Happy World Happiness Day!
It’s World Happiness Day today which may seem odd to you, given that happiness is such a fundamental part of life which virtually everyone strives for.
But what is happiness? Defining it is difficult as happiness is actually a state of mind. What makes you happy may be quite different from what makes your someone else happy as I’m sure you have discovered.
Many of us, though, in the Western world are not as happy as we could be right now. One recent Harris Poll, for instance, found that only one in three Americans said they’re very happy, which means, of course, that two out of three are not!
Today therefore is an opportunity to reflect and to consider how, on World Happiness Day, you could bring more happiness into your life. There are indeed proven, very cost effective ways to make yourself happier starting from today.
Below are a list of actions known as ‘The Happiness Manifesto’, taken from the BBC project – ‘Making Slough Happy‘ that you can take to improve your happiness.
1. Get physical Exercise for half an hour three times a week.
Regular exercise improves your sense of wellbeing and reduces stress. It can help you to feel better about your body while also boosting levels of health-promoting brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress. In other words, exercise is a great tool to help you immediately enhance your frame of mind, reduce stress and feel happier.
There’s also significant evidence to show that exercise can improve your mental health, with none of the side effects common to pharmaceutical remedies. For example, a Duke University team studied three groups that tried exercise only, exercise plus drugs, and drugs only, to see what treatment best treated depression. They found that 10 months later, it was the exercise-only group that was most successful in maintaining wellness and avoiding a depression relapse!
2. Count your blessings
At the end of each day, reflect on at least five things you’re grateful for. Everyone has things in their life for which they can be grateful as Psychologist Richard Stevens explains: “What you think about influences how you feel. If you spend all the time thinking about problems, as some people do, you’re unlikely to feel very happy. Spend more time thinking about these and you’ll feel a lot better. Positive affirmations Dealing with negative thoughts
3. Talk time.
Have an hour-long uninterrupted conversation with your partner or closest friend each week. Talking to friends is a good chance to share your feelings and experiences, and a chance to catch up on the latest gossip! Expressing your emotions can help you to think more positively about life.
4. Plant something.
Even if it’s a window-box or pot plant. Keep it alive! Growing plants gives a sense of achievement. You could grow some herbs on your kitchen windowsill.
5. Spend time outside
Simply going outside to get some fresh air and sunshine boosts mood, broadens thinking and improves working memory. One study found that it takes just 20 minutes outdoors to make most people happier, while other research showed that happiness is maximized when it’s 57 degrees F outside.
6. Help others
Volunteering can lower your risk of depression and anxiety, and significantly boost your psychological well-being. Not only does it keep you active and on your feet, but there’s a definite social aspect as well, both of which contribute to happiness.
Volunteering to help others also gives you a greater sense of purpose and can even lead to a so-called “helper’s high,” which may occur because doing good things releases feel-good hormones like oxytocin in your body while lowering levels of stress hormones like cortisol.
7. Cut your TV viewing by half
There’s good evidence that too much TV is linked to unhappiness, perhaps because it uses up the time we could spend on things that do make us happy: time with our partners, exercise, learning new skills, socialising, even gardening!
Controlling children’s TV viewing is also important – as I’ve been learning at home.
8. Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger
At least once a day. Smiling has a real positive effect, not only on making you feel better, but also on other people around you. It’s hard for other people not to respond positively to you if you’re smiling.
9. Phone a friend
Make contact with at least one friend or relation you’ve not been in contact with for a while and arrange to meet up. Having a strong social network makes you feel supported and secure, which, in turn, leads to feeling content.
10. Have a good laugh at least once a day.
It’s often said that laughter is the best medicine. It’s a great stress reliever.
11. Every day make sure you give yourself a treat and take time to really enjoy it!
Be good to yourself and Make more time for you.
12. Daily kindness.
Do a good turn for someone each day. Think about volunteering.
If there is one common thread to the tips above, it is that the factors that increase happiness tend to do so from the inside, rather than from external sources.
Let me leave you with a couple of great quotes – the first from the Dalai Lama:
‘In the West you have bigger homes, yet smaller families, you have endless conveniences, yet you never seem to have time. You can travel the world, yet you don’t cross the road to meet your neighbour. You have more food that you can eat, yet that makes people miserable. The West’s problem is that people have become too absorbed’.
And the second from motivational speaker Denis Waitley
“Happiness cannot be traveled to, owned, earned, worn or consumed. Happiness is the spiritual experience of living every minute with love, grace, and gratitude.“
Food for thought. Enjoy World Happiness Day!