How You Can Wake Up Happy Every Day

Smiling man in bed

One of the best ways to age gracefully is to be happy.

It’s true, optimistic people live longer. Studies going back decades show that mood and longevity go hand in hand. A German study of 45,000 adults found that happiness levels tend to decline during middle age but begin rebounding by around age 60.

Not only do people who look on the bright side live longer than worrywarts, they’re healthier, too.

“Of course the pessimist would probably say something to the effect of, ‘that figures,’” says Daniel Shank, MD, a team physician with University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network.

While some folks seem to mellow with age, others get more cranky, he says.

“What is sometimes striking is that people who get to 80-plus often have very good outlooks on life," Dr. Shank says. "When you get into your 80s, the people with really bad attitudes and really bad genetics are gone."

How to Be Happier

So if optimism is so important to well-being, what steps can you take to be have a sunnier outlook?

One way is to get enough sleep. If you're finding yourself lying awake at night, take steps to avoid stress before bedtime.

“The worst thing that has ever been developed for sleep is the 11 o’clock news," Dr. Shank says. "I advise people to get their news at 6 o’clock and do something else quieter before bed instead.”

As people age they tend to sleep less, but Dr. Shank counsels his older patients to embrace rising early.

“Use that early morning time for quiet activities,” he says.

Think of the Good Things

Another technique Dr. Shank recommends to patients is something he calls Three Good Things.

“Get a small notebook and write about three good things that happened that day when you’re getting ready for bed,” he says. Studies have shown that patients who commit to a nightly journal for just two weeks have lower depression scores after six weeks.

Most people won’t wake up happy every day, but even if you don’t, there are a few things you can do to turn your mood around. Among the mood-lifting activities that Dr. Shank recommends are walking or tai chi.

“That can help somebody get into a better state,” he says.

Other strategies include watching something on TV, such as a mindless sitcom, that makes you laugh or reminiscing with friends or family members.

“Those are techniques you could use to get out of a little bit of a funk,” he says.

Daniel Shank, MD is a family medicine specialist who is board certified in integrative medicine and part of University Hospitals Connor Integrative Health Network. You can request an appointment with Dr. Shank or any other University Hospitals doctor online.

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