Simple advice on how to be happier—sans drugs

laughing, happy woman for

Happiness is the most simple pleasure in life—but so many of us don’t truly embrace it.

Life—as we live it today—is crazy. That’s not news to anyone. It takes more money (and more working hours) just to keep up. Add a family and kids into that mix … and women, especially, are pulled in what seems to be a thousand directions.

We’re trying to work and help with the bills, raise kids, keep the family healthy (and all that goes with that: grocery shopping, doctor appointments, healthy meals, etc.), keep the house clean and laundry done, keep our own bodies healthy and slim (a stressful feat on its own)…and maintain hobbies and interests that help us to have some semblance of a life.

It’s no easy feat. And that—more than anything else—I believe, is the reason behind the statistics of a study that says more than a quarter of U.S. women (an increase from 10 years ago) take medication to treat depression, anxiety, or attention deficit disorder. That is more than the number of men who took drugs for these same conditions.

The bottom line, I truly believe, is that people (women in particular) aren’t happy, truly happy with their lives anymore. So many are turning to drugs to help them be happier (granted, there are some people who are clinically depressed—but there always have been, why that can’t explain the entire increase).

I was one of these people years ago: depending on anti-anxiety medications to control my nervousness, sleeplessness, and overall unhappiness with my life. But as soon as I changed the parts of my life that were making me miserable, everything changed—and I went off the medication.

I’ve never gone back on that medication, thanks to these things that I have found can make you happier—sans drugs:

happy woman with arms outstretched

Embrace what life has in store for you—and don’t worry about what everyone else is doing (or getting).

1) Follow your heart. Examine your life and figure out what is making you unhappy—and change that. Bad relationship, bad job…whatever it is. Sounds daunting, but the truth is we each have the power to make our lives what we want them to be. Too many of us are stuck, feeling powerless. Put the power back in your own life by deciding what you want to do (and what you love to do)—and then go do it. Forget what people will think; those that matter won’t second-guess a thing you’re doing.

2) Stop trying to keep up with the “Jones-es”. It’s exhausting trying to live a life that mimics (or one-ups) those around us: bigger house, bigger car, better body, better job, more money, you name it. Be the person you want to be—and forget about everyone else.

3) Get your body moving. Study after study has shown that regular exercise helps with depression. So many of us don’t have the time for exercise (or at least that’s what we tell ourselves), but make the time. Consider it an investment in your health—and happiness. (And don’t feel you have to go run mindlessly on the treadmill to make it count: find something you love to do—walking, swimming, tennis, biking, whatever—and do it every day or almost every day.)

4) Accept what you cannot change…and move on. Give yourself time to grieve for something that’s not going your way (say, two weeks) and then visualize putting that problem in a cart and pushing it down the mountain. Then never think about it again. One day, you’ll look back and realize why things happened the way they did—and you’ll be thankful for it.

5) Be thankful for what you do have. If you have to make a list of everything that is good about your life in order to do this…then do it. We all have things to be grateful for—and realizing that, every day, will make each of us happier.

6) Get rid of the clutter. There’s too much clutter—literally and figuratively—in our lives. Clear out the stuff that doesn’t matter…and you find you’ll feel lighter: less encumbered, less stressed, and happier.

The only side effect of all these things: a happier, more content you—better than any of the fine-print side effects on those drugs!


Valerie LatonaAbout Valerie Latona
As the former editor in chief of Shape (the active lifestyle magazine) for 5 years, I personally spoke with a lot of women (thousands over the years, from around the nation) and what I found is this: it's not easy to stay healthy, to get (and stay) fit, and to stem the weight gain tide (and even the tide of disease) that inevitably happens to us as we get older.