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Sarah Getch, PhD, Program Director/Associate Professor of Health Service Psychology at Kansas City University has a few ideas to improve our mental health and happiness. She says it all starts with connections.

“Happiness is not derived by a certain amount of money, the dream house or tropical vacations. Relationships are where it’s at,” Getch said.

Reliable and consistent sources of support and care increase self-esteem, decrease depression and give us the fortitude to withstand life’s challenges. Building fulfilling relationships is a lifelong process. You are never too old to forge deep and meaningful connections with others. You do not need a lot of relationships to be happy, just solid ones you can count on—choose quality over quantity.

According to Getch, there is a biological response when we reach out and help others. Volunteering is a wonderful way to make new connections around a shared idea or cause. Other roads to happiness include some tried and true daily practices.

Happiness Habits:

  1. Acknowledge the good. Even in the roughest patches, look for the good. You may find it in the unexpected, such as kindness from a stranger.
  2. Practice gratitude. Focusing on the positives in life rather than entertaining negative thoughts can have a profound impact on your overall well-being. Developing a habit of thankfulness will help you find moments of gratitude in everyday life.
  3. Serve others. It is often said if you are sad or lonely, go do something for someone else. There is a reason for that. A biological response takes place when we engage with others.
  4. Connect with others. It can be in person, by phone, or by text. However, you do it – just reach out to others. You and they will be glad you did.
    The research continues to underscore the connection between mental and physical health. Relationships can lower stress levels, boost the immune system and even reduce the risk of heart disease. As people develop these strong relationship habits, other positive choices such as healthy eating and exercise tend to follow.