What is happiness?
We often use the term to describe a range of positive emotions, including joy, pride, contentment, and gratitude.
Positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful, and worthwhile.”
Ten keys to happier living
Everyone’s path to happiness is different, but the research suggests these Ten Keys consistently tend to have a positive impact on people’s overall happiness and well-being. Each has a related question to help us think about how our activities and attitudes affect our well-being and the well-being of the others around us (Action for Happiness, 2016)
GIVING: Do things for others Caring about others is fundamental to our happiness. Helping other people is not only good for them and a great thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also creates stronger connections between people and helps to build a happier society for everyone.
RELATING: Relationships are the most important overall contributor to happiness. People with strong and broad social relationships are happier, healthier and live longer. Close relationships with family and friends provide love, meaning, support and increase our feelings of self worth. Broader networks bring a sense of belonging. So taking action to strengthen our relationships and create new connections is essential for happiness.
What relationships are important to you and why?
EXERCISING: Our body and our mind are connected. Being active makes us happier as well as being good for our physical health. It improves our mood and can even help with depression. We don't all need to run marathons - there are simple things we can all do to be more active each day. We can also boost our well being by, getting outside and making sure we get enough sleep.
How do you stay active and healthy?
APPRECIATING: Learning to be more mindful and aware can do wonders for our well-being in all areas of life - like our walk to work, the way we eat or our relationships. It helps us get in tune with our feelings and stops us dwelling on the past or worrying about the future - so we get more out of the day-to-day.
When do you stop and take notice?
TRYING OUT: Learning affects our well-being in lots of positive ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence. There are many ways to learn new things.
What new things have you tried recently?
DIRECTION: Feeling good about the future is important for our happiness. We all need goals to motivate us and these need to be challenging enough to excite us, but also achievable. If we try to attempt the impossible this brings unnecessary stress. Choosing ambitious but realistic goals gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.
What are your most important goals?
RESILIENCE: All of us have times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. But how we respond to these has a big impact on our well-being. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose our own attitude to what happens.
How do you bounce back in tough times?
EMOTION: Positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration, and pride – are not just great at the time. Recent research shows that regularly experiencing them creates an 'upward spiral', helping to build our resources. So although we need to be realistic about life's ups and downs, it helps to focus on the good aspects of any situation – the glass half full rather than the glass half empty.
What are you feeling good about?
ACCEPTANCE: No-one's perfect. But so often we compare our insides to other people's outsides. Dwelling on our flaws - what we're not rather than what we've got - makes it much harder to be happy. Learning to accept ourselves and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong, increases our enjoyment of life, and well-being.
MEANING: People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress. It might be job that makes a difference.
What gives your life meaning?