A sadness epidemic?
Research suggests Ireland is miserable. Although as a nation we are subjectively wealthier than we were in the 1950s, we are less happy. According to polling data the proportion of people reporting themselves as “very happy” has fallen, as has the number of people reporting themselves as “satisfied with life”.
At an individual level this is serious because happiness effects our quality of life and being unhappy can lead to poor mental and physical health.
As an unhappy nation we are faced with poor economic performance and high crime rates.
What is Happiness?
Happiness can be defined as a state of well-being characterised by emotions ranging from contentment to intense pleasure. Happiness involves feeling good about ourselves.
The way we view and experience happiness is unique to each individual. Scientists have developed the idea of a happiness Set Point. This idea proposes that some people are naturally happier than others. However, like a thermostat we are able to change our happiness level. We all have the ability to make ourselves happier, benefiting ourselves and those around us.
It could be said the “State of the Nation” has nothing to do with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) but rather Gross Happiness (GH). Therefore not only for our own sake but also the country, we would all benefit if we were to try and make ourselves happy.
Becoming a happier person
Individuals all have their own way of making themselves happy, however the following steps are a good base for all to use helping you get more enjoyment and pleasure from life…..
7 positive steps to a happier you
1. Pursue strong, lasting and committed relationships.
Friendships and good relationships are crucial to happiness. Scientists have discovered friends not only make us feel good about ourselves but can also boost our immune system and benefit our health in general. Friends are more important to personal well being than money. Economists have estimated we would need a disposable sum of ?80,000 to make up for not having any friends. However research has shown it is not the quantity of friendships that is important, but the quality.
Romantic relationships are also elements to happiness. Unfortunately for singles, research has shown people in committed romantic relationships are happier. Those that are married are the most happy. The effect of marriage can also increase longevity by up to 7 years for a man and 4 years for a woman. However friendships are most important.
Cherish your friends and family: Make time for family and friends, meet up on a regular basis or make that phone call for a well needed chat. Quality time is important.
Make new friends: Believe in yourself and your own worth, you deserve good friends. Join social groups and enter with a positive and friendly attitude.
Cherish your partner: If you are in a relationship be sure to make time for your partner and demonstrate that you appreciate and care for them.
Have fun searching for your other half: If you are not in a relationship have fun going out and meeting new people. But remember its friends that count most.
2. Volunteer and make others happy
Psychologists have known for years that helping others makes a person happy. You can put this knowledge into practise and reap the rewards.
Be kind to those you encounter: Being nice increases the production of feel good hormones in the brain so make it a regular activity.
Participate in volunteering opportunities: Volunteering is shown to boost self esteem and like being
nice, increases the amount of feel good hormones released in the brain.
3. Look after your health
Life is far more enjoyable if we have the ability to live life to the full.
Eat well: Eating a balanced diet can keep you healthy and improve mood.
Engage in regular exercise: Exercise not only keeps you healthy, but also releases feel good hormones, helping to regulate mood and encourage peaceful sleep. We can benefit both from the social interaction experienced in team sports such a Gaelic, Camogie and Hurling and the inner peace experienced when participating in individual relaxing sports such as Tai Chi and Yoga.
4. Create meaning in your life
“Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I posses
I thank the Lord I’ve been blessed, with more than my share of happiness”
Bill Anderson (1963)
Spiritual people report themselves as happier than non spiritual people. However despite the fact religion is not for everyone there are ways in which people can create meaning in their life.
Develop your ideas about life: Explore spiritual and philosophical theories or create your own.
Establish inner peace: Make time to think about what is important in your life and treasure what you have.
5. Set interesting goals that explore your strengths and abilities
Boredom makes no one happy. Delve into hobbies and interests to broaden your mind and keep you occupied.
Set goals: Accomplishing goals helps to boost self esteem making you happier.
Pick topics that interest you: This way you are sure to see projects through.
6. Forget economics
Scientists have proved being richer does not make you happier. The instant gratification of material wealth quickly evaporates. For example, the positive mental effects of a monetary promotion wear off after 3 months, so unless you are lucky enough to have a promotion at least every 3 months don’t worry about it. Also winning the lottery often leaves people feeling less happy.
Engaging work: When it comes to work, research has shown that it is not income that correlates with happiness, but the gratification we feel from doing a particular job. If this is impossible in the workplace, volunteering or taking up a hobby can have the same effect. Also keeping photos of loved ones and good times close by can help you through the working day.
Count your blessings: Try to think of all the things that are good in your life just before you fall asleep. All the happy thoughts will be imprinted into your subconscious and you will awaken ready to start the day with a smile.
7. Always look on the bright side
Having a positive attitude and a sense of humour makes for a happy life. Humour reduces stress and anxiety.
Laughter is a medicine: Having a good old laugh can brighten our spirits even when we are in the worst of moods. Watch a comedy or ring that friend who always has a mad story to tell.
Smile smile smile: Genuine smiles where the corners of the mouth turn up releases feel good hormones into the brain.
Mental images: Take 5 minutes every day to picture yourself as a happy person. It won’t be long before the picture becomes a reality.
Although we cannot and should not expect to be happy all the time as negative feelings are part of a well-rounded life, we all have the potential to find authentic happiness.
About the Author
Jillie Ui Beannaithe
Jillie is the editor of Mind Body and Soul Ireland an online resource for alternative therapies and natural remedies in Ireland.www.mindbodyandsoul.ie