It can be hard to feel happy with all the unexpected twists and turns our hectic days can take. Still, we know there’s much to be grateful for — if only we could take a step back from our busy, stressful lives to appreciate them.
With its picturesque coastlines, 273 sunny days a year and a casual, laid-back vibe, Ventura, California is packed with all the perks that lead to happy living. So, we asked our friends in the beachy SoCal town to share some of their secrets to feeling positive. Here are 10 feel-good moves to boost your mood and help you appreciate the magic of today.
1. Try kayaking or stand-up paddle boarding.
It’s impossible not to feel good when you’re peacefully gliding across the water — especially when you can explore the stunning sea caves and coves around Channel Island National Park. No wonder: Turns out negative ions — invisible air molecules found in abundance near beaches — have been shown to increase levels of the feel-good hormone serotonin in the body, acting as a natural antidepressant. The mood-boosting air particles are also found near waterfalls and rapids, so explore nearby lakes and rivers if you can’t get to the beach.
2. Practice aerial yoga.
Feel like you’re carrying the weight of the world on your shoulders? Take a load off with an aerial yoga class. Not only will you get a great workout (a major mood booster), but also the weightless sensation of dangling from the ceiling in a soft silk hammock is incredibly freeing for the body and mind.
3. Ditch your car.
Moving at a slower pace, you’ll see and appreciate more traveling on foot than you do driving in your car. Plus, many towns like Ventura offer plenty of activities in easy walking distance — from wine bars and boutiques to historic sites, live local music and happy hour drinks with views of the sun setting over the Pacific.
4. Take an art class.
Artists get a bad rap for having tortured souls, but tapping into your creative side can actually make you feel more positive. According to research from the University of North Carolina-Greensboro, people who reported feeling happy were more likely to be doing something creative at the time. Sign up for a painting or pottery class — or skip the TV marathon and visit a local art gallery with friends for some creative inspiration.
5. Shop the farmers market.
Nothing feels better than nourishing your body with fresh, organic foods. Ditch the grocery store and get to know the local producers at your farmers market. You'll have access to quality food and make connections with your neighbors that make you feel like a bigger part of your community. Ventura’s rich history of ranching and farming makes its farmers markets some of the best in the country where you can buy ocean fish fresh off the boat. Visitor can also visit the town’s Agricultural Museum to learn more about its foodie history.
6. Practice kindness.
Helping others doesn’t just feel good, it can improve your mental health and may even help you live longer, a study in the journal BMC Public Health shows. Engage in your community by donating your time to help organize town events, help out at local schools or volunteer at a local soup kitchen.
Studies show too much time with our tech toys can make us feel lonely and depressed. Power down your devices and send time on the small stuff. Cruise the beach and hunt for sea glass and sand dollars, build rock sculptures or watch the surfers and dolphins play in the waves off the shore.
8. Take a hike.
Going on a group nature walk is linked to lower feelings of stress and depression and higher levels of wellbeing, a study from the University of Michigan reveals. And we can’t think of a better way to enjoy the great outdoors than a beach hike to Smugglers Cove in the Channel Islands or strolling through the beautiful (and family-friendly) Ventura Harbor Wetlands Ecological Reserve.
9. Bike the PCH.
We dare you to try and not smile while zipping down the Pacific Coast Highway on a bike with the sun on your skin and the wind in your hair. Feel-good fact: Research shows pedaling can reduce stress levels and feelings of depression.
10. Book a trip.
Planning a vacay gives us something fun to look forward to, boosting happiness for up to 8 weeks, a Dutch study finds. Try to maximize vacation anticipation by booking multiple short getaways a year, rather than one long vacation.
Photo courtesy of the author