You may know that I’m a huge supporter of Action for Happiness. For everyone who signs up on my website and completes my e-course I donate £1 to Action for Happiness and later this week I’m going to be making the donation for the past year; I’m delighted that at the moment it looks to be in the region of £200 (of course if you share this with your friends and family and get them to sign up too that donation may be much bigger!).
So today I thought I’d share their Ten Keys to Happier Living which are based on their review of the latest scientific research relating to happiness.
They use the acronym GREAT DREAM to help us to remember them, and their website is full of resources to help us to explore each key in more depth.
What I particularly like about their 10 keys is the balance between our interactions with the outside world (the first 5 keys of GREAT) and our interaction with our internal world (the keys of DREAM). Until I sat down to write this post, I don’t think I’d quite realised just how aligned my normal blogging subject matter is to these 10 keys, so please forgive me if I got a bit carried away with the links to past blog posts!
Giving – do things for others. Caring about others is fundamental to our happiness – it really is a win win; we do good for someone else and we become healthier and happier too. This is not all about giving money – we can give time, ideas, energy, thought and consideration. I’m really finding this to be true with helping little Valya. We’re able to give so much to her, but the positive impact on our lives is also huge.
Relating – connect with people. People with strong and broad social relationships are happier, healthier and live longer. As a natural introvert who likes to be independent, I’ve sometimes struggled with this, but over past years I’ve realised the benefits of reaching out, rather than closing in and these days my support network is truly a source of joy.
Exercising – take care of your body. Our body and mind are connected – not only is being active good for your physical health, it instantly improves our mood; it can even lift us out of depression. I took my body for granted for too many years, and it’s only recently I’ve started prioritising exercise and my physical needs – the improvement in my energy levels and optimism have been marked as a result!
Appreciating – notice the world around you. Learning to be mindful and aware helps us to get in tune with our feelings and stops us dwelling on the past or worrying about the future. That way we get so much more out of each moment of life.
Trying out – keep learning new things. Learning exposes us to new ideas, helps us stay curious and engaged, gives us a sense of accomplishment and boosts self-esteem and resilience. And there are lots of ways to learn, not just through formal qualifications eg sharing a skill with friends, joining a club, learning to sing, playing a new sport. Playfully experimenting and trying new things helps us stay open and curious (like a child), rather than fearful and judgemental.
Direction – have goals to look forward to. Something to motivate, challenge and excite us and which bring a sense of satisfaction and accomplishment when we achieve them. Personally I find ‘intention setting’ rather than ‘goal setting’ feels more meaningful and motivates me more (I find I get better alignment between my conscious and unconscious mind that way) – but that’s really about language rather than a difference of principle!
Resilience – find ways to bounce back. Sh*t happens – we all have times of stress, loss or trauma, but we can choose how we respond. It may not be easy, but like many life skills, with practice it can be learned.
Emotion – take a positive approach. Research shows that regularly experiencing positive emotions like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration and pride creates an ‘upward spiral’. So whilst we need to acknowledge the darker aspects of life too, focusing on the good helps our resourcefulness and resilience.
Acceptance – be comfortable with who you are. No-one’s perfect, but so often we compare our insides to other people’s outsides. Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all, and being kinder to ourselves increases our enjoyment of life, resilience and wellbeing.
Meaning – be part of something bigger. People with meaning and purpose in their loves are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They experience less stress, anxiety and depression. The specific form of that ‘meaning and purpose’ will be different for all of us, be it faith, parenting or feeling you’re contributing something that makes a difference in the world, but the common factor is being connected to something bigger than just us.
So how many of these keys have you used to unlock the happiness in your life?