On a rainy afternoon a good few months ago now I decided to put my marking to one side and instead attend a lecture given by Peter Harper from Action for Happiness.
The talk was entitled 10 keys for Happier Living and centred around the fairly new field of positive psychology. I also really liked that mindfulness was at the core of many of the points he raised and so drafted a blog post. A blog post which, for some reason, I never published.
And then a quick perusal of Twitter earlier today informed me that it is ‘International Day of Happiness’ today. This gave me the impetus I needed to finish off this post. And so here are the consultant clinical psychologist’s ‘whistle-stop’ tour of the top 10 tips for happier living – easily remembered as the ‘great dream’.
- G is for giving – it is good to be reminded that scientific research is making a clear link between generosity and happiness. And, as Harper pointed out, it’s not just about money either. Time, kind words, thoughtful gestures and smiles are also seen as beneficial to both parties. Volunteering is believed to be an excellent way to boost mood.
- R is for relating – another great reminder that the connection we make with others is key to our happiness. Harper said: “we underestimate the power of listening to people, encouraging them, valuing them and thanking them.”
- E is for exercising – as we are all aware exercise fights everything from “diabetes to depression”.
- A is for appreciation – activities like keeping a gratitude log or having a gratitude jar – basically getting ourselves into the habit of recording small, specific moments of pleasure in our days – have been shown to prolong the pleasure and therefore help our happiness levels.
- T is for trying out – it is being shown more and more that ‘life-long learning’ helps people to remain positive.
- D is for direction – realistic goal-setting (or maybe the more mindful phrase of setting intentions) can help people’s happiness. Questions like: where do I want to be in 3 months? 1 year? 5 years? can be extremely motivating.
- R is for resilience – Harper recommended reading Mandy Oaklander’s ‘The Science of Bouncing Back’. Resilent people tend to be happier. Their strength comes from within, rather than seeking approval from others. Also, resilient people see setbacks as opportunities rather than an obstacles. The realisation, as Ernest Hemingway puts it in A Farewell to Arms that “the world breaks everyone, and afterwards many are strong in the broken places…” is strangely comforting.
- E is for emotion – understanding that, as Harper put it, “emotions are more contagious than a virus” helps us to observe our own feelings and the emotions of people around us, and then to make choices about how to behave as a result. Trying to ‘tap into’ our own and others’ positive emotions is really important for happiness. Essentially it is about surrounding ourselves more with ‘radiators’ than ‘drains’. It’s also about considering whether we are more of a ‘radiator’ or a ‘drain’ too!
- A is for acceptance – the quote “don’t compare your insides with other people’s outsides…” sums this up nicely.
- M is for meaning – Harper encouraged everyone to find their purpose in life. Ask yourself: what are we a part of that is bigger than ourselves?
I remember leaving the talk with a ‘spring in my step’ and also some homework. We were to mark ourselves out of 10 for each of the 10 ‘keys’ and then focus some time on increasing the two or three lower scores.
I remember ranking numbers 2, 4 and 8 as my top scores (relating, appreciation and emotion). This is unsurprising really as they most link to mindfulness.
I ranked 6 and 7 as my lowest scores – direction and resilience. Looking back I have definitely worked on having greater direction in my life over the last few months – the blog and mindfulness courses are evidence of this. As for building my resilience…. well that’s still work in progress…but I think I’m definitely making some improvements.
What about you? Which areas of the ‘keys to happiness’ are your strengths?
Which ‘keys’ may you wish to work on in the next few weeks and months?
I’d love to know. xx