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Three secrets to happiness in 2013

HAPPINESS: "Endorphins and growth factors" can make all the difference

THE EUPHORIC, "I-can-achieve-anything-kind-of-feeling" after an intense, sweat-filled workout is not imaginary.

The body releases quite a few feel-good hormones and chemicals during physical activity. Endorphins, serotonin, dopamine, oestrogen, growth factors, just to name a few.

Get physically active!

You have the 'runner's high'? That is endorphins at work and it can be addictive. But it could be a good addiction if physical activity is the object of your fixation. Endorphins make you feel happy and block any feelings of pain so you can continue exercising. Endorphins and serotonin work well together to increase feelings of pleasure and wellness.

Serotonin makes you feel happy, stimulates restful sleep and a healthy appetite. The more regularly you workout, the more serotonin your brain releases, the happier you feel. Dopamine is also a pleasure chemical. The more dopamine released in the body, the less you overeat and the more control you have over your weight.

Just set aside a minimum of 30 minutes, most days of the week, to achieve this all-over feeling of happiness and pleasure. Fitness experts recommend three types of movements:

1. Stretch exercises - basic stretches to move the joints as far as they will go without pain.

2. Endurance or conditioning exercises such as climbing the stairs, swimming, walking, running and biking.

3. Strength building or resistance training using, for example, free weights, bands or resistance machines.

Don't sweat the small stuff

Stress presents itself in many ways. There's a 'dirty dozen' of worst stressors including death of a spouse, divorce, marital separation, jail term, death of a close family member, personal injury or illness, marriage, marital reconciliation, dismissal from work, retirement, change in health of a family member and pregnancy.

What to do about stress? One's perception is often one's reality and so do what high-achievers do - learn to reframe your experience. You can choose to see the glass as half empty or half full with endless possibilities.

Your thoughts directly influence your feelings and behaviour. Change your negative thoughts and your experience changes. Don't sweat the small stuff, ignore the unimportant things, drop the victim role and forget the pity party! Work on your mental health in 2013.

Happy eating

Chocolate, sugar, wine and fatty stuff make us feel good, but have them as treats. Try adding one more fruit to the diet.

Endless research speak to the health benefits of fruits and vegetables. They contain fibre and essential vitamins and minerals that protect against chronic diseases. Use the colour scheme of fruits and vegetable as you eat.

Eat fruits and vegetables in different shades and colours to expose your body to a variety of nutrients such as vitamins A and C, folate and potassium. Think of the red in watermelons, the green in callaloo, yellow corns, white onions and orange carrots and so on.

Another simple change for happiness - two servings of fish rich in omega-3 fatty acids. This could reduce your risk of dying of a heart attack by about 33 per cent, according to a recent study.

A serving is about three ounces of fish (visualise the size of a deck of cards). Omega-3 fatty acids lower cholesterol and reduce inflammation. Heart disease and many other conditions are related to an inflammatory process. Fatty fish include salmon, herring and tuna.

Happy New Year and cheers to 2013.

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