What really makes us happy?

Advertisers tell us that happiness comes from buying their products. Celebrities and the media pretend it comes with beauty & fame. And politicians claim that nothing matters more than growing the economy.  But according to research below is the key to happiness:

Giving
Helping others is not only good for them and a good thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier too.

Giving also connects us to others, creating stronger communities and helping to build a happier society for everyone. And it’s not all about money – we can also give our time, ideas and energy.

When we give to others it activates the areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust.

Altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain and boosts happiness for us as well as the people we help. Studies have shown that giving money away tends to make people happier than spending it on themselves.

So if you want to feel good, do good!

Relating
People with strong and broad social relationships are happier, healthier and live longer. Close relationships with family and friends provide love, meaning, support and increase our feelings of self worth. Broader networks bring a sense of belonging. So taking action to strengthen our relationships and build connections is essential for happiness.

Exercising
Our body and our mind are connected. Being active makes us happier as well as being good for our physical health. It instantly improves our mood and can even lift us up. We don’t all need to run marathons – there are simple things we can all do to be more active each day. And we can also boost our well-being by unplugging from technology, getting outside and – importantly – making sure we get enough sleep!

Awareness
Ever felt there must be more to life? Well good news, there is! And it’s right here in front of us. We just need to stop and take notice. Learning to be more mindful and aware can do wonders for our well-being in all areas of life – like our walk to work, the way we eat or our relationships. It helps us get in tune with our feelings and stops us dwelling on the past or worrying about the future – so we get more out of the day-to-day.

Trying out
Learning affects our well-being in lots of positive ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence and resilience. There are many ways to learn new things – not just through formal qualifications. We can share a skill with friends, join a club, learn to sing, play a new sport and so much more.

Direction
Feeling good about the future is important for our happiness. We all need goals to motivate us and these need to be challenging enough to excite us, but also achievable. If we try to attempt the impossible this brings unnecessary stress. Choosing ambitious but realistic goals gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.

Resilience
All of us have times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. But how we respond to these has a big impact on our wellbeing. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but in principle we can choose our own attitude to what happens. In practice it’s not always easy, but one of the most exciting findings from recent research is that resilience, like many other life skills, can be learned.

Acceptance
No-one’s perfect. But so often we compare our insides to other people’s outsides. Dwelling on our flaws – what we’re not rather than what we’ve got – makes it much harder to be happy. Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all, and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong, increases our enjoyment of life, our resilience and our well-being. It also helps us accept others as they are.

Having constant criticism in our heads about not being good enough is a sure way to be unhappy. This doesn’t mean we should ignore our weaker areas or bad stuff that happens, but it does mean accepting that no-one is perfect, us included. It means putting our imperfections (and things that happen to us) into perspective – seeing them as normal rather than out of the ordinary. And it means a shift of focus, from what we don’t have or can’t do to what we have or can do.

Meaning
People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress, anxiety and depression.  But where do we find ‘meaning and purpose’? It might be our religious faith, being a parent or doing a job that makes a difference. The answers vary for each of us but they all involve being connected to something bigger than ourselves. 

For more visit http://www.dayofhappiness.net/happy/

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