Retrofit Blog

7 Steps to Restored Health and Happiness

September 12, 2014

Happy WomanHow many people think that winning the lottery, buying a new car or getting a job promotion are keys to unlocking happiness? These dreams can lead to the hope that happiness is derived from outside sources. But, as most of us already know, the opposite holds true. Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle once said, "Happiness depends upon ourselves" and modern research now proves his theory stands the test of time.

Research from the University of Pennsylvania on Authentic Happiness shows that positive internal emotions increase health, achievement and happiness. The study concludes that the buffer against depression and anxiety does not come from external sources but from internal changes.

Instead of looking outside of yourself to determine what will make you happy, look at what you can do throughout your daily routine to increase overall levels of health and happiness. Here are seven steps you can incorporate to effectively generate change.

Rethink Sleep

Harvard Medical School states, "Going without sleep for too long makes us feel terrible and getting a good night's sleep can make us feel ready to take on the world." It is very important for the human body to receive adequate sleep in order to maintain proper function and health. Humans are programmed to sleep each night as a means of restoring their bodies and minds. Create the habit of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day. This habit regulates the body's clock and assists with falling asleep and staying asleep for the night. Additional tips for a good nights' sleep include avoiding afternoon naps, alcohol, cigarettes and heavy evening meals.

Exercise Daily

Proper exercise assists with stress management and can lead to increased happiness. Just because you are unable to make it to the gym doesn't mean that you can't exercise during the day. Get up and move around the office. Some form of movement is better than nothing.

Studies determine that moving more and sitting less can boost overall health because of calorie burning NEAT, or non-exercise activity thermogenesis. NEAT activities include taking the long way to the bathroom, bypassing the elevator for a walk up the stairs or pacing in the office during a conference call.

Vow to Eat Breakfast

Breakfast provides a healthy start to the day as well as a physical and mental energy boost. The American Heart Association reveals that skipping breakfast is associated with a higher body mass index, increased obesity risk and higher incidences of coronary heart disease.

Don't have time? In order to make breakfast convenient, cook a large pan of steel cut oats over the weekend and place into single-serving containers for the rest of the week. For increased nutrition and flavor, stir in peanut butter, almond butter, chopped nuts or diced fruit.

Establish Rituals

Take time out of each day to engage in self-nurturing activities such as meditation or yoga. Prepare for bed each night by taking a relaxing bath, drinking herbal tea and reading a book. Focus solely on yourself and notice an elevated mood.

Recognize Personal Boundaries

Manage stress by setting boundaries and learn to say "no". One tip for increasing employee productivity is to skip checking e-mail in the morning, which addresses another person's needs. Instead, use the morning hours to plan a productive day that best meets your needs.

Put the Phone Down

A great deal of stress comes from always being available to someone else. With the plethora of electronics within reach, it is important to disconnect completely at a specific time each evening. A good guideline: One hour before bed, turn off all technology and electronics.

Enjoy Interpersonal Relationships

The Happiness Project author Gretchen Rubin writes, "Everyone from contemporary scientists to ancient philosophers agrees that having strong social bonds is probably the most meaningful contributor to happiness." It is important to be surrounded by uplifting and inspiring people. Pick up the phone and arrange a time each week to meet a friend for coffee. Enlist a group of friends to work out and motivate each other. Schedule time to take a leisurely walk with a loved one. Make appointments each week to connect with important people in your lives.

Jennifer Doede recently lost 16.7 pounds on the Retrofit weight loss program and notes that implementing healthy habits has been a "life-changing experience." For example, after taking the step to eat a healthy breakfast each morning, she noticed an immediate boost to her overall health and happiness. "I have noticed that when I do eat something that is greasy my body feels slow and lethargic. My stomach can't digest it. My body screams at me that this isn't the proper fuel to keep it up and running," said Doede.

Making a paradigm shift and recognizing that outside sources won't guarantee health and happiness takes some work. Try treating the seven steps above like a business task. Put them on your calendar and schedule time to improve your well-being - and you just might be happy you did so.

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Jennifer Plotnek Lead Behavior Coach

Jennifer is a lifelong athlete who has spent the last 15 years helping other people minimize the impact of their life stressors through exercise, nutrition, and self-care. She has a degree in Sociology from the University of Colorado and a Master's degree from the Smith College School For Social Work. Jennifer has worked in hospitals, schools, mental health clinics, and private practice. She co-owns a health club in DC and always strives to set a good example for her three daughters.

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