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Looking For The Perfect Thanksgiving Meal? Try This Roasted Vegetable Lasagna (Recipe)

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Article provided by: Dea @ I Nourish Gently

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I have to admit when I saw this recipe, my heart started pounding.

I won’t believe it if you say you’re looking at the image right now and NOT salivating… A LOT!

I’ve always said I’m all about simplicity, but once in a while recipes like this one deserve the time and effort needed to put them together.

I am a huge fan of roasted veggies, and when they intermingle beautifully with lasagna sheets and creamy, cheesy sauces in a richly delightful recipe like this one, my excitement just goes over the top!

I won’t go into further detail as to how AMAZING this tastes, because you just have to try it yourself (and come back to tell everyone else in the comments below).

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The recipe is courtesy of forward.com, excerpted from Crossroads by Tal Ronnen with Scot Jones. (Artisan Books). Copyright © 2015. Photographs by Lisa Romerein.

Roasted Vegetable Lasagna

Serves 8-12

4 red or yellow bell peppers (about ¾ pound)
4 large zucchini (1½ pounds), sliced on a diagonal about ¼-inch thick
1 large Italian eggplant (about 1 pound), sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
1 large onion (about ½ pound), sliced into ¼-inch-thick rounds
¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for coating the grill pan
6 large fresh basil leaves, chopped
3 fresh thyme sprigs, leaves stripped from the stems and chopped
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
Herb Ricotta (recipe follows)
2 cups Basil Pesto (recipe follows)
Puttanesca Sauce (recipe follows)
1 pound lasagna noodles, cooked in boiling salted water just until al dente, then drained, and rinsed (I use gluten-free)
10 ounces soy mozzarella, preferably Follow Your Heart Vegan Gourmet, shredded (4 cups)

1. Put each pepper directly on a gas burner over high heat and char, turning periodically with tongs, until the skin is wrinkled and blistered on all sides, about 10 minutes. Alternatively, you can roast the peppers using a broiler, turning them occasionally. Put the peppers into a bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let them steam for about 10 minutes to loosen the skins.

2. Pull out the cores of the peppers and remove the seeds. Pull off and discard the blackened skin. Dip your fingers in water as you work to keep the charred bits from sticking. Cut the roasted peppers into ½-inch-wide strips and put in a large mixing bowl, along with any juices that have collected. Add the sliced zucchini, eggplant, and onion, tossing to combine.

3. Combine the oil, basil, thyme, garlic, and shallot in a small bowl or measuring cup, season with salt and pepper, and whisk to blend. Pour the marinade over the vegetables, tossing to coat evenly. Set aside for 10 minutes so the vegetables can soak up the flavour.

4. Preheat an outdoor grill and coat with oil, or coat a grill pan with oil and put over medium-high heat. Alternatively, preheat the broiler.

5. Arrange the peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and onion on the grill or grill pan (if using a grill pan, you will have to do this in batches) and grill, turning the vegetables once, until they are tender and lightly browned and have released most of their moisture, about five minutes per side. Or, if using the broiler, arrange the vegetables in a single layer on two nonstick baking sheets and broil in two batches. Set the vegetables aside.

6. Mix together the herb ricotta and 1 cup of the basil pesto in a large bowl. Season with salt and pepper.

7. Once you have the sauce ready, the vegetables grilled, and the filling made, you can start assembling the lasagna. Preheat the oven to 375°F.

8. Ladle about 1 cup of the sauce into a 9-by-13-inch baking dish, to just cover the bottom. Slightly overlap six lasagna noodles crosswise so they completely cover the bottom of the dish, with no gaps. Top the noodles with one-third of the ricotta-pesto mixture, spreading it evenly with a rubber spatula. Sprinkle 1 cup of the soy mozzarella over the ricotta. Shingle one-third of the roasted peppers, zucchini, eggplant, and onion in an even layer on top. Repeat the process, layering sauce, lasagna noodles, ricotta-pesto, soy mozzarella, and vegetables two more times. Finally, top with the remaining six lasagna noodles and sauce.

9. Cover the lasagna with aluminum foil and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, until bubbly. Remove the foil and top the lasagna with the remaining 1 cup soy mozzarella. Bake for another 5 minutes, or until the cheese has melted. Allow the lasagna to cool for 10 minutes before cutting into eight squares.

To serve: Divide the remaining 1 cup pesto among 8-12 plates, spreading it out with the back of a spoon. Set a lasagna square on top.

Herbed Ricotta

ricotta

Makes about 4 cups

We add fresh herbs to the almond ricotta to bring a little something extra to the pasta filling.

Also check out this Creamy-Dreamy Herb Cashew-Hemp Cheese

4 cups Kite Hill almond ricotta
6 fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
4 fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves, finely chopped
3 garlic cloves, minced
1 shallot, minced
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Mash together the almond ricotta, basil, parsley, garlic, and shallot in a bowl. Season with salt and pepper. The ricotta can be prepared in advance, covered, and refrigerated for up to five days before using it as a pasta filling; leftovers keep in the refrigerator for up to five days.

Basil Pesto

basilpesto

Makes 1 cup

Pesto, among the best-known sauces to come out of Italy, is simple to make, requires no cooking, and has only a few ingredients. Yet it adds the most delicious pop of colour and flavour to pastas, soups, and roasted vegetables.

2 cups fresh basil leaves
½ cup fresh flat-leaf parsley leaves
¼ cup nutritional yeast flakes (see Note)
¼ cup pine nuts, toasted
4 garlic cloves, smashed
½ teaspoon kosher salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
¼ teaspoon red pepper flakes
½ cup extra-virgin olive oil

1. Combine the basil, parsley, nutritional yeast flakes, nuts, garlic, salt, black pepper, and red pepper flakes in a food processor and pulse until a paste forms, pushing down the basil and parsley as needed. With the motor running, pour in the oil in a steady stream, making sure it directly hits the blade (this is the best way to distribute the oil and emulsify it evenly and quickly). Transfer to a container. If you’re not going to use the pesto immediately, press a piece of plastic wrap against the surface to keep it from oxidizing.

Note on Nutritional Yeast FlakesNutritional yeast may not sound like the most appetizing ingredient, but it has a cheesy, nutty, savoury quality that gives any dish extra oomph. Just a tablespoon or two adds a creamy, salty richness to dips, soups, and sauces. Look for nutritional yeast flakes in the supplement section of the market or health food store. Be sure to select flakes instead of granules, which will deliver a bit of texture to whatever you add them to.

Puttanesca Sauce

putanesca

Makes 8 cups

Puttanesca is a robust old-school Italian red sauce made from pantry staples — olives, capers, and red pepper flakes.

¼ cup extra-virgin olive oil
6 garlic cloves, minced
2 shallots, finely chopped
1 teaspoon red pepper flakes
¼ cup dry white wine
2 tablespoons tomato paste
6 cups Scoty’s Marinara Sauce (recipe follows) or store-bought sauce
1 cup pitted Kalamata olives, halved lengthwise
1/3 cup capers, drained
8 fresh basil leaves, cut into chiffonade
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper

1. Put a medium pot over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the garlic, shallots, and red pepper flakes and cook, stirring, until the shallots are translucent, two to three minutes.

2. Pour in the wine and cook, stirring, for one to two minutes to evaporate some of the alcohol. Stir in the tomato paste and marinara sauce and bring to a simmer. Reduce the heat to medium-low, add the olives, capers and basil, and season with salt and black pepper. Gently simmer, stirring occasionally, until the sauce has thickened slightly, about 30 minutes.

Scoty’s Marinara Sauce

Makes 6 cups

Two 28-ounce cans whole tomatoes, preferably San Marzano
3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 garlic cloves, minced
1 carrot, finely grated (about ½ cup)
Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper
½ teaspoon red pepper flakes
Pinch of baking soda
4 fresh basil leaves, chopped
1 tablespoon Earth Balance butter stick

1. Working in batches, put the tomatoes, along with their juice, in a food processor or blender and puree just until semi-smooth; you want a little bit of chunky texture.

2. Put a medium pot over medium heat and add the oil. When the oil is hot, add the onion, garlic, and carrot, season with salt, black pepper and the red pepper flakes, and sauté until the vegetables are soft, about 10 minutes.

3. Add the pureed tomatoes, stirring to combine, and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to medium-low and simmer, uncovered, until the sauce thickens, about 45 minutes. Season the sauce with more salt and black pepper, to taste. Remove from the heat, stir in the baking soda, making sure it dissolves, and add the basil and butter substitute.

Once cooled, the sauce can be refrigerated covered for up to three days or frozen for up to two months.

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Lifestyle

10 Quick & Nourishing Smoothie Recipes That Taste Great

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    Smoothies are a great way to pack a lot of nutrients into a filling, delicious meal any time of the day. In our fast-paced world, they help provide a great way to stay healthy on the go.

  • Reflect On:

    If you find combining sugars and fats bloat you, keep them separate. Sugar that comes from eating whole fruit is not the same as added sugar!

Have you ever compromised on a nourishing and filling breakfast because you are running late for work? Well, it has happened to all of us, especially women with kids.

And the good news is, smoothies! That’s right! Smoothies are nutrient-rich, delicious and can be made within minutes. You can replace it with your coffee on-the-go as it is much more healthy, filling, and tasty.

Here are 10 such smoothies prepared using a variety of fruits, veggies, and other ingredients. Some of the ingredients are rich in antioxidants, some are protein packed, and a few others are the best anti-inflammatory foods. So indulge in a smoothie marathon and try out one of the below smoothies each day; either as a fully-loaded breakfast or as a filling snack.

Breakfast Smoothie

This is a protein-rich breakfast which is clean and detox-friendly. It consists of,

  • 180ml of coconut milk
  • 1tsp cacao 1tsp coconut oil
  • 120 ml coconut water
  • 25 grams of oats
  • half a banana (either fresh or frozen)
  • 1tsp almond butter
  • 3 ice cubes

Blend everything together and you are ready to kick start your day on a super healthy note. It contains protein, fibre and all the essential nutrients required for a wholesome breakfast.

Peanut Butter Banana Apple Smoothie

Another protein packed smoothie that is just delicious! This recipe is as easy as it comes.

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  • Add two tablespoons of peanut butter
  • a banana
  • some sliced apples and
  • a few ice cubes

There you go! Banana will give you instant energy, protein from peanut butter, and loads of vitamins and minerals from apple. Nothing can get better than that!

Watermelon Basil Smoothie

Another simple and quick smoothie with just three ingredients. It is healthy, quick and delicious. This smoothie includes watermelon, basil and coconut water. It is super-hydrating and healthy. Watermelon is a rich source of antioxidants, vitamin C, and many other nutrients. It aids conditions such as inflammation, obesity, diabetes and heart diseases. Basil is an amazing source of vitamin K, magnesium, copper, vitamin A, vitamin C, iron, calcium, and omega 3 fatty acids. What more do you need?

Cherry Vanilla Protein Smoothie

Cherries are the best summer fruit ever! Put one cup of cherries along with one cup coconut milk and one scoop of protein powder. It is naturally sweet, creamy and full of deliciousness. This will fulfil your daily dose of protein in a single gulp! Cherries are packed with antioxidants and cancer-preventing elements. Studies show that it also promotes sleep by increasing melatonin levels, relieve arthritis pain, reduce belly fat and is an excellent post-workout snack that can reduce muscle pain.

Strawberry Banana Smoothie

 This healthy and tasty smoothie has only three ingredients; Strawberry, banana and non-dairy milk or water. Just throw all the ingredients and then blend! It’s creamy, colourful, healthy and delicious! Strawberries are a rich source of vitamin C, folic acid, and dietary fibre good for skin health and can beat the top moisturizers in terms of the benefits offered. It will help to keep skin healthy and glowing and fights aging, acne, and wrinkles. The banana provides increased energy throughout the day. It can be consumed as a perfect healthy breakfast or as a snack.

Pineapple smoothie

With just two ingredients, it is possible to have a tropical beach experience at home. Don’t know how? This pineapple smoothie is just what everyone needs. Frozen or fresh pineapple and almond milk are the only ingredients in this. It is quick, easy and a perfect after workout drink. This combination can never go wrong. Pineapples improve bone strength, eyesight, delays muscle degeneration and aids in digestion. Having this smoothie first thing in the morning can help with smooth bowel movement.

Banana Blueberry Chocolate Smoothie

Who doesn’t love chocolates? This smoothie can fix the craving for chocolate and in a healthy way. Adding sugar and other sweeteners can ruin the whole purpose of having a healthy smoothie. Cocoa powder is a perfect substitute that can solve this issue. And blueberries offer a myriad of benefits such as regulate cholesterol and heart diseases. It has fibre, potassium, Vitamin C and other essential nutrients.

The ingredients are

  • 1 sliced banana
  • 1 cup blueberries
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • Water or crushed ice can be added.

Mint Chocolate Smoothie

This is a nutrient-packed smoothie with simple and easily available ingredients. Simply put 1 avocado, 1 banana, 1 scoop of green powder, one tablespoon vegan yogurt, two handfuls of spinach, some almond milk, few mint leaves and 1tsp cocoa powder. The greens offer plenty of vitamins and minerals along with the benefits of avocado. Mint acts as a palate cleanser and improves digestion and bowel movements. It also reduces the symptoms of inflammation, depression, asthma, respiratory diseases, promotes oral care, cures nausea and headache and even prevents cancer.

Post-Workout Smoothie

Tired of the same old peanut butter? Try this smoothie recipe with non-dairy milk, almond butter, bananas, one tablespoon of flaxseeds, natural oats, and honey. It is packed with protein, dietary fiber, omega 3 fatty acids and plenty of other nutrients. Needless to say, extremely delicious. Makes up for an excellent post-workout snack that promotes muscle strength, repair of damaged cells and provides energy.

Beetroot Cinnamon Smoothie

The ingredients are,

  • 1 small raw beetroot
  • 1 handful of almonds
  • 1 handful of baby spinach
  • ripe banana
  • ripe avocado
  • 1 tablespoon coconut oil
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon raw honey
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla essence

This smoothie can be customized by adding more fruits or greens. It is perfect for breakfast or as a snack option. Beetroot is a good source of iron, nitrates, magnesium and other antioxidants. It also improves skin health and glows, lower blood pressure and prevent dementia. This smoothie is an ideal option for a pre-workout meal.

So what are you waiting for? Try out these incredibly easy and healthy smoothies and pamper yourself with a great breakfast that nourishes your soul. It’s time for some self-love!

References

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/266886.php
https://bellatory.com/skin/Top-5-Benefits-of-Strawberry-for-Skin
https://www.livescience.com/45487-pineapple-nutrition.html

Get Your FREE In Depth Numerology Reading

Your life path number can tell you A LOT about you.

With the ancient science of Numerology you can find out accurate and revealing information just from your name and birth date.

Get your free numerology reading and learn more about how you can use numerology in your life to find out more about your path and journey. Get Your free reading.

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Consciousness

8 Comics Showing How Much Today’s Childhood Differs From Ours

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In Brief

  • The Facts:

    The childhood experience today is inevitably affected by--and sometimes even centered on--technology.

  • Reflect On:

    What is technology giving to our children, and what is it taking away? Should we be more proactive about our children's exposure to technology?

When I was a child, there was no shortage of getting told by our parents and other adults about how much better we had things than they did when they were children.  Stories of having to walk for miles to go to school, sleeping in the same bed until they became an adult, having the same food all the time, and having only a few simple toys to last them several years were not uncommon at all. There was a definite sense that as society modernized, things were getting better for children.

And as children we certainly didn’t disagree — hearing our parents’ stories did indeed make us feel that we were better off than they were. We certainly would not be inclined to exchange our childhood for their more rugged, austere version. And yes, to some extent these stories gave us a bit more ‘appreciation’ for what we had, despite not showing enough of it to satisfy our parents.

How About Today?

Today, I’m not sure that familiar line of conversation that has spanned many generations is going on anymore between parents and children. As the father of a 4-year old, the most immediate difference I notice is that we seem to have less time for our children than our parents did, especially if both parents are working full-time, which is just about a requirement these days.

The other major difference is the level of technology children have access to. And in some ways, technology has come in and ‘filled the gap’ where a parent’s attention is absent. Now, undoubtedly, there are some benefits to technology for our children. But when we take time to reflect on it, we might recognize that we have come to a particular stage in the modernization of our society where most of us are not sure that ‘newer, bigger, faster, more convenient’ is necessarily better, especially with regards to the type of childhood that serves as a foundation for a happy and prosperous adult life.

Here are 8 pictures comparing childhoods then and now, where technology has become ubiquitous in the lives of our children. Do you think our children have it better than we did?

Are they having more fun?

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Are they being more creative?

Are they more ambitious?

Are they healthier?

Are they understanding consequences better?

Are they feeling things more deeply?

Are they experiencing more frustration?

Is their sense of wonder being cultivated more?

How Did You Score It?

How you answer these questions might give you some insight into how much you want your children’s early experiences to be influenced by technology. As everyone knows, childhood is the most formative time of a person’s life, which is why, as parents, some of the choices within our control that we make about our children’s exposure to technology might have a significant impact.

Drawings courtesy of Sergey Raskovalov.

Get Your FREE In Depth Numerology Reading

Your life path number can tell you A LOT about you.

With the ancient science of Numerology you can find out accurate and revealing information just from your name and birth date.

Get your free numerology reading and learn more about how you can use numerology in your life to find out more about your path and journey. Get Your free reading.

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Health

10 Simple Life Hacks You Can Start Today That Will Make You Happier, Backed By Science

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It seems everyone is seeking happiness. For me, I prefer to look at it as the search for peace and joy in life, as I find happiness can be too conditional, and anytime we have to look for or chase something, we are looking outside of us. Surely some of this is just semantics, but happiness is, in my view, a state of being that comes from within and doesn’t shift with circumstance.

I came across this great article about the science of happiness and how researchers have been able to discover that we can adjust various things in our daily lives to bring more happiness to our state of being. Though, again, I believe happiness happens over the longterm. It’s not short spurts of emotion that we chase, but something that is born within and sustained naturally in our being.

1. Exercise more – 7 minutes might be enough

You might have seen some talk recently about the scientific 7 minute workout mentioned in The New York Times. So if you thought exercise was something you didn’t have time for, maybe you can fit it in after all.

Exercise has such a profound effect on our happiness and well-being that it’s actually been proven to be an effective strategy for overcoming depression. In a study cited in Shawn Achor’s book, The Happiness Advantage, three groups of patients treated their depression with either medication, exercise, or a combination of the two. The results of this study really surprised me. Although all three groups experienced similar improvements in their happiness levels to begin with, the follow-up assessments proved to be radically different:

The groups were then tested six months later to assess their relapse rate. Of those who had taken the medication alone, 38 percent had slipped back into depression. Those in the combination group were doing only slightly better, with a 31 percent relapse rate. The biggest shock, though, came from the exercise group: Their relapse rate was only 9 percent!

 You don’t have to be depressed to gain benefit from exercise, though. It can help you to relax, increase your brain power and even improve your body image, even if you don’t lose any weight.

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study in the Journal of Health Psychology found that people who exercised felt better about their bodies, even when they saw no physical changes:

Body weight, shape and body image were assessed in 16 males and 18 females before and after both 6 × 40 mins exercise and 6 × 40 mins reading. Over both conditions, body weight and shape did not change. Various aspects of body image, however, improved after exercise compared to before.

We’ve explored exercise in depth before, and looked at what it does to our brains, such as releasing proteins and endorphins that make us feel happier, as you can see in the image below.

brain_walk

 

2. Sleep more – you’ll be less sensitive to negative emotions

We know that sleep helps our bodies to recover from the day and repair themselves, and that it helps us focus and be more productive. It turns out, it’s also important for our happiness.

In NutureShock, Po Bronson and Ashley Merryman explain how sleep affects our positivity:

Negative stimuli get processed by the amygdala; positive or neutral memories gets processed by the hippocampus. Sleep deprivation hits the hippocampus harder than the amygdala. The result is that sleep-deprived people fail to recall pleasant memories, yet recall gloomy memories just fine.

In one experiment by Walker, sleep-deprived college students tried to memorize a list of words. They could remember 81% of the words with a negative connotation, like “cancer.” But they could remember only 31% of the words with a positive or neutral connotation, like “sunshine” or “basket.”

The BPS Research Digest explores another study that proves sleep affects our sensitivity to negative emotions. Using a facial recognition task over the course of a day, the researchers studied how sensitive participants were to positive and negative emotions. Those who worked through the afternoon without taking a nap became more sensitive late in the day to negative emotions like fear and anger.

Using a face recognition task, here we demonstrate an amplified reactivity to anger and fear emotions across the day, without sleep. However, an intervening nap blocked and even reversed this negative emotional reactivity to anger and fear while conversely enhancing ratings of positive (happy) expressions.

Of course, how well (and how long) you sleep will probably affect how you feel when you wake up, which can make a difference to your whole day. Especially this graph showing how your brain activity decreases is a great insight about how important enough sleep is for productivity and happiness:

sleep

Another study tested how employees’ moods when they started work in the morning affected their work day.

Researchers found that employees’ moods when they clocked in tended to affect how they felt the rest of the day. Early mood was linked to their perceptions of customers and to how they reacted to customers’ moods.

And most importantly to managers, employee mood had a clear impact on performance, including both how much work employees did and how well they did it.

Sleep is another topic we’ve looked into before, exploring how much sleep we really need to be productive.

3. Move closer to work – a short commute is worth more than a big house

Our commute to the office can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

According to The Art of Manliness, having a long commute is something we often fail to realize will affect us so dramatically:

… while many voluntary conditions don’t affect our happiness in the long-term because we acclimate to them, people never get accustomed to their daily slog to work because sometimes the traffic is awful and sometimes it’s not. Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it, “Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day.”

We tend to try to compensate for this by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don’t work:

Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute.

4. Spend time with friends and family – don’t regret it on your deathbed

Staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying. If you want more evidence that it’s beneficial for you, I’ve found some research that proves it can make you happier right now.

Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally.

I love the way Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert explains it:

We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends.

George Vaillant is the director of a 72-year study of the lives of 268 men.

In an interview in the March 2008 newsletter to the Grant Study subjects, Vaillant was asked, “What have you learned from the Grant Study men?” Vaillant’s response: “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

He shared insights of the study with Joshua Wolf Shenk at The Atlantic on how the men’s social connections made a difference to their overall happiness:

The men’s relationships at age 47, he found, predicted late-life adjustment better than any other variable, except defenses. Good sibling relationships seem especially powerful: 93 percent of the men who were thriving at age 65 had been close to a brother or sister when younger.

In fact, a study published in the Journal of Socio-Economics states than your relationships are worth more than $100,000:

Using the British Household Panel Survey, I find that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.

I think that last line is especially fascinating: Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness. So we could increase our annual income by hundreds of thousands of dollars and still not be as happy as if we increased the strength of our social relationships.

The Terman study, which is covered in The Longevity Project, found that relationships and how we help others were important factors in living long, happy lives:

We figured that if a Terman participant sincerely felt that he or she had friends and relatives to count on when having a hard time then that person would be healthier. Those who felt very loved and cared for, we predicted, would live the longest.

Surprise: our prediction was wrong… Beyond social network size, the clearest benefit of social relationships came from helping others. Those who helped their friends and neighbors, advising and caring for others, tended to live to old age.

5. Go outside – happiness is maximized at 13.9°C

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:

Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory…

This is pretty good news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our already-busy schedules. Twenty minutes are a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break.

A UK study from the University of Sussex also found that being outdoors made people happier:

Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments.

The American Meteorological Society published research in 2011 that found current temperature has a bigger effect on our happiness than variables like wind speed and humidity, or even the average temperature over the course of a day. It also found that happiness is maximized at 13.9°C, so keep an eye on the weather forecast before heading outside for your 20 minutes of fresh air.

The connection between productivity and temperature is another topic we’ve talked about more here. It’s fascinating what a small change in temperature can do.

6. Help others – 100 hours a year is the magical number

One of the most counterintuitive pieces of advice I found is that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

If we go back to Shawn Achor’s book again, he says this about helping others:

…when researchers interviewed more than 150 people about their recent purchases, they found that money spent on activities—such as concerts and group dinners out—brought far more pleasure than material purchases like shoes, televisions, or expensive watches. Spending money on other people, called “prosocial spending,” also boosts happiness.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that explored this very topic:

Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future.

So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves. What about spending our time on other people? A study of volunteering in Germany explored how volunteers were affected when their opportunities to help others were taken away:

 Shortly after the fall of the Berlin Wall but before the German reunion, the first wave of data of the GSOEP was collected in East Germany. Volunteering was still widespread. Due to the shock of the reunion, a large portion of the infrastructure of volunteering (e.g. sports clubs associated with firms) collapsed and people randomly lost their opportunities for volunteering. Based on a comparison of the change in subjective well-being of these people and of people from the control group who had no change in their volunteer status, the hypothesis is supported that volunteering is rewarding in terms of higher life satisfaction.

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

…we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested.

7. Practice smiling – it can alleviate pain

Smiling itself can make us feel better, but it’s more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts, according to this study:

A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child’s recital – improve their mood and withdraw less.

Of course it’s important to practice “real smiles” where you use your eye sockets. It’s very easy to spot the difference:

Smiling

According to PsyBlogsmiling can improve our attention and help us perform better on cognitive tasks:

Smiling makes us feel good which also increases our attentional flexibility and our ability to think holistically. When this idea was tested by Johnson et al. (2010), the results showed that participants who smiled performed better on attentional tasks which required seeing the whole forest rather than just the trees.

A smile is also a good way to alleviate some of the pain we feel in troubling circumstances:

Smiling is one way to reduce the distress caused by an upsetting situation. Psychologists call this the facial feedback hypothesis. Even forcing a smile when we don’t feel like it is enough to lift our mood slightly (this is one example of embodied cognition).

One of our previous posts goes into even more detail about the science of smiling.

8. Plan a trip – but don’t take one

As opposed to actually taking a holiday, it seems that planning a vacation or just a break from work can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal, Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a vacation as employees enjoyed the sense of anticipation:

In the study, the effect of vacation anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks.

After the vacation, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

Shawn Achor has some info for us on this point, as well:

One study found that people who just thought about watching their favorite movie actually raised their endorphin levels by 27 percent.

If you can’t take the time for a vacation right now, or even a night out with friends, put something on the calendar—even if it’s a month or a year down the road. Then whenever you need a boost of happiness, remind yourself about it.

9. Meditate – rewire your brain for happiness

Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out it’s also useful for improving your happiness:

In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. The study, published in the January issue of Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaging, concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants’ brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank.

Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down, it’s been often proven to be the single most effective way to live a happier life. I believe that this graphic explains it the best:

Before and After Meditation

According to Shawn Achor, meditation can actually make you happier long-term:

Studies show that in the minutes right after meditating, we experience feelings of calm and contentment, as well as heightened awareness and empathy. And, research even shows that regular meditation can permanently rewire the brain to raise levels of happiness.

The fact that we can actually alter our brain structure through mediation is most surprising to me and somewhat reassuring that however we feel and think today isn’t permanent.

We’ve explored the topic of meditation and it’s effects on the brain in-depth before. It’s definitely mind-blowing what this can do to us.

10. Practice gratitude – increase both happiness and life satisfaction

This is a seemingly simple strategy, but I’ve personally found it to make a huge difference to my outlook. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you’re grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.

In an experiment where some participants took note of things they were grateful for each day, their moods were improved just from this simple practice:

The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

The Journal of Happiness studies published a study that used letters of gratitude to test how being grateful can affect our levels of happiness:

Participants included 219 men and women who wrote three letters of gratitude over a 3 week period.

Results indicated that writing letters of gratitude increased participants’ happiness and life satisfaction, while decreasing depressive symptoms.

Quick last fact: Getting older will make yourself happier

As a final point, it’s interesting to note that as we get older, particularly past middle age, we tend togrow happier naturally. There’s still some debate over why this happens, but scientists have got a few ideas:

Researchers, including the authors, have found that older people shown pictures of faces or situations tend to focus on and remember the happier ones more and the negative ones less.

Other studies have discovered that as people age, they seek out situations that will lift their moods — for instance, pruning social circles of friends or acquaintances who might bring them down. Still other work finds that older adults learn to let go of loss and disappointment over un-achieved goals, and hew their goals toward greater wellbeing.

So if you thought being old would make you miserable, rest assured that it’s likely you’ll develop a more positive outlook than you probably have now.

Feel free to leave your thoughts in the comments below!

Source

http://blog.bufferapp.com/10-scientifically-proven-ways-to-make-yourself-happier

http://www.social-consciousness.com/2013/10/ten-simple-things-you-can-do-today-that-will-make-you-happier-backed-by-science.html

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