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Every Day Should be a Day of Happiness


As we're sure you know, today is the UN's International Day of Happiness. It's great to have a day to focus on happiness, but we think EVERY day should be a day of happiness, don't you? This quote sums it up "Every day may not be good, but there is always something good in every day." We understand that everyone has bad days, but even in those bad days there will be something good that you can focus on and be happy about. The kindness of a friend, a door held open for you, a seat on the train, your child's smile and a hug when you get home... there are lots of little silver linings in even the worst of days.

So how do we go about getting into the "happy habit"? We wrote a blog The 5 Habits of Happy People last year that gave you some tips, but there's evidence that there are actually 10 ways you can be a happier person and make every day a happy one.

1. Practice Being Grateful

This is a seemingly simple strategy, but I've tried it and found it makes a huge difference to my outlook and general feeling of happiness. There are lots of ways to practice gratitude, from keeping a journal of things you're grateful for, sharing three good things that happen each day with a friend or your partner, and going out of your way to show gratitude when others help you.

In an experiment where some participants took note of things they were grateful for each day, their moods were improved just from this simple practice:

The gratitude-outlook groups exhibited heightened well-being across several, though not all, of the outcome measures across the 3 studies, relative to the comparison groups. The effect on positive affect appeared to be the most robust finding. Results suggest that a conscious focus on blessings may have emotional and interpersonal benefits.

2. Spend More Time with Friends and Family

Did you know that not staying in touch with friends and family is one of the top five regrets of the dying? Social time is highly valuable when it comes to improving our happiness, even for introverts. Several studies have found that time spent with friends and family makes a big difference to how happy we feel, generally.

We love Harvard happiness expert Daniel Gilbert's explaination:

"We are happy when we have family, we are happy when we have friends and almost all the other things we think make us happy are actually just ways of getting more family and friends."

3. Get Outside

In The Happiness Advantage, Shawn Achor recommends spending time in the fresh air to improve your happiness:

"Making time to go outside on a nice day also delivers a huge advantage; one study found that spending 20 minutes outside in good weather not only boosted positive mood, but broadened thinking and improved working memory..."

This is great news for those of us who are worried about fitting new habits into our busy schedules. Twenty minutes is a short enough time to spend outside that you could fit it into your commute or even your lunch break. Perfect.

A study from the University of Sussex also found that being outdoors made people happier:

"Being outdoors, near the sea, on a warm, sunny weekend afternoon is the perfect spot for most. In fact, participants were found to be substantially happier outdoors in all natural environments than they were in urban environments."

4. Help Others

Evidence shows that to make yourself feel happier, you should help others. In fact, 100 hours per year (or two hours per week) is the optimal time we should dedicate to helping others in order to enrich our lives.

The Journal of Happiness Studies published a study that explored this very topic:

"Participants recalled a previous purchase made for either themselves or someone else and then reported their happiness. Afterward, participants chose whether to spend a monetary windfall on themselves or someone else. Participants assigned to recall a purchase made for someone else reported feeling significantly happier immediately after this recollection; most importantly, the happier participants felt, the more likely they were to choose to spend a windfall on someone else in the near future."

So spending money on other people makes us happier than buying stuff for ourselves.

In his book Flourish: A Visionary New Understanding of Happiness and Well-being, University of Pennsylvania professor Martin Seligman explains that helping others can improve our own lives:

"...we scientists have found that doing a kindness produces the single most reliable momentary increase in well-being of any exercise we have tested."

5. Smile

Smiling itself can make us feel better, but it's more effective when we back it up with positive thoughts. A new study led by a Michigan State University business scholar suggests customer-service workers who fake smile throughout the day worsen their mood and withdraw from work, affecting productivity. But workers who smile as a result of cultivating positive thoughts – such as a tropical vacation or a child's recital – improve their mood and withdraw less.

Of course it's important to practice "real smiles" where you use your eye sockets. It's very easy to spot the difference!

6. Exercise More Often

Exercise can have a dramatic impact on your wellbeing. It boosts levels of health-promoting brain chemicals like serotonin, dopamine, and norepinephrine, which may help buffer some of the effects of stress.

7. Get a Good Night's Sleep

We know this is easier said than done, especially if you're the parent of a small child, but a lack of sleep makes it more difficult to recall pleasant memories – funnily enough, not so pleasant memories are recalled easily. Lack of sleep may also make you more susceptible to negative emotions like fear and anger, but if you're lucky enough to grab a nap it can enhance positive emotions.

Sleep deprivation has been linked to anxiety and depression, while getting the right amount of sleep has been linked to positive personality characteristics such as optimism and greater self-esteem, as well as a greater ability to solve difficult problems.

8. Shorten Your Commute

Our commute to the office can have a surprisingly powerful impact on our happiness. The fact that we tend to do this twice a day, five days a week, makes it unsurprising that its effect would build up over time and make us less and less happy.

According to The Art of Manliness, having a long commute is something we often fail to realize will affect us so dramatically:

"... while many voluntary conditions don't affect our happiness in the long term because we acclimate to them, people never get accustomed to their daily slog to work because sometimes the traffic is awful and sometimes it's not. Or as Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert put it, "Driving in traffic is a different kind of hell every day."

We tend to try to compensate for this by having a bigger house or a better job, but these compensations just don't work:

"...Two Swiss economists who studied the effect of commuting on happiness found that such factors could not make up for the misery created by a long commute."

9. Plan a Holiday

It seems that planning a holiday or just a break from work, as opposed to actually taking a holiday, can improve our happiness. A study published in the journal Applied Research in Quality of Life showed that the highest spike in happiness came during the planning stage of a holiday as employees enjoyed the sense of anticipation:

In the study, the effect of holiday anticipation boosted happiness for eight weeks. After the holiday, happiness quickly dropped back to baseline levels for most people.

10. Learn to Meditate

Meditation is often touted as an important habit for improving focus, clarity and attention span, as well as helping to keep you calm. It turns out its also useful for improving your happiness:

In one study, a research team from Massachusetts General Hospital looked at the brain scans of 16 people before and after they participated in an eight-week course in mindfulness meditation. It concluded that after completing the course, parts of the participants' brains associated with compassion and self-awareness grew, and parts associated with stress shrank. Meditation literally clears your mind and calms you down.

So why not give some, or all, of these tips a try and see if you can make every day happy – or at least happier. And don't forget to let us know how you get on, we love to hear from you. Have a wonderfully happy day.

Well being


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