By Catherine Robinson
What does Easter mean to you? It may be clichéd, but for me it’s the perfect occasion to spend quality time with my friends and family: having a giggle; gaining a few (unwanted, but accepted) pounds; and reflecting on the big questions in life… and death. Other than getting a few days off work (not that I don’t love the Happynesshub), I was wondering why the holiday makes me so happy, and what I’ve come to realise is that many of my Easter-packed activities are scientifically proven to boost my mood!
To spread the cheer, I gathered all of the team at the Happynesshub and have come up with a list of fun things to do over the coming days. And the best thing about them: there is clear evidence backing the fact that these will increase your happiness. (Check out our Research pages to delve deeper into the science – and keep looking out for updates.)
Eat some chocolate
Not only is this a must at Easter for me, but you can now enjoy eating your Easter eggs guilt free. (In moderation, of course!) Chocolate, especially the dark variety, is proven to make you happier as it stimulates the release of endorphins and serotonin (our natural happy hormones and anti-depressants) in our brains.
Meet up with friends or family
Being surrounded by people you love is a chance to have some immediate fun and to create lasting memories. Connecting socially is another way that releases endorphins, giving us that instant ‘happy high’. But it goes further than this; studies have found that the more interactions we have with others – whether these are with people we are strongly tied to or those who are acquaintances – improves our sense of belonging to a larger community. This in turn increases our general well-being and happiness, and helps combat loneliness.
Have an active Easter egg hunt
If you’ve had enough chocolate then hide another form of ‘treasure’ instead. (I’m always more interested in solving clues rather than caring for the goodies at the end.)
Whether engaging your noggin whilst deciphering clues, or chasing around like a headless chicken trying to find all of the treasure before others do, having a good old hunt is a great way to form fond memories. A game like this is also a fab way to get some sneaky exercise, get the heart rate up, and get the endorphins and dopamine (another natural ‘feel-good’ chemical) pumping.
Listen to some (loosely related) Easter music
Here are a couple of my favourites:
Norman Greenbaum, Spirit in the Sky
Monty Python, Always Look on the Bright Side of Life
Willy Wonka & The Chocolate Factory, The Candy Man Can
If one of these doesn’t float your boat then the key is to listen to something that has a beat that makes you move and smile. Don’t believe me that music can make a positive difference? Take a look at our Research.
Go for a walk
Enjoy the fresh air, listen to the sounds of nature, if possible, get out further afield and go lamb spotting. Pay attention to your surroundings, using all of your senses and get lost in the present moment! Even better, go somewhere that inspires you with awe. If the sun is out, here’s a chance to get your daily dose of Vitamin D, unwind from the daily stresses and put your worries into perspective.
Knock on your neighbour’s door and give them a chocolate egg
Had enough of chocolate? Take them some flowers. Have little money? Make them a card. Or even just invite them to come round for a quick cup of tea.
The public holiday is a great time to build upon that all-important community that we all so desperately need. And even if the neighbourly relationship doesn’t develop any further numerous studies have found that the old adage “it’s better to give than to receive” is indeed true, especially when it comes to impacting our happiness.
Reflect on the meaning of Easter
Whether celebrating the holiday for religious or spiritual reasons, or just because it’s the thing to do, now is a good time to think about the bigger picture, in particular the concepts of new life and willing sacrifice. Consider the beauty of what new life means. What impact do these thoughts have on your daily worries? What are you grateful for?
Giving thanks, looking at the positive, and focusing on something bigger than us helps us to gain perspective on our circumstances and encourages us to feel more optimistic and to feel greater satisfaction with life.
Even better, use this time of reflection to meditate (catching up the Happynesshub’s 21 Days to Happiness meditations possibly?), which literally changes our brains so that we become automatically more positive minded.
Have a lie in. Or early night (Tim D’s favourite!)
Ever noticed how your moods fluctuate when you’re lacking sleep? It’s an unfortunate habit of mine but I’m prone to tears when I’m over tired, even when my rational self is telling me there’s no need to cry over spilt milk – literally – or for losing the Easter egg hunt.
Use the long weekend to catch up on some much needed sleep. A study by psychologist Daniel Kahneman and colleagues, found that getting just one extra hour of sleep each night may have a greater effect on happiness than a $60,000 raise.
In addition to making us happier, having more sleep also improves our memory, increases our ability to concentrate, and helps prevent ourselves from over indulging on those pesky cravings for caffeine and sugar. (Remember, eating chocolate is good for us but no one likes to be sick from consuming too much!)
Make an Easter hat; paint a hardboiled egg; face paint – participate in some form of arts and crafts
Engaging and fully immersing yourself in an activity that is challenging but uses your skills is a sure way to experience a joyful state known as “flow”. Don’t like making crafty things? Try cooking a roast dinner instead. (This is a Tim F suggestion!) This state of absorption – where you temporarily lose your self-consciousness and sense of time, whilst working towards accomplishing a finished product – increases your sense of achievement, creativity and overall well-being.
LAUGH! (And finally, Sally and Marta’s chosen activity – future blog to come!)
Sometimes described as ‘inner jogging’, laughter really is the best medicine. Laughing has been proven to reduce stress by lowering our levels of cortisol – the ‘stress’ hormone). It also lowers blood pressure, boosts our immune system, relieves pain, and, releases those lovely, mood-boosting endorphins. Even if you’ve not particularly found anything funny in the moment, just going through the motions of laughing will set the process off. All in all laughter is one infectious way to boost our happiness. Plus, laughing burns calories. So what are you waiting for: get laughing!!
What Easter activities make you happy? We welcome your thoughts. Please do comment below, in the forum and, even better, we would love to see a photo or two from your holidays! Watch out for a couple of the team’s Easter happy snaps.
Time away from daily life, worries and WiFi with my family in our caravan :-) xx
Sounds bliss! That’s what I did for Easter – I escaped for the weekend to a log cabin in the Lakes. Phone away (accept to take pictures). Time with my partner. Beautiful scenery, fresh air and walks in the countryside (even in the rain!). Just those few days away was refreshing.