Be happy! But how? To some lucky souls happiness is the default condition, to others it’s an elusive goal to work towards. Yesterday I saw a wonderful card enscripted with the words ”Happiness is the way, not the destination”. Wise words indeed, but the New Economics Foundation (nef) go into a little more detail on the subject of wellbeing…
They’ve put together a list of five steps to wellbeing, which is based on scientific evidence and is government endorsed. The five steps or ‘ways’ are as follows:
Connect with the people around you. Humans are intensely social animals, and what is usually most important to us is our human relationships. So take the time to play with your kids, thank your parents, chat with your friends or surprise your boyfriend/girlfriend with a romantic gesture. Smile at strangers, be friendly and to shopkeepers, and reach out to make new friends…
Be active. Excercise is well known to be vital to good health, and also is proven to make us feel happier. If you’re a naturally sporty person this will come as second nature to you, but if you’re like me and hate the idea of running around needlessly when you could be lying down on a sofa, remember there are many ways to be active. What about swimming, gardening or dancing? Or simply skipping from A to B instead of a boring walk?!
Take notice of what’s going on. Don’t just bumble along in a daze, but really use your senses and savour the moment. Really look around you. Smell, taste, listen. What is the beauty in your current location or situation? Try and notice how your friends and family are feeling. Keep up to date with current affairs. Watch the seasons change. Make a point of smelling flowers as you walk past them, or looking at sunsets.
Keep learning. This could mean starting that diploma you always wanted to do, going back to college or starting a course with the Open University. But informal learning is just as important. Learn to make your favourite curry, get your auntie to teach you to knit… Learn a musical instrument or a foreign language. Read books on whatever interests you and keep expanding your mind. Remember we only use a fraction of our mental capacity so there’s plenty of room for expansion!
Give and you shall receive. Not always from the particular person you gave to, but it’ll be sure to come back from somewhere. We’ve all felt the happy glow that comes from a good deed. Put the effort into making a hand-made birthday card, let someone cry on your shoulder, give change to a busker, do a favour for a friend who needs it… As well is being good for the lucky recipricant, giving our time and energy in a loving way to someone who appreciates it makes us feel good about ourselves. And what’s better than a healthy and high level of self esteem?
I think those are very good pointers, but I also think happiness is a personal thing. So why not make your own list of things specific to you? I try to take notice of what I’m doing whenever I feel particularly jubilant… I’ve found that dancing to music, writing, researching sustainability issues, watching sunsets and the moon and stars, making people happy, laughing, cuddling, daydreaming, cooking, swinging and lying in in the morning all make me happier.
What do you most enjoy? Write a list and aim to fill your life with these activities!