I used to think that the secret to happiness was losing weight. It took me a long time to realize that I had it backwards. Now I know the secret to lasting weight loss is to get happy.
Your mental health and happiness are as important to your journey as what you put in your tracker/food journal. It is much easier to lose weight when you are happy than when you are miserable.
How Does Happiness Affect Weight Loss Exactly?
Whether you are stressed out about your finances or dealing with a devastating loss, there are real chemical processes taking place in your body that affect the way you reacts to temptations, from the donuts in the break room to the urge to hit the snooze alarm instead of heading out for your morning walk.
Any amount of depression, no matter how mild, can affect brain chemicals that regulate mood, thinking, appetite, and behavior, making you more likely to eat poorly, skip exercise, and gain weight.
Similarly, high stress levels cause your body to release the hormone cortisol, which causes us to crave energy and comfort food (often in the form of pizza and ice cream). Those extra calories then get stored as yep - excess fat.
I am not saying it’s easy to deal with life’s stressful ups and downs. But it is worth the effort to find healthy ways to battle anxiety, boost serotonin, and release endorphins, that can lead to a happier mood, healthier mind, and slimmer body.
Did you know that happy people tend to have more energy, better self-control and are less likely to turn to food in times of stress?
Who knew happiness could be such a powerful ally when trying to lose weight? But how can you “get happy,” exactly?
The Connection Between Pleasure and Weight Loss
One proven way is to add more pleasure into your life. Engage in activities that bring you joy.
What makes you feel slim? Happy? Energized? Alive? Passionate? Excited? Give yourself permission to DO IT NOW.
When we make time for self-care, hobbies, and activities that bring joy into our lives, we are less likely to turn to food for comfort, excitement, happiness, or love.
Since we’re all different, there’s no one recipe for happiness that works for everyone. But there are a some common elements that can help. A great Get Happy Lose Weight rule of thumb to live by is "Get happy, then eat." Stop trying to eat your way to happiness!
By getting happy and diversifying your pleasure, there's a good chance you'll end up seeking solace in food less often, which will lead to eating less and losing weight 🙂 Makes sense, right?
Here are more ideas to help you get happy and lose weight…
More Ways to Increase Your Happiness Right Now
Did you know that studies have shown smiling more often, whether you’re feeling happy or not, helps improve your mood, increases positive thoughts and can help your body deal with stressful situations more effectively, even lowering heart rate? So, if you’re having a bad day, try smiling anyway.
Begin Your Day Right
Begin each day with an activity that nourishes you. It can be as simple as having a cup of tea or taking five minutes to pray and/or read motivational quotes before the day begins.
Count your blessings
People with a more grateful outlook on life tend to be happier, according to a study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Researchers concluded that: ‘Gratitude is linked with positive emotions including contentment, happiness and hope.’ At some point during the day - maybe before you go to bed each night - make simple list of at least 3 things you’re grateful for in your life.
If you’re dehydrated, you’re more likely to feel tired and stressed, and have less energy. So it’s important to stay hydrated with plenty of fresh water to so you have the energy you need to tackle the day’s challenges.
Find an activity that gets you outside. A study published in BMC Public Health found that a 20-minute walk outside twice a week was more restorative than getting the same exercise indoors.
According to a study published in 2013, people who volunteer regularly have lower levels of depression, increased life satisfaction and enhanced wellbeing.
A British study found that compulsively checking e-mails and texts can cause anxiety. Take 15-minute breaks every hour from your phone. Spend more time seeing friends in real life and less time on Facebook.
Choose mood lifting foods
Include more of these foods on your menu to keep those happy chemicals high and the hunger ones low:
- Walnuts can boost levels of serotonin, which helps put you in a good mood.
- About 40 grams of dark chocolate made from 75 percent cocoa reduces levels of stress hormones.
- Chickpeas contain folate, a B vitamin that’s needed to produce dopamine, a neurotransmitter that’s most associated with pleasure.
- Avocados contain B vitamins, which help create that feel-good serotonin. They also have potassium that can help lower blood pressure.
- Sunflower seeds have loads of magnesium. A deficiency of this nutrient can lower your dopamine levels, making you feel more stressed and anxious.
- Fatty, cold-water fish like salmon, tuna, and sardines contain omega-3 fats, which can make you feel calmer. In one study, people who regularly ate foods high in omega-3s were 20 percent less anxious than those who don’t.
Countless studies have shown how exercise provides some serious mental health benefits. Moving more will not only help you burn more calories but also help boost feel-good endorphins and energy, which will greatly improve your mindset. It doesn’t matter what you do, go for a walk, take a spin class, dance around the house, or play with your kids – the key is that you enjoy it.
Physical activity always pays off as a mood booster, but for an extra shot of happiness, try yoga. Over time, it boosts levels of the neurotransmitter GABA, important because low levels of it have been linked to a bigger risk of low mood and even depression. Plus, practicing yoga regularly makes falling asleep easier and improves overall sleep quality.
A study conducted by renowned ‘happiness experts’ found that positive, high-quality relationships and a strong social support system increases levels of the ‘feel-good’ hormone oxytocin. So foster your marriage, friendships and family ties by spending as much time with them as you can.
Inhale a soothing scent
Too many women are on the verge of collapsing under the weight of trying to do it all, to be everything to everybody. It is important to learn to set priorities and establish healthy boundaries. Start saying “no” to projects, commitments, and people that you find draining.
Take a soak
Skip your shower and take a bath. Taking more time to let your body relax will make stress (and sore muscles) melt away.
Schedule something fun
Looking forward to something fun - a lunch date, an hour-long bubble bath, a shopping trip, a girlfriends getaway, a mini-vacation - can build excitement and make you feel happier. Try it and see! your body, mind, and spirit will thank you.
How can you bring more pleasure, joy and happiness into your life?
When it Comes to Lasting Weight Loss, Little Things Mean a Lot!
Exactly what my 28-Day Smart Start is all about!
Praise for Simple Nourished Living & the 28-Day Smart Start Challenge...
Hi Martha - This 28-Day Smart Start Challenge has been wonderful. Thank you for all of the support and encouragement. I have definitely made some positive changes that I plan to continue! ~ Bronwyn C.
Dear Martha, You are instrumental in keeping me conscious of my eating habits. Your quotes, encouragement and recipes are helping me. You are a gift. ~ Marlene W.
Martha - I've been on the Weight Watchers program for the last year and your website is a huge help! Over the holidays I've kind of lost some of my initial incentive, so I thought I would try your 28-Day Smart Start Challenge to help me refocus. I would still like to lose about 40 or 50 pounds and then maintain that, which is something I have never been able to do. Thank you so much - I look forward to starting again today! ~ Christie E.
Originally published 9/2013; Updated with additional content and photographs 05/2021
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