Everyone’s take on happiness and what makes them happy varies.
Action For Happiness are a movement of people taking action to create a happier and kinder world. Their work is evidence based and grounded in the core beliefs that happiness matters, actions make a difference and it’s ok not to be ok.
Based on research, Action for Happiness have identified 10 keys that tend to make life happier and more fulfilling. Together they spell GREAT DREAM.
Helping others and being kind not only contributes to the happiness of others, it can also help us to feel happier ourselves! Studies have shown that when we do kind things it literally gives our brain a boost, activating its ‘reward centre’ and that feels good.
Whether these connections are with our partners, families, friends, work colleagues, neighbours or others in our communities, they can all contribute to happiness and resilience. So taking action to build, maintain and strengthen our relationships is important.
There are lots of ways we can look after ourselves physically - exercising, moving more during the day, getting enough rest, eating nourishing food, staying hydrated and getting out into daylight. These all directly impact how well we feel and function. They can be instant mood boosters as well as being good for our mental and physical health in the long term.
Being mindful can be a solid foundation for wellbeing. Studies show the practice of mindfulness can reduce stress levels, help us manage our emotions and reactions, tune in better to how we and others are feeling and develop compassion for ourselves and others. This helps us make wiser choices, can boost our relationships and mean we feel happier and calmer. It can have benefits in school and in the workplace too.
Being open to new experiences and learning fuels our wellbeing, boosts our confidence and our creativity and can be fulfilling – whatever our age. Learning is not just for school but for life – in fact, evidence shows that continuing to learn, even later in life, can help us feel good and function well
Having a sense of direction, optimism and hope can all contribute to feeling happier.
An optimistic or hopeful outlook means we are more likely to experience positive emotions, feel more confident, have higher satisfaction with life, have better physical health and are less likely to be depressed
We all experience small daily frustrations and everyday stresses and at times, bigger upsets, failures, unexpected change and challenges. Many of us will also experience traumatic events at some point in our lives such as the loss of someone we love, the sudden loss of our job, an accident or serious illness. Being resilient doesn’t mean we will never feel pain, upset, hurt, sadness, fear or anger when we experience difficult times. It means in the moment or over time we can find ways to cope constructively, accept what has happened, adapt and eventually move forward.
Emotions are more than feelings. They include momentary physiological changes which influence our actions and add up. Whilst unpleasant emotions like fear evolved to help us survive by avoiding danger, for example, by triggering a ‘fight, flight or freeze response, it wasn’t until relatively recently that the power of pleasant emotional experiences was also recognised.
How we feel about ourselves can have a big influence on how happy and resilient we are. Accepting that, like all human beings, we have strengths and imperfections, we’ll make mistakes and sometimes fail is an important component of psychological well being
When we ask people what happiness means to them, their initial thoughts usually describe pleasures – things that in the moment bring joy or other fleeting, positive feeling emotions. However, soon their thoughts turn to a different type of happiness. Friends, family, pets, work, volunteering, learning, hobbies, creative pursuits like making music or art, nature, faith – examples of things that give life meaning. Working on and towards these things doesn’t always feel pleasurable at the time but enables longer-term satisfaction and fulfilment.
Now more than ever, in this tough world we live in, we hope that these 10 keys can encourage people to be mindful of their own happiness and the happiness of those around us.
If you want to learn more about happiness and how to increase your wellbeing and help others go to actionforhappiness.org for more information and resources.
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