While some are joyfully planning holiday menus and getting ready to toast to a new year, others are struggling to get through it all. The holidays aren’t a magical time for everyone. Things like financial hardships and the loss of loved ones can send our holiday spirit packing.
But regardless of what you may be going through, it’s important to remember that happiness is a choice. When you frame happiness in this way, you regain power. You are in control, not the situation.
Still, there are times when changing your mood seems like an impossible task. Fortunately, some proven therapies can help you start feeling better.
When you’re struggling to find happiness, try these proven forms of alternative therapy.
A 2011 study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology offered employees access to six 60-minute group meditation sessions over a seven-week period. During these sessions, employees learned what’s called loving-kindness meditation. This is a technique that’s used to increase feelings of caring for yourself and others. Participants meditated five times per week for 15 to 20 minutes per session.
When researchers compared the meditators to people who didn’t meditate, they found that the meditators had more positive emotions. This led to fewer symptoms of depression among meditators.
Meditation is also an alternative form of therapy for addiction because of its positive effects on brain chemistry.
Meditation is challenging to master, but it’s easy to get started. Set aside five minutes and sit in a quiet room. Dim the lights and set your focus on something plain, like a spot on the wall. Try to relax and start counting your breaths. Don’t try to control them; just count them. Start over when you get to 10, so you don’t focus too much on keeping count.
Your goal within these five minutes is to live fully in the present moment. This is where things get difficult. Living fully in the moment means you aren’t having any thoughts unrelated to what is currently happening. You aren’t thinking about the past or future. You are merely experiencing life as it is. This will probably take quite a bit of practice before you feel confident meditating, but you may see some benefits right away.
You’ve probably experienced the power that music can have on your mood. And at least one study supports using music to boost your mood.
Music is a very personal thing, and what moves one person may bother another. One interesting study found that although music is a powerful mood-booster, it must be culturally appropriate. The study, published in the Kaohsiung Journal of Medical Science found that Taiwanese participants experienced post-op pain relief while listening to Taiwanese music that they did not experience while listening to American music.
Since everyone is different, it’s difficult to recommend one type of music for everyone. Try listening to your favorite songs and taking note of how you feel. You can also play around with different genres to see what works best for you. Many people find that jazz and classical music can uplift their mood. Others may prefer pop or hip-hop. Regardless of genre, try to stick to music with positive lyrics (if there are any lyrics). If your favorite song is depressing in nature, it’s not going to help you feel better.
Light therapy is often used to treat symptoms of Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD), but recent research has found that light therapy may be helpful in treating more general symptoms of depression. In fact, a study published in the American Journal of Psychiatry found that just 2 to 4 hours of light therapy daily can improve depression symptoms.
If you don’t have access to specific light therapy, try to make a point to get at least 2 hours of sunlight. At the very least, try to sit near a window to expose yourself to as much natural light as possible. This may seem like a simple thing, but sitting outside can help improve your mood.
A study published in the Indian Journal of Physiology and Pharmacology found that practicing yoga improved depression symptoms in people who are taking antidepressant medications and those who are not.
So, whether or not you’re on medication, yoga may help improve your mood and overall happiness.
If you’re having trouble feeling happy and are looking for alternatives to antidepressant medication, try the simple and inexpensive therapies on this list. Each has been proven to work against depression, which can, in turn, boost happiness.
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Sean Fargo is the Founder of Mindfulness Exercises, a former Buddhist monk of 2 years, a trainer for the mindfulness program born at Google, an Integral Coach from New Ventures West, and an international mindfulness teacher trainer. He can be reached at [email protected]
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