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A simple way to boost happiness

Why are some people happier than others?

Research has found that 40% of a person’s happiness comes from their choice to be happy, 50% comes from their actions and 10% is unaccounted for. The happiest people make the choice to be happy and they also proactively take steps to be happy. Several studies have shown that happy people exercise regularly, they get fresh air and sunshine often, they cultivate good relationships daily, they smile and they express gratitude frequently.

I combined these findings to create the idea of a “Good Walk.” A “Good Walk” is a simple idea that anyone can use to help cultivate their own happiness. It doesn’t require any special equipment, it doesn’t cost anything to do, and it is based on scientific research.

Step 1: Take a good walk 

The first component of a ‘Good Walk’ is going outside and taking a walk. Walking outside provides fresh air, sunshine and exercise – all proven to make people happier. Walking is an activity that almost anyone can do without having to buy any equipment or take any classes.

The University of Sussex conducted research with 20,000 people in England and discovered that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather contributes the most to a person’s good mood. Exposure to sunlight releases a hormone called serotonin, which has been associated with boosting mood, as well as helping a person feel calm and focused.

Research published in the Journal of Health Psychology showed that in a study of 400 people, exercising for just 7 minutes a day made them more relaxed, improved their brainpower, and made them feel better about themselves.

A study at Scripps College in California found that a 10 minute walk outside can boost a persons mood for 2 hours. The same study found that people who fit 10 minutes of activity in to their day think better, remember better and have better reactions times.
Studies from both the University of Colorado and the University of Utah found that a 30 minute walk a day can reduce the symptoms of depression by 36%.

Scientists also know that exercising releases a chemical called endorphins. This reduces the perception of pain and triggers a positive feeling in the body similar to morphine.
In summary, the combination of sunlight and exercise when going for a walk outside will make you feel happier.

Step 2: With good people 

The next part of a “Good Walk” is to have a companion when you go for your walk. Spending time with other people and maintaining good relationships has been shown by research at Harvard University to make people happier, feel more cared for, and live longer. This is backed up by several other studies that all found experiencing positive emotions with someone else, giving and receiving support, and having shared experiences all contribute to a person’s happiness.

You become more like the people you spend the most time with. If you find positive, optimistic, happy, people to take a ‘good walk’ with, they will rub off on you and you will become more positive, more optimistic and happier yourself. Positive people are more likely to accept your invitation for a good walk as well!

A “Good Walk” is also a perfect activity to do as a family. Not only can a ‘good walk’ make you personally happier but also it can help with the well being of the whole family. Walking is an activity that people of all ages can do. Research has shown that children in families that spend time together get better grades in school, have fewer behavioral issues and are at a lower risk for substance abuse.

A 20 minute walk is enough to give the benefits of a “Good Walk” and should be short enough for most children to be able to do. To make your “Good Walk” more appealing to kids you could have a scavenger hunt along the way or plan your route so you end up somewhere fun at the end like a play park, a sports field, or even a snack place.

In short, the benefits of a “Good Walk” are amplified by taking it with someone else.

Step 3: Talk about good things

The final element of a “Good Walk” is to talk about “good things” as you walk. Make a point to only discuss about good, positive, topics on your “Good Walk.” Talk about something that made you smile. Talk about something you are grateful for. Talk about something you are excited about. Save moaning, complaining, whining or anything negative for another time.Talk about something that made you smile. Talk about something you are grateful for. Talk about something you are excited about.

Talking about good things has been linked with a person’s increased happiness. Researchers at Michigan State University found that people who cultivated positive thoughts by focusing on good things were more engaged in their work and had better moods.

Studies have found that people who express gratitude on a regular basis have increased happiness, improved life satisfaction and decreased depressive symptoms.

The following questions are inspired by a technique called “appreciative inquiry” and are suggestions based on the research mentioned above. Appreciative inquiry is a method of focusing on what is going well to make things better. The questions should help stimulate “good talk” on your good walk.

“What is something that made you smile?”
“What are you grateful for?”
“What are you excited about?”

If you have kids on your “Good Walk” get them to tell you:
I had fun when…
I am glad that…
I am excited about…
Remember, only talk about good things on your “Good Walk.”Keep the conversation positive.

In conclusion, talking about “good things” will help make you happier.
Next steps A “Good Walk” is a simple idea that really can help you cultivate happiness in your life. It’s as easy as going for a good walk, with good people and discussing good things.

In addition to cultivating happiness, walking has many health benefits as well:

Walking 2 hours a week can reduce the chance of a stroke by 30%.
A 40 minute walk 3 times a week protects the area of the brain associated with memory.
Walking 3500 steps a day reduces your chances of diabetes by 29%.
A 1-hour daily walk can cut your risk of obesity in half.
Walking 30 minutes most days drastically reduces the chance of heart disease.
Try and take a “Good Walk” every day. If the weather isn’t conducive to walking outside, then walk inside with someone and talk about good things. If your schedule doesn’t align with a companion then go for a walk by yourself and think good thoughts to yourself. The benefits of a “Good Walk” can be felt in 10 minutes, so lack of time should never be an excuse. A good walk is good for building team cohesiveness, it’s a good way to spend quality family time, it’s a good activity to do with your partner and it’s a really good way to turn a bad day around.

Make your “Good Walk” a habit. Put it on the calendar. Invite a friend. Set a reminder on your phone. Post an open invite on social media for your friends. Do it at lunchtime or after dinner every day. It’s worth the effort, a “Good Walk” really will make you happier.