Happiness: the state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy (Princeton.edu). It’s a feeling that everyone, everywhere in the world knows and wants to hold onto. Rich, poor, fat, thin, man, woman; we all want to be happy but we don’t always know how.
There’s a test on the BBC website, designed by Professor Ed Diener from University of Illinois, to measure how happy you are (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/programmes/happiness_formula/4785402.stm). There are only five questions and it takes less than a minute to complete. After you submit your answers, it tells you how happy you are, how this compares to the national average and most importantly tips for making yourself happier.
The Dalai Lama once said, “Happiness is not something ready-made. It comes from your own actions.” This means that we all have the power to change how happy or unhappy we feel. Below is a list of ways to help you improve your happiness and take back control.
1. Giving: Rather than focusing on the things that get you down, try to get out of your head and do something for those less fortunate. Serve food at a homeless shelter; clean up at an animal shelter. If there’s not one near you, you could invite elderly neighbours for dinner if they’re on their own, to stop them feeling lonely or you could offer to walk their dogs.
2. Connecting with others: It’s all about connecting with other people and nurturing close relationships with friends and families. These networks will bring a sense of belonging to your life and the more networks that you have, the more people you’ll have to spend time with, the more people to lift you up when you’re down.
3. Get fit: Exercise releases endorphins (the feel-good hormone) which give you a natural high. Studies have found that exercising in groups increases the amount of endorphins released so grab that tennis racket and challenge your friends to a game.
4. Try new things: Having goals and direction in your life will challenge and make you excited for the future. Succeeding in these goals can give you a sense of accomplishment. So learn to play the piano, take a yoga class or even take an evening class at your local FE College. These can give you a sense of accomplishment, boost your confidence and improve your self-worth.
5. Be Resilient: We can’t choose what happens to us but we can choose how to react. It might not always be easy but seeing the good in any situation can help to improve our happiness. Research shows that regularly experiencing positive emotions creates a bank of positivity, as it were, which can help you to feel better more often.
This list is far from comprehensive and if you find something else that works for you then that is fantastic; the road to making yourself happier is not one-route-fits-all.
Remember, feeling blue or sad once in a while is normal but if this is a regular occurrence or has gone on for a period of two weeks or more, speak to your doctor about it; it could be a sign of something more serious. Please consult NHS Direct for more information.