Eight easy steps to happiness

22 February 2016

Eight mood-boosting tips from mental health expert Rachel Kelly’s book 'Walking on Sunshine', which lists 52 quick, ingenious ways to lift your spirits.



1. Lose control

Control is closely linked to anxiety. I usually try to tell others what to do as a response to feeling insecure. The much more relaxed option may be to stop, breathe and turn control into curiosity. Why, I wonder, do I want others to come and help me tidy up? I want to enforce a sense of order on my surroundings so I feel calmer on the inside. When I am able to overcome the urge to control, and instead trust that things will work out the way they are meant to, I can begin to enjoy the moment for fully.

Related: 10 surprising ways to feel less anxious

2. Throw things away

Clearing cupboards clears my mind and allows me to better enjoy those objects I’ve consciously decided to keep. I save only what gives me joy or has some unequivocal, indelible link to family and friends.

Related: 21 ways to declutter

3. Embrace the new day

While it can be a struggle to wake up early, it’s worth the effort. I’ve learnt being a lark is better for my mental health than being an owl.

Our waking thoughts can be revealing. They allow us to take the temperature of our minds and observe what has risen to the surface overnight. Open the window and lean out. I feel more present when I taste the weather – all the better if it’s raining or windy.

4. Show gratitude

As you wind down for the night, think of three positive things that happened that day. Write them down in a notebook or journal. Reflect on each event, why it happened and how you experienced it.

Related: Why gratitude may be good for your health

5. Play

Whether I'm kicking a football around or playing a board game, the activity helps me enjoy the now and the light-hearted aspects of life we can miss by rushing around. Look at the calm that can envelop children when they are absorbed in a game.

Related: 10 healthy reasons why you should act like a kid again

6. Listen to running water

I’m not sure why running water is so calming and rejuvenating. Maybe it’s the perpetual motion: it never ceases to move is full of vitality. Maybe it’s the soothing sound that muffles the loud noises of a big city giving us a sense of peace. Maybe it’s the realization that something as hard as rock can be worn away by something as soft as water. Or perhaps it’s because humans are 70 per cent water and somehow we are reminded of the connection between the water within us and the water without.

7. Learn to love the journey

I’m at my happiest when I’m engaging in the task at hand, savouring the satisfaction of trying my best and not beating myself up if it all goes wrong. So while there’s no avoiding exams, and you probably shouldn’t tear up your child’s report, do try and tear up the one in your own head.

8. Change your habits

It’s surprising what a difference it makes to sit in a different place from the usual or take an alternative route to work. Some more ‘habit-releasers’ I’ve tried recently:

  • I went to the cinema and only chose the film when I got there.
  • I found some colouring pencils, an abandoned colouring book, and coloured in a picture of a butterfly
  • I took a boxing class
  • I rang someone I hadn’t spoken to in years.

All four made me feel more alive and awake to new sights and sounds.

Find out what little, unexpected things make celebrities including Joan Collins, Bill Bailey and Robson Green happy in the March issue of Saga Magazine. Subscribe to the print edition or download the digital edition today.

Walking on Sunshine: 52 Small Steps to Happiness by Rachel Kelly is published by Short Books at £9.99

The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

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