How happy are you? Does it seem happiness is just for special occasions? If you’ve ever wished you were happier there might be something you can do about it.
When people are happier everyone benefits. Because being happy makes us healthier, friendlier and better able to deal with the setbacks life throws at us.
‘Our happiness is not set in stone’
An organisation called Action for Happiness* seeks to promote happier societies believing that happiness stems from our lives as a whole, and how we choose to live it. www.actionforhappiness.org
They report that
- Our genes influence about 50% of personal happiness.
- Our circumstances affect only about 10%.
- As much as 40% is made up of our daily activities and the conscious choices we make.
Our happiness is influenced not just by our health, or how well-off we are, but also by our personal attitude to life, our sense of purpose and relationships with others.
So no need for wishful thinking—there are recognised steps we can take to make our lives happier and more fulfilling.
How to be happy – the key ideas
Advice from the NHS defines happiness as mental wellbeing—here’s how it goes.
Five steps to mental wellbeing www.nhs.uk/fivesteps
- Connect with others
- Be active
- Keep learning
- Give to others
- Take notice—be aware of yourself and the world
It may seem difficult to change your ways, but once you start you begin to feel increasingly positive, more content and able to control negative thoughts and worries— it’s a good place to be!
Friendships and a good social network help ward off illness and disease and slow down mental decline as we get older.
Physical exercise releases chemicals into your system which lift your mood.
And by giving time to help others we make a contribution, feel involved and a lot better for it.
Keep an eye on yourself
Begin to develop an awareness of your own emotions. Remind yourself to live in the present without fretting about the past or the future. If you recognise negative thoughts creeping in—challenge them before they lower your mood.
There are many more tips—such as eating well, being creative, and appreciating the wider world. But don’t be put off—take it step by step. Start with a smile for yourself, a kind word or a helping hand for someone else and go from there. It takes practice, but it really works!
*Action for Happiness
The organisation promotes happiness, wellbeing and good mental health and offers practical ways to achieve this. The Newcastle group has lively monthly meetings. Contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org
See companion feature Beating the Blues too…