A woman wearing workout clothes while stretching outside.

How are happiness and wellness connected? What are some practical ways to get these significant parts of your life to work together?

Sonja Lyubomirsky contends that you can assert some control over your long-term happiness by boosting your physical and mental health. She recommends three strategies to help you strengthen your mental and physical resilience, deepen your appreciation for life, and live authentically.

Continue reading to find out more about these strategies and outcomes that illustrate the natural link between happiness and wellness.

Happiness and Wellness

Lyubomirsky argues that good mental and physical health enhances long-term happiness by providing a solid foundation for a fulfilling and balanced life. She recommends three happiness and wellness strategies:

  1. Adopt a healthy lifestyle: Exercise regularly, follow a balanced diet, and ensure you get adequate sleep.
  2. Abstain from overthinking and social comparison: Designate specific times to challenge and reframe worries, journal to clarify and release troubling thoughts, manage triggers that induce overthinking or comparisons, practice meditation, or seek therapy.
  3. Foster a positive outlook: Maintain an aspirational diary that captures your hopes for the future; keep a gratitude journal; and prolong appreciation for what’s going well in your life by discussing what you’re thankful for with friends, expressing thanks to others, or reminiscing about pleasant events.

Lyubomirsky says that, when you practice these strategies, you’ll enjoy three outcomes. You’ll strengthen your mental and physical resilience, deepen your appreciation, and live authentically. Let’s delve into these results that are a big part of lasting happiness.

Outcome #1: Mental and Physical Resilience

Lyubomirsky explains that adopting a healthy lifestyle improves brain functionality, counteracts anxiety and depression, and helps your immune system effectively respond to health challenges. These positive effects condition your mind and body to be less reactive to external stressors—enabling you to adopt effective coping strategies for facing adversities with composure.

(Shortform note: Research adds insight into how Lyubomirsky’s lifestyle suggestions improve brain chemistry, which in turn strengthens overall resilience and enhances happiness. Regular exercise releases the neurochemicals GABA, serotonin, BDNF, and endocannabinoids. These chemicals help maintain a positive state of mind by stimulating cognition, regulating emotions, and enhancing self-esteem. Following a balanced diet of nutrient-dense foods regulates serotonin levels, which improves mood, enhances cognitive abilities, and increases energy levels. Regular sleep promotes healthy brain chemistry by flushing out toxins that cause feelings of fatigue, stress, and irritability—thus restoring energy sources required to stay positive.)

Additionally, drawing joy from memories of the past or anticipating future pleasures helps counteract negative emotions by calming worries and preventing emotional overwhelm. Lyubomirsky says this helps you handle stress more effectively and respond rationally to challenges and obstacles.

(Shortform note: While reminiscing about or anticipating pleasurable events can boost positive emotions, it’s worth noting that your feelings about the past or future will fluctuate depending on your current mood, due to a phenomenon known as “mood-congruency.” Psychologists explain that you rely on your imagination to construct your memories and expectations. However, your emotions and imagination are inextricably linked—meaning that your current emotions determine the emotional content of your recollections or expectations. Therefore, ensuring you’re in a good mood before you reminisce about or anticipate positive experiences will help you maximize the benefits of this method.)

Outcome #2: Deeper Appreciation

According to Lyubomirsky, regularly acknowledging and expressing thanks for what’s going well in your life enables you to find joy even in mundane experiences or when life isn’t going to plan. This attitude helps combat the effects of hedonic adaptation, prolonging the pleasure you derive from your circumstances. 

(Shortform note: Though the mood-boosting benefits of gratitude are well-known, it can be difficult to focus on gratitude, especially when things aren’t going well. Overcome this difficulty by making your gratitude practice a habit. You might do this by scheduling a daily block of time to write in a gratitude journal, or by using visual reminders to trigger thoughts of gratitude—for example, by having a gratitude quote as your screensaver. Additionally, when expressing gratitude to others, ensure your gratitude is genuine, as insincere thanks won’t make you or others feel any happier. To genuinely convey appreciation, reflect on the specific gesture or action you’re grateful for and express your thanks in a personal and heartfelt manner.)

Outcome #3: Authentic Living

Lyubomirsky suggests that acknowledging your unique qualities and achievements curbs comparisons that might otherwise lead to feelings of envy or resentment. The less you compare yourself to others, the less likely you are to tie your value to what people think about you. This attitude shift naturally elevates your self-esteem and sense of self-worth, enabling you to comfortably be who you really are instead of who you think you should be. 

(Shortform note: Wayne W. Dyer (Your Erroneous Zones) says that when you compare yourself to others, you can only be happy if you feel like you have what they have, even if it’s not aligned with your true needs. However, when you acknowledge your worth, you base your decisions on your wants and needs, let go of negative emotions that don’t serve you, and do things that nurture you and help you grow. Brené Brown (The Gifts of Imperfection) adds that you’re less likely to compare yourself to others if you increase your sense of self by being creative—for example, by drawing or writing. Since no one else can express their creativity in the same way as you, you’ll see that your creative talents reflect a part of you that’s individual and incomparable.)

Additionally, Lyubomirsky clarifies that freeing your mind from ruminative thoughts and comparisons with others clears mental space and lowers stress levels, making it easier for you to come up with ideas and solutions that help you live a more productive and fulfilling life.

How to Abstain From Overthinking and Social Comparison

Lyubomirsky offers five methods for releasing yourself from the tendency to ruminate or compare yourself to others. Let’s explore practical ways to apply them.

1) Designate specific times to challenge and reframe worries: Once you’ve scheduled a time to worry, psychologists suggest sticking to a time limit by setting a timer. As long as the timer’s running, feel free to worry to your heart’s content. But, as soon as the timer goes off, redirect your focus to something more productive.

2) Journal to clarify and release troubling thoughts: Often called reflective journaling, this practice encourages regular introspection, helping you understand and crystallize your thoughts and feelings. This understanding paves the way for choices that enhance your well-being and happiness. Effective reflection requires three steps: 1) Describe your thoughts, decisions, or experiences and the emotions they evoke. 2) Analyze these reflections, drawing connections or making comparisons (for example, “This reminds me of that time when…”). 3) Decide how to apply your insights to upcoming situations.

3) Manage triggers that induce overthinking or comparisons: Emotional freedom technique (EFT) practitioners recommend “tapping” as a way to manage your response to triggers. This process involves accepting that you feel negative emotions, understanding why certain people or situations trigger you, releasing your negative thoughts and emotions about these triggers, and replacing your unwanted thoughts and emotions with calm or positive ones.

4) Practice meditation: There are numerous ways to practice meditation, including the following three methods: 1) Candle meditation: Light a candle, sit comfortably, and focus on the candle flame. 2) Mantra meditation: Focus your attention on a word or phrase such as “om” or “calm.” 3) Progressive muscle relaxation: Lie down and slowly begin tensing parts of your body. After tensing for up to 10 seconds, relax the tension. Then move on to another part of your body.

5) Seek therapy: While therapy can be expensive, there are organizations that can help—for example, by putting you in touch with affordable therapists or by helping you determine if you’re qualified for state-funded therapy.
Happiness and Wellness: 3 Ways to Be Happier by Being Healthier

Elizabeth Whitworth

Elizabeth has a lifelong love of books. She devours nonfiction, especially in the areas of history, theology, and philosophy. A switch to audiobooks has kindled her enjoyment of well-narrated fiction, particularly Victorian and early 20th-century works. She appreciates idea-driven books—and a classic murder mystery now and then. Elizabeth has a blog and is writing a book about the beginning and the end of suffering.

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