International Day of Happiness

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Happiness girl

March 20th marks International Day of Happiness. Everyone deserves to live their life in a way that brings them happiness. Take a look at this blog written by MyMind intern Fiona Kerrigan about how happiness can benefit your health and ways that you can cultivate happiness.

What is happiness?

International Day of Happiness was launched by the United Nations in 2013 in an effort to promote subjective well-being and recognise the importance of happiness as a universal goal for humans around the world.

Happiness is strangely difficult to describe – it, by definition, is the state of being happy. This can be comprised of feelings of pleasure and contentment, ranging from mild satisfaction to intense joy.

Happiness feels good, and it’s natural that people want to feel it. If you’re reading this and you’re a human, it can be safely assumed that you want to be happy. As a result of the human fixation on happiness, many psychological researchers have made great efforts to define true happiness and how to achieve it

Happiness not only feels good, but does good

Happiness is not only an enjoyable feeling; it can also benefit us. According to Myers (2010), happiness is important as it not only feels good but does good. In addition to making us feel good, research has shown that happiness can improve other aspects of our lives.

Happiness can lead to longer, healthier lives. Happy people tend to experience better health and live for a longer amount of time than those who are not happy when all other factors are similar (Newman, 2011).

Those who are happy are also better able to cope with stress and trauma. Positive emotions are linked to beneficial coping strategies and are used intuitively by happy people in order to overcome negative experiences (Tugade and Fredrickson, 2006).

People who are happy are also more socially engaged (Diener, 2000). They are more likely to get married, have a successful marriage and have more friends than those who are less happy.

Happy people have also been shown to be more generous. People who show personal happiness are more likely to help others, providing a more positive environment for those around them (Myers, 2010).

Those who are happy also tend to have more success at work. Happiness leads to higher productivity at work and happy people tend to have higher incomes (Diener, 2000).

All of these benefits of happiness show that it is a fundamentally important aspect of well-being. Happiness is an attribute which optimises human functionality and helps to regulate health in individuals.

Ways to cultivate happiness

Although happiness benefits us in so many ways, it can sometimes be difficult for us to be happy. Professor of psychology Sonja Lyubomirsky has posited that roughly 60% of happiness is determined by our genes and life circumstances while 40% depends entirely upon our daily activities.

As Marcus Aurelius said,

“The happiness of your life depends upon the quality of your thoughts.”

The way you think and act in your daily life can have a direct effect on how happy you are. Based on the idea that your daily activities can determine 40% of your happiness, Lyubomirsky and other researchers have identified some key ways to cultivate happiness.

One of the most important factors of happiness is being socially connected. Having friends who you can confide in and who will support you when you’re down is a key part of being happy. Building friendships and romantic relationships is a great way to cultivate happiness.

Showing gratitude and counting our blessings is another way to develop happiness. Giving thanks to others can make us happier and keeping a “gratitude journal” of things that we are grateful for can lead to more optimism and greater satisfaction in our lives.

Exercising regularly is also good for our minds. Regular physical activity can boost happiness and self-esteem and lower anxiety and stress levels. According to Lyubomirsky, exercising may be the most effective way to instantly boost happiness.

Getting more sleep could also lead to more happiness. Research has shown that those who get less sleep each night are less happy. Nobel-prize winning psychologist Daniel Kahneman conducted a study that found that getting one extra hour of sleep per night could make a person happier than a $60,000 (€54,000) raise in salary would.

Being generous is another method that has been shown to produce happiness. Dunn and colleagues (2008) found that people were happier after spending money on others than they were if they spent the money on themselves. When we do nice things for others, the pleasure and reward centres in our brains are activated and we experience feelings of happiness.

Mindfulness – a method which involves being intentionally aware of our thoughts, feelings and external circumstances in the present moment – has also been shown to boost happiness. Taking a basic eight-week mindfulness training programme can significantly improve our physical and psychological well-being. Those who practise mindfulness tend to be happier, more satisfied with life and less anxious.

Going to counselling can also help to cultivate happiness. Boyce and colleagues (2009) conducted a study which showed that seeing a therapist can effectively increase happiness 32 times more than obtaining the equivalent amount of money.

Everyone deserves to be happy. According to psychological research, your happiness is in your hands. There are many methods, as shown above, that can help you to increase how happy you are.

If you are unhappy or worried about your mental health and want to speak to someone, call MyMind at 076 680 1060 or email hq@mymind.org