How do you value yourself? In many cultures, including my own, we are taught that our value is directly related to our work. Especially, how hard we work. No-one wants to be caught lounging around. If you’re not being useful all hours of the day, how else can you deserve your self-worth?

I spend much of my time travelling the world spending time with people who have also left all security and stability behind. All these people are roaming the world in pursuit of happiness. With varying levels of success in their mission, mind you. But the conversations around the dinner table are mostly about our good fortune, our luck and the broad range of choices we have. Uplifting, lighthearted and aware.

Every few months I get on a plane back to Amsterdam to touch base. Within a few hours, I feel the difference. Very few of my friends are doing well, are thriving. Almost everyone seems to be too busy getting by to even worry about happiness. I get it! Thinking back, that my lifestyle with all its freedom has made room for a stress-free existence for the first time in my life. I remember being stressed even in primary school, wondering how feeling like that could be worth it.

Time to turn it around! Because great change comes in little steps (it sounds like something someone would have said), let’s take a look at a few practical things we can do to kill the stress and pump up that happiness. Practical things that work, also when you’re not a positivity guru.

1. Talk the good talk

Most people are aware of the power of the words they speak. The words we think, however, get less attention. Thinking good thoughts, uplifting thoughts and filling your mind with positive words can do a whole lot of good.

2. Be grateful

We see what we focus on. Thinking of buying a specific car, you’ll suddenly see them all around you. This also works for gratitude. Make a list of 5 things you’re grateful for every day and you’ll start looking for beauty throughout the day. Oprah said so, there’s no arguing with Oprah.

3. Stop and smell the flowers

Nature is incredible and can be incredibly hard to come by when you live in a city. It’s definitely worth the effort of seeking out because a mere 20 minutes in nature makes your body drop stress hormones like they’re hot.

4. Work that body

Exercising is an excellent form of stress reduction. “But I’m too busy and too stressed for stress reduction!” NO! No more excuses. Be happy and go spinning. Or dancing. Or boxing.

5. Belly laughs

Laugh! Find a comedy show, surround yourself with funny kids or animals and joke around with your friends. Laugh!

All these stress reduction techniques are great preventative tools but sometimes when everything is too much, these are not enough. When you feel overwhelmed and drained in a way no amount of positive thinking can cure, seek professional help. It helps.

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