Day-to-day life is a whirlwind of appointments, bills, deadlines, sleepless nights, fast food, and hierarchy—and all of this can be overwhelming and downright stressful. It’s no wonder that 14.8 million Americans suffer from some degree of depression.1 But we can be happier.

With this epidemic on the rise, it’s essential that we begin to take steps, even the smallest ones, to help diminish it. While there isn’t a one-size-fits-all cure for creating a happier, healthier world, there are some key lifestyle choices utilized by the Paleo community that may aid in living a life less gloomy. While these habits may not be directly tested to see if they assist in providing happiness, the science seems to point to improving areas of life that could potentially assist in a more joyful existence.

Many Paleo enthusiasts have found a way to kick the anti-depression meds to the curb, which in turn keeps their wallet a tad bit fuller (one less thing to stress about), by implementing lifestyle habits that keep them uplifted emotionally, physically and mentally.

Improved Brain Function

Who doesn’t love a quick wit? Not only are individuals who follow a Paleo diet more likely to recall information and past occurrences at the drop of a dime, they also tend to maintain their cool more easily than do their grain-brained counterparts. The secret? A diet high in omega-3 foods. Instead of scarfing down a bowl of pasta for dinner, they are cooking up a luscious, juicy filet of salmon with a side of colorful veggies.

Studies suggest that by consuming foods that contain omega-3, individuals can expect to see an increase in cognitive and behavioral function.2 These omega-3s can be found in cold-water fish such as salmon, mackerel and sardines; healthy fats like walnuts; vegetables such as cauliflower, broccoli and Brussels sprouts and pastured eggs.

That said, it’s essential to maintain an omega-3 and omega-6 balance. The issue with most diets is that the omega-6 ratio is much higher than omega-3. While it is recommended to keep your omega-6–omega-3 ratio anywhere between 1-to-1 and 5-to-1, most Americans’ range from 20-to-1 to 50-to-1.3 A higher ratio can lead to greater inflammation and systemic distress, and potentially illness. To avoid overconsumption of omega-6, remove highly oxidized, processed foods and polyunsaturated fats.

Easily Maintain a Sexy Body

Not only does a Paleo diet reduce inflammation above the shoulders, it minimizes inflammation below the shoulders, resulting in a lean bod. Those filling their belly with Paleo-approved foods tend to have less body fat and slimmer waists. Whether you want to admit it or not, rocking a hot body is a confidence booster and, no doubt, a drop in one’s happiness bucket.

The ability to maintain control over your weight and body is an added bonus—Paleo gives you this freedom. Eating a nutritious, Paleolithic diet has been shown to reduce ectopic fat.4 Ectopic fat is the unflattering stuff that accumulates in unwanted areas due to a poor diet—think beer-and-pizza gut.

All of that said, don’t think that going Paleo will help you lose a couple pounds instantaneously. Combining a Paleo diet with an increase in movement is the ultimate recipe for a lean, toned body and easy weight management.

Playtime

Can you recall the last time you played? When you set aside your phone, cleared your mind of tasks, tapped into your childlike self and allowed yourself to dream up a mystical world? If it takes more than two seconds to recall, that probably means it’s time to schedule a playdate.

Our playful ability gives us reason to explore, create and test new waters, allowing us to grow, expand and develop more holistically. As Einstein said, “Imagination is more important than knowledge. For while knowledge defines all we currently know and understand, imagination points to all we might yet discover and create.” Playtime allows us to imagine the impossible—and from that, to evolve, create and invent.

Paleo followers believe that play is an essential part of a daily routine, and with good reason. Aside from playing for creative development, it opens up opportunities for teamwork, which helps us create friendships and bonds—an essential key for human happiness. It also allows us to leave stress on the sidelines and get into our “flow.” It creates problem-solving scenarios, which give us the opportunity to intellectually advance. These are all characteristics the typical human strives for in order to live a happy and healthy life.

Hangry-Free Community

It could easily be assumed that while you won’t find many hangry Paleo lovers, they were the ones who coined the word hangry—a state of anger or frustration resulting in a lack of food. Simply put, hunger causes a negative change in one’s emotional state. It makes sense that while those on a Paleo diet tend to be satiated longer, thanks to a diet filled with nutritious, hormone-friendly foods. A Paleo cupboard and fridge is filled with foods that not only regulate your hormones, but also contain the essential micronutrients to keep a busy person full longer. One study even found that a Paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than other common diets.5

The foods that make up a Paleo diet keep insulin from spiking then crashing and leading to one hangry, scary human being. When your tank is full, you can go about your daily tasks with ease and joy. Next time you come face to face with a hangry friend or family member, do them a favor and give them some Paleo snacks to get them back on the happy train—you’ll be doing yourself, and the world as a whole, a huge favor.

More Uninterrupted Sleep

Primal enthusiasts pride themselves in living a life less hectic and more like our ancestors. One essential guideline, and one that for some is non-negotiable, is getting a significant amount of sleep. Spending extra time under the covers not only improves cognitive function, but it also helps to minimize depression and lift spirits.

It seems like a no-brainer to make an effort to get more sleep in order to improve not only your mood but your creativity, lower inflammation, and help more easily manage your weight, yet according to the Center for Disease Control, 30 percent of Americans walk around like sleep deprived zombies. Paleo enthusiasts who honor their bodies and turn in for a good night’s sleep each evening, reap the physical and mental benefits of their coveted slumber and are generally more uplifted throughout their day.

We were meant to be happy and there is no reason it should be a challenge to find it. Simply adding these five habits into your life, as many Paleo individuals have, is a painless and easy way to create a life filled with more happiness and simplicity.

References

1 Archives of General Psychiatry, 2005 Jun; 62(6): 617-27.

2  Mercola J. “Major Trouble Ahead if You Don’t Fix Omega-3 Fat Deficiency.” Mercola.com. 12 January 2012. http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/01/12/aha-position-on-omega-6-fats.aspx.

3 NMD, Ehrlich S. “Omega-3 Fatty Acids.” University of Maryland Medical Center. 5 August 2015. http://umm.edu/health/medical/altmed/supplement/omega3-fatty-acids#ixzz3BpvzHsG

4 Ryberg M, Sandberg S, Mellberg C, Stegle O, Lindahl B, et al. “A Paleolithic-type diet causes strong tissue-specific effects on ectopic fat deposition in obese postmenopausal women.” Department of Public Health and Clinical Medicine.(2013): 67-76. DOI: 10.1111/joim.12048.

5 Jonsson T, Granfeldt Y, Erlanson-Albertsson C, Ahren B, Lindeberg S. “A paleolithic diet is more satiating per calorie than a mediterranean-like diet in individuals with ischemic heart disease.” Nutrition & Metabolism. (2010) DOI: 10.1186/1743-7075-7-85. http://nutritionandmetabolism.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1743-7075-7-8