What makes you happy? Can you get happy quickly? Could you do with some happiness hacks? This is a question that I have been pondering a lot recently together with how I can get and stay happy without it being unnatural, too much effort, and not sustainable.
According to the New Economics Foundation (NEF), there are five ways to happiness and wellbeing. Developed by NEF from evidence gathered in the UK government’s Foresight Project, research about mental wellbeing through life, NEF developed the Five Ways to Wellbeing to share the key findings from the research. To date, The Five Ways have been used by health organisations, schools and community projects around the world to help people take action to improve their wellbeing.
So what are the Five Ways to Wellbeing and how can you incorporate them into your life to enhance your own happiness and wellbeing?
The Five Ways to Wellbeing are a set of evidence-based actions which provide a framework to support people to integrate activities into your everyday life, and get your happiness hack on track:
Give – whilst receiving is nice, giving to others, helping others greatly enhances personal wellbeing.
Be active – working out every day, for instance, enables peace of body which helps peace of mind.
Keep learning – we’re designed to learn and grow and have access to so much content available in multi-media formats. One tip is to carve out just 15 minutes per day to read, you’ll be surprised how many books you’ll get through.
Connect – we are social creatures and connection with other, like-minded people makes a huge difference to our wellbeing. Connection doesn’t only mean connecting with other people, you could connect with an animal or even the sun, feeling the huge warmth of the sun on your skin.
Take notice – being aware of every moment is hard, but try to catch yourself judging and consider the positive perspective which will always be there
So have a think about what makes you happy in the context of the 5 Ways to Wellbeing, and integrate these little happiness hacks into your life. In many respects, happiness is deeply personal, but is a choice you have and a skill you can learn. In other words, decide to be happy if you think it’s important and then get to work.
The Five Ways have been used by health organisations, schools and community projects across the UK and around the world to help people take action to improve their wellbeing. They’ve been used in lots of different ways, for example to get people to start thinking about wellbeing, to develop organisational strategy, to measure impact, to assess need, for staff development, and to help people to incorporate more wellbeing-promoting activities into their lives.
How happy you feel is a function of many external and internal factors, however the good news is that there are many things that you can do every day to alter your state and to feel happier, despite what’s going on around you. Here are 10 useful happiness hacks:
1. Show gratitude – it’s so easy to focus on the things that are going wrong. The meetings that didn’t go to plan; the relationship problems; the health worries; the money worries and the macro-economic worries …. that we forget all of the things that are going right for us.
I listened to an inspiring interview with Tracey DiNunzio, the CEO and founder of Tradesy the online second-hand women’s fashion shop, who, inspired by Steven Hawkins, and despite some health issues, refused to allow herself to feel sorry for herself and discovered how to be happy instead.
So, what are you grateful for?
2. Be kind – if you think kind things, you’ll say kind things and you’ll do kind things. Sometimes it’s easy to get into a cycle of blame and misery, criticising others unfairly without even considering to see things from their perspective. It’s also easy to be unkind to those closest to you, including yourself, listening to the inner critic! Do you have an inner critic, or an inner cheerleader?
So train yourself to think kind things and do kind things like volunteering your time to help others less fortunate. There’s plenty of research showing the wellbeing benefits of volunteering, and if time is a major issue, then look up micro-volunteering on Google which allows you to still give back, but in bite-sized chunks of time, as we all can spare 10 minutes in our day.
The Past is Past
3. Don’t regret the past – I have spent a lot of time reflecting on past decisions that, to be frank, were the right things at the time based on the knowledge and information I had then, but in the fullness of time have proved not to be such great decisions. These days I try to catch myself playing the ‘if only’ game and try to focus on drawing on the lessons of the past to help me may better decisions in the present, that will have an impact on the future!
4. Focus on doing something creative every day. This has been one of my big frustrations! Spending my days dealing with things that seem to be preventing me from making a difference to the world. That’s at least how I used to see it which didn’t help with my ‘how to be happy’ plan at all.
Now though, I see the problems coming at me as opportunities to flex my creative problem-solving skills. I’ve also managed to appreciate that though I am a multi-passionate person, I can’t do all of the things I want with the resource I have – and you can’t either. So pick the few things that will make the biggest difference and pour your energies into those.
5. Keep fit and healthy – ah, this is the one that has taken a lot of my focus over the last 20 years. I don’t propose that everyone studies nutrition and other aspects of wellbeing, but let’s remember that we all take our health for granted until it goes wrong and there’s nothing more miserable than being sick! So, keep focused on your wellbeing tools – eating well, exercising, meditating, or whatever works for you. Yes, these things take time, but as longevity expert and lifetime raw foodie Peter Pure once told me: ‘I’d rather spend 5 minutes juicing per day, than hours in the doctor’s surgery’.
Enjoy Being Happy!
6. Experience life – life is a set of experiences and we all like different things. For me, I love travelling, doing sports, going to art exhibitions, eating in great restaurants, going to the cinema, hanging out with friends and family, and last year I had lots of these experiences which stand out in my memory. What experiences stand out for you?
7. Don’t obsess over numbers. Some people, myself included, can get a bit fanatical about numbers. With the aid of personal wearables, we can now count and track so many aspects of our lives. However, this constant counting can get in the way of happiness, so use numbers as a guide, as a means to an end, to help you make decisions that help you lead a good life.
8. Love! We all have an enormous capacity to love, but can hold ourselves back. Give love into the world, starting with those closest to you and then receive love back. Nothing more to say on this one.
9. Let go. Many of us are ‘control freaks’ and we want to control every aspect of our lives. Sometimes, though, you’ve just got to let go and be the true, authentic, you. I know that isn’t always easy, but sometimes you’ve just got to do it! Forgiveness is so important. Forgive those around you, don’t blame others for your own actions and forgive yourself too. You’re just mortal after all. Nelson Mandela knew how to be happy and so can you!
10. Have faith – we’re all heading to the same place and I know we don’t like to think about it in our culture. Yet we’re here for a while, so have faith, dream bigger, and act with confidence! This is something that I haven’t had in my life, until recently when faith and belief have come into my world and made a massive difference to my happiness.
So now you have some tools in your kit to feel happier. Start by trying a few, then you will be on your way! Why not make a note in your calendar, put a post-it on your fridge, and engage your family with some of these great ideas – and let me know how you get on.
Lawrence is a Transformational Business & Lifestyle Coach and can help you reach your goals. To get in touch, contact him here.
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I got the inspiration for these from Simon Shephard the CEO of Optima Life who asked a simple question at an event I attended: ‘Stand up if you’re interested in health and happiness’. Of course, everyone stood up. But the catch came at the end of his session when the question changed to: ‘Stand up if you’re committed to health and happiness’. Now that’s a very different question, and there weren’t so many people standing then!
How committed are you to your own health and happiness?
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