the energy you wake up in, so let it go.

32 Give and get more hugs

Touch is an incredibly important part of well-being, and can actually increase the happiness chemicals of oxytocin and serotonin in your body.

33 Journal, journal, journal

I find writing down my feelings and thoughts one of the most therapeutic practices there is. It helps us to release it all on to paper.

34 Feel, deal and heal

This is my mantra, and my greatest learning from my silent retreats. When we suppress our emotions, they cause us more pain, so actually feeling them and dealing with them allows you to move forward to a place of healing.

35 Life is a team sport

"No tree has branches so foolish as to fight among themselves." I love this gem of wisdom from the Ojibwe people. Think about it. We are all branches on a tree called humanity. Stop fighting each other, and tune into how smart nature is.

36 Dry body brush

During the winter months, we need to give our circulation all the help it needs. Dry body brushing does just that. It's great for exfoliating the skin, while at the same time stimulating blood flow to tissues, and breaking down the toxins that produce cellulite. Dry brush, making upward strokes towards the heart, for a few minutes just before your shower.

37 Laugh out loud and often

We all need to laugh more. It's a great stressbuster, so watch a funny movie, read something funny or have some giggles with friends.

38 Eat dark chocolate

It's loaded with antioxidants, which help to free your body of free radicals, which cause oxidative damage to cells. It's also high in vitamins and minerals. What's not to love?

39 Decide which wolf to feed

An elder Cherokee Native American was teaching his grandchildren about life. He said to them, "A fight is going on inside me... It is a terrible fight, and it is between two wolves. One wolf represents fear, anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, pride and superiority. The other wolf stands for joy, peace, love, hope, sharing, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, friendship, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith. This same fight is going on inside of you, and every other person, too." They thought about it for a minute, and then one child asked his grandfather, "Which wolf will win?" The old Cherokee simply replied, "The one I feed."

40 Follow your bliss

As Joseph Campbell said: "Follow your bliss and the universe will open doors for you where there were only walls." To Campbell, following your bliss meant doing the things your heart most deeply desires, as opposed to slavishly honouring the obligations and roles we believe our families, communities and society expect of us.

41 "Attitude is everything, so pick a good one" - Dr Wayne Dyer

42 Wake up early!

The morning hours are full of spiritual energy and prana (life force).

43 Read every day

I have a rule that I read something new every day. Just as we feed our body with good food, we also need to feed our mind with knowledge.

44 Surround yourself with those who lift you higher

Do you have energy suckers in your life? Those people who are never happy for you? We are who we spend time with, so choose your company carefully. Life is just too short not to.

45 Trust your own inner guidance system

"No man is great enough or wise enough for any of us to surrender our destiny to. The only way in which anyone can lead us is to restore to us the belief in our own guidance." Henry Miller (1891-1980)

46 Speak your truth

In Oprah Winfrey's recent speech at the Golden Globes, she said, "What I know for sure is that speaking your truth is the most powerful tool we all have". This is one of the hardest things to do, because very often it means stepping out of your comfort zone and going against the grain. When I spoke out about my personal problems, I suffered greatly with work and friends, but I've ultimately learned that the truth sets us free. Freeing ourselves from the chains in which we lock ourselves in our lifetime, is an essential part of our journey to freedom and happiness. Speaking your truth also helps others to speak theirs.

47 "When you change the way you look at things, the things you look at change" - Dr Wayne Dyer

48 Learn from each other

Nobody knows everything, and the true beauty of life is that we can learn each other's wisdom and experiences.

49 Your word is your wand

Watch how you speak to yourself. When I start to work with people, I ask them to become aware of their internal dialogue. How we speak to ourselves determines our mindset. How do you expect others to respect you if you don't speak to yourself with love and respect? My golden rule is to only speak to yourself as you would speak to a best friend. Wake up every day, look at yourself in the mirror, and give yourself a compliment. As uncomfortable as this might be in the beginning, it's a very powerful practice on the journey to self-love. If you can't say it to yourself, how can you expect someone else to say it to you?

50 The best things in life aren't things

The best things in life are free: connection with others; love; good words; walking in nature; fresh air.

51 Give back

Scientific research provides compelling data to support the anecdotal evidence that giving is a powerful pathway to personal growth and lasting happiness. Through fMRI technology, we now know that giving activates the same parts of the brain that are stimulated by food and sex.

52 Show up for yourself

Showing up for ourselves each day, in whatever way that means, is so important. It also means facing the aspects of ourselves that are sometimes not so desirable, understanding we are all human, and a work in progress.

53 Eat nourishing food

Food is both information and medicine for your body. If you think of your body as a factory, you need nourishing food to keep the workers healthy so they turn up every day and don't take sick days. The workers need the right fuel, or else they get sluggish, tired and moody, and then you do, too. Your body is your home, and it deserves to be treated with respect. You will get back what you put in. Bad food will give you a bad mood, and, likewise, good food will put you in a good mood. So choose your mood through your food.

54 Move your body

Your body gives you so much without any effort. It houses a heart that beats, lungs that breathe and a mind that thinks, to name but a few. All it asks in return is that you move it, to help it stay flexible and healthy. So stretch, walk, run and dance. Your body will thank you.

55 "Happiness is always knocking on your door. You just gotta let it in"

56 Use your breath

Our breath is one of the most powerful tools we have. It's free and accessible at all times. If you struggle with anxiety and stress, use your breath to pull you back into the present moment. Set three reminders on your phone each day - morning, afternoon and evening - to breathe. Take five deep breaths, counting in for four and out for four. Consistency is key!

57 Spend money on experiences

I lost my dad when I was young, and I don't remember gifts he gave me, but I do remember the times we spent together. Experiences matter.

58 Drink kombucha and kefir for good gut health

Both are rich in beneficial probiotics. Good mental health begins in our guts.

59 Get enough sleep

Sleep is when the magic happens - that precious time your cells get to renew. Drink herbal teas such as chamomile, stop looking at your laptop and phone an hour before bed, and use lavender essential oil on your pillow.

60 Take personal responsibility

"If he/she only did this... then I would be happier." Sounds familiar? Taking personal responsibility for where you are in your life can be hard, but it's necessary if you want to truly feel fulfilled and content with your life. Some of us have become so dependent on the behaviour of those around us that whenever they don't behave the way we want, or say what we want, we become unhappy. We have no control over others, only ourselves, so don't let other people be your happiness gauge - it's too unstable.

63 Be careful not to live too much from your ego

The EGO tells you: "I am what I have, I am what I do, I am what other people think of me, and I am separate from everybody else." The EGO, as Wayne Dyer said, Edges God Out, so return within and reconnect to who you truly are. We are all interconnected. No one is better than anyone else.

64 Make your bed

According to psychological research, people who make their bed in the morning are happier and more successful than those who don't.

65 Have more mindful moments

I also believe mindfulness is one of the most important daily practices, and something that is not optional any more. We need to consciously include mindful moments in our lives, because the digital age has now removed the ones we had naturally. We have become 'wired and tired', and need to bring more mindfulness in, to help calm and control both our bodies and minds.

66 Have fun

It's an essential and overlooked part of well-being these days. What do you love to do? Well, do more of it! Life is meant to be lived.

67 Learn to say no

I'm a recovering people-pleaser who still relapses. Learning to say no is so important to protect our own energy. Very often, we say yes for all the wrong reasons, and usually we are looking for validation from others. However, when you switch to doing the things you want to do, for the right reasons, with the right people, the energy and authenticity of your relationships will change.

If you struggle with work colleagues and even family members, just remember that it's OK not to be liked by everyone and have constant approval. Learning to say no and valuing your time is important. Some people take advantage of a kind nature. If you feel guilty when you initially say no, that's OK and completely normal. It's misplaced guilt because of a bad habit, and it will pass.

68 Don't look back in anger

As the saying from Buddha goes, holding on to anger is like drinking poison and expecting the other person to die.

69 Never go to bed angry with those you love

70 Practise acceptance

This can be hard, but I have learned through meditation that accepting myself for who I am and where I am in life has helped me to become the best version of myself.

71 Stop comparing

Roosevelt said that comparison is the thief of joy, and it's true. As a young model, so much of my life was spent comparing, and not feeling good enough. Most of us compare without even realising. Knowing we're all enough is the first step in becoming aware of the comparison trap.

72 Awareness brings change

The first step on the road to change is becoming aware of your habits. For years, I walked around dead. We are the only species capable of doing this. I was numb and soulless, but taking back control and cleaning up my act enabled me to wake up and truly live.

73 Stop bitching

Gossiping is like all temporary solutions: it makes you feel worse in the long run. Often, we bitch to make ourselves feel better. It's like an instant hit of a drug that society is used to, but forgiveness yields more long-term power.

74 Be so happy that when others look at you, they become happy too

76 Eat together

Eat with those you love at least once a day. Teens who have fewer than three family dinners a week are three-and-a-half times more likely to have abused prescription drugs and to have used illegal drugs other than marijuana; they are three times more likely to have used marijuana; more than two-and-a-half times more likely to have smoked cigarettes; and one-and-a-half times more likely to have tried alcohol, according to a CASA report.

77 Declutter

Declutter your environment, and you declutter your mind. Spring is the perfect time - as the new life emerges in nature, we can also breathe new life into our home by letting go of all the things, including belongings, that don't serve us anymore. (See

78 Cut back on refined sugar

At this stage, we all know that too much sugar is bad for us. It negatively affects your brain, teeth, skin and liver… will I go on? A little of what you like won't harm you, but too much of anything is bad.

79 Stop judging

Never look down on anyone. When you judge someone, you are really judging yourself.

80 Do something that terrifies you

Make that call. Send that text. Ask that question. Pitch that idea. Post that video.

81 Have a plan

Having a plan is an important ingredient in success. Also planning meals and getting clothes ready the night before helps to reduce stress.

82 Replace hot showers with warm ones and blast some cold water at the end

Hot showers dehydrate your skin, so switch to warm water. For the last few minutes, 'shock' your body awake with cold water. This change in temperature relieves your body of fatigue and increases mental alertness.

83 Switch your household products to less toxic alternatives

Save your health and the environment. (See

84 Face your financial fears

Get out of debt and, once out, do your best to stay out of it. Avoiding your finances causes unnecessary stress and worry - believe me, I know! (See

85 Tell those closest to you just how much you love them

Sometimes it's just nice to hear it.

86 Listen to something inspirational daily

I love listening to inspirational podcasts and motivational videos each day.

87 Apologise to people you've mistreated

No one's perfect, but when we've caused harm with words or actions, it's important and necessary to apologise.

88 Floss your teeth

The health of your mouth reflects the health in your body!

89 Practise mindful eating

Most of us are in 'fight or flight' mode each day, running around trying to catch ourselves. When we eat in this mode, our digestive system shuts down. Try and consciously put yourself into 'rest and digest' mode by taking three deep breaths before you eat, and removing distractions such as laptops, phones and the TV. After all, we are not what we eat, but what we absorb. Give your body the best chance of absorbing the nutrients it needs by eating more slowly and more mindfully.

90 Put on cosy socks and jammies and sit by the fire

Just because it's a nice thing to do.

91 Laugh at yourself - you're hilarious

92 Expect miracles - because they are everywhere

93 "Be kind whenever possible. It is always possible" - Dalai Lama

94 To help create a good flow of energy...

Do something nice for someone, and make sure no one can trace it back to you - an incognito act of kindness.

95 Watch the daffodils in spring

They bring so much joy. They remind me of my favourite poem by Wordsworth, I Wandered Lonely as a Cloud. "... a host of golden daffodils/Beside the lake, beneath the trees/Fluttering, dancing in the breeze."

96 Have boundaries for true self-care

My truth trio: responsibility and self-care go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Self-respect and self-care go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other. Boundaries and self-care go hand in hand. You cannot have one without the other.

97 Sing out loud - it just feels good

98 Dream big

Don't ever let anyone tell you that you can't do something. Dreams are great, and they help to move us forward. They open our heart and get us excited and curious about life. Allow yourself to dream big, and trust that it can become a reality for you. When someone says you can't do something, use that as motivation.

99 Fail

And fail again. I have failed so many times these past few years. I had crazy ideas that just didn't take off, and the time wasn't right. However, I have grown so much - so keep growing. When you do, it's inevitable that you might fail, but don't be scared, because all experiences in this life teach us valuable lessons.

100 Love yourself and work on your most important relationship - you!

If you become your own BFF, you will be working on the most important relationship of your life. The relationship you have with yourself is the only consistent one you will have throughout your life. Every other relationship will come and go, including your parents, partners and children. So does it not make sense to work on the most important one of all?

I have created a unique well-being event called The Full 360, which is currently touring the country. It's an experiential day of well-being, where you come for a full day of holistic self-care and fun. I'll bring you on a journey of self-awareness, enlightenment, and encourage you to go within through workshops and techniques that are guaranteed to make your life more joyful and abundant. Each guest receives a delicious, healthy lunch and a luxurious goody bag with natural products worth over €100. I'll guide you through relaxing meditations, the power of living a life full of gratitude, ways to bring joy into your everyday life, restorative healing yoga, and much more.

The Full 360 will be in Athlone on February 4; Cork on March 25; and Kilkenny on April 15. I'd love to offer readers of LIFE a special 15pc off - use the code LIFE360 and get your tickets now, at

Each year, so many of us want to be saved by the new year. In January, we create a wish-list for ourselves, and set off, full of hope, ready to change everything we don't like about ourselves. I propose turning this on its head, and accepting and celebrating who we are, and building from there.

As life is a journey, it's important to recognise that there is always room for growth, and as things are changing every second of every day, we can embrace this change and seize each moment. Most people yearn to be happier, but accepting where you are is the most important place to start from.

It's important that we tune into our inner guidance system. Call it your intuition or your gut instinct, it is always speaking to us and trying to guide us - but are we listening? Very often, at the start of the year, people program the wrong coordinates into their in-built GPS system. These coordinates include not feeling good enough; lack of abundance; stress; fear; and taking away everything you perceive gives you pleasure! These coordinates will only take you in the direction of fear, and it's important we move in the direction of love. Love for ourselves, each other, and the world around us.

Buddhist teachings tell us that everything begins and ends with the mind. For this reason, it's important to not just start a new year, but a new day, every day, in the right mindset. As we move into February, and out of the depths of winter towards spring, it's a beautiful time of rebirth. Human beings actually mirror nature, and if we let nature guide our growth, we will flow more easily with life. So why not jump into the stream of life and go with the flow, instead of swimming against the tide?

Being happier is an inside job, and one you have to work on. It's about using good habits to nourish and nurture you, and about genuinely showing up for yourself each day.

I have created a list of 100 things you can do to help make you happier. I believe that life is for living, but I also believe that we can all have more peace in our hearts and minds by slowing down and tuning in to ourselves. We need to understand that contentment and peace come from small, sustainable, daily habits. We live in a world of instant gratification; however, there are no quick fixes in this life.

The only way to truly know what works for you is to try different habits and approaches, and see what resonates with you. Keep an open and curious mind as you move through life, and you'll start to see the true beauty that life has to offer.

Although our cultural values have been monetised, and life can be hard, sometimes facing the very things we want to run away from actually liberates us from unnecessary suffering. I overcame one of my biggest fears last year by producing my own series of events - The Full 360. I knew I'd face a tough year planning and organising the events, but overriding my fear to deliver on the events was my passion to spread the message I have for authentic wellness to people who need my help.

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