1. Move your body—even if it's just a stretch.
First things first, set yourself up for success: Exercise stimulates the release of happy chemicals, like dopamine, serotonin, and endorphins, which all play a role in regulating mood, feelings of happiness, and an overall sense of well-being. "Moving every day releases stress from the body as well as the mind," says Jason Williams, NASM-certified personal trainer and fitness author. But if you're strapped for time, just stretch it out: "Start your morning with a lunge hip flexor stretch," he suggests. "Hip flexor stretches are amazing because whether you sit or stand a lot during the day, it's a great stretch for the lower back and posture."
2. Eat one thing you *really* love.
As if you needed further convincing on this one, take it from cookbook author and Healthier Together podcast host Liz Moody: "We eat so much just to fill up because we're in a rush or because we think something is 'healthy.' I always encourage people to eat at least one meal that they're truly excited about because if they're truly excited, it's likely something that's making them feel good mentally and physically." It's all about striking the right balance between big and small choices. Personally, for mbg's contributing food editor, that one thing is "definitely some type of veggie taco on a homemade cassava tortilla, topped with lots and lots of hot sauce!"
3. Intentionally connect with someone IRL.
As humans, we're social creatures, so it's no surprise that deepening the relationships in our life is "one of the most important things that we can do for our health," as Jillian Richardson, founder of The Joy List and author of Unlonely Planet, tells us. But these days it's easy to mistake liking your friend's posts on social media for actual connection—and the cost can really add up over time. Research has found that "people who are isolated are less happy, their health declines earlier in midlife, and they live shorter lives than people who are not lonely," Jillian explains.
"A simple way to ensure that we feel connected is to let the important people in our lives know that they matter to us. Be vulnerable and say that you want to spend more time with someone. This increased intimacy will benefit the both of you." Next time you find yourself in another endless scrolling session, you know what to do.
4. Celebrate that small win.
This is a big one. No matter what's filling the bulk of your time and energy at the moment—parenthood, career, relationships, grief—you have to remind yourself daily that you got this! We're all learning as we grow, and research tells us that positive reinforcement for any and all progress is one of the best ways to stay motivated to reach our goals. An act as simple as popping open a refreshing Zevia USDA Organic and Fair Trade Certified Tea in that flavor you love (hello, Hibiscus Passionfruit!) is all it takes—see point No. 2. Nurturing yourself in this way is an important expression of self-love with instant feel-good benefits.
5. Actually do something about that stress.
No life is totally free from stress, and the reality is that some stress serves a helpful purpose. But unhealthy stress? That messes with our joy, fast. "While some day-to-day stress isn't harmful to our health, long-term chronic stress can lead to a host of physical, emotional, mental, and interpersonal issues," says Ashley Neese, breathwork teacher and author of How To Breathe: 25 Simple Practices for Calm, Joy, and Resilience. And it's worth pointing out that women are more likely than men to feel stressed out and experience physical and emotional symptoms related to stress on a regular basis, according to a survey by the American Psychological Association.
"It's essential that we take inventory of our symptoms, get honest about what needs to shift, and create sustainable solutions and daily practices to address the stress head-on," Ashley adds. Good thing we've got plenty of options to counteract stress's negative impact daily: Get outside if you can; laugh at the funny memes you've bookmarked (remember those feel-good chemicals from the first point? Laughter is the shortcut); or just do a quick breathing exercise—here's Ashley's go-to 60-second breathing technique for calming down.
6. Simply say, "Thank you."
One word here: gratitude. Danielle Dowling, Psy.D., a doctor of psychology and a life coach, tells her clients that the "most powerful mantra to state every day and all day for greater joy, freedom, and expansion is 'thank you.'" Whether it's directed at someone you care about or the universe in general, when you make that single mental shift toward gratitude and approach your day from a place of appreciation, "you'll find that it's like creating a snowball of energy, and then you don't have to climb uphill all the time." Cheers to that!