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How To Be Happy

29 Sep 2010

Top tips for banishing the blues – no pills required!

According to the World Health Organisation, around 120 million people worldwide are suffering from depression, making it the fourth most common disease in the world. But new research suggests that by making a few simple lifestyle changes, we can instantly boost our mood. Instead of turning to anti-depressants, Dr Steve Ilardi, author of new book The Depression Cure, advocates a six-step “lifestyle based” cure – more human contact, more worthwhile pastimes, more exercise, a better diet, more sunlight and more sleep. Star Style discovers the new formula for happiness…

Socialise And Skype
Dr Ilardi argues that while many of us are tempted to “crawl into a hole and wait for it all to go way,” when we’re feeling down, what we really need is more human contact. Face-to-face interaction with your nearest and dearest can vanquish loneliness and give you a sense of social connectedness, he says, adding “Skype is less alienating than voice calls.”

Become A Doer
Dr Ilardi points out that sitting around dwelling on negative thoughts only exacerbates depression. While scholar Matthhieu Ricard adds, “Stop wasting all your effort on taking care of yourself alone. Altruism and compassion are the roots of genuine happiness.” And, recent research in the US claims that people who give to charity are 42 per cent more likely to be happy than non-givers. Visit www.volunteerindubai.comto find out how you can get involved locally.

Exercise In The Sun
While it’s long been accepted that exercise can boost feel-good endorphins in the brain, Dr Ilardi goes one-step further and argues that our bodies are built for an active outdoor lifestyle. “Our genome hasn’t moved on since 12,000 years ago, when everyone on the planet were hunter-gatherers. Hunter-gatherer tribes still exist today in some parts of the world, and their level of depression is almost zero. The reasons? They’re too busy to sit around brooding. They get lots of physical activity and sunlight.”

The solution is simple, says Dr Ilardi, especially given the UAE’s year-round sunshine – “Get 15-30 minutes of sunlight each morning and at least 90 minutes of outdoor exercise a week.”

Sleep and Eat Better
As well as including plenty of feel-good folic acid in your diet, with lots of leafy greens, and boosting your omega-3 intake with plenty of cold water fish such as salmon, sardines and anchovies, Dr Ilardi recommends upping your omega-3 and vitamin intake with dietary supplements. “The devil is in the detail,” he warns. “Taking supplements is a complex business. You need anti-oxidants (vitamin C) to ensure that the fish oil is effective, as well as a multivitamin.” The perfect dosage? “Take 1,500mg of omega-3 daily (in the form of fish oil capsules), with a multivitamin and 500mg of vitamin C.”
And Dr Ilardi is just as precise when it comes to the amount of sleep we should be getting to maximise our happiness potential – “We need eight. At the moment we average 6.7.”

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