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The International Day of Happiness – a day established by the UN in 2012 – is celebrated throughout the world on March 20th. We all have different ideas about how to achieve absolute happiness. For some, it’s following their passions, for others it’s about spending time with their family and loved ones. Either way, we all want to be happy, right? In fact, as the Dalai Lama said:

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As human beings all we want is to be happy and free from misery…

Or, as Aristotle put it:

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim and end of human existence.

Perhaps the most powerful insight comes from the responses we hear from many hundreds of parents when asking them what they want for their kids. Nearly all say something like: “I just want them to be happy.” And it’s not just individuals who are searching for happiness, either…

The government of Bhutan, for example, sees people’s desires for happiness as so important that the country actually measures its overall prosperity by looking at its citizens happiness levels, not the GDP! But, why is happiness so important to us?

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Well, a happy life isn’t about ignoring any negative emotions or pretending everything is absolutely great all of the time. We all encounter adversity and it’s totally normal… And anyone who says otherwise is denying part of the human condition. But, the first thing to remember is that you have the power to make yourself happier. As much as 40% of our happiness levels are in fact within our control.

Research has proven that happiness actually leads to improved performance, health and relationships. Perhaps most importantly, however, people who are happier are most likely to make a positive contribution to society and offer more help to others… Oh yeah, and it feels crazy good!

So, we know that happiness is important –but how can we become happier? How can we take practical action to improve our mental well-being to create a happier and more caring society? Here are 7 great pointers to set you on the right path…

Connect With People

The International Day of Happiness website holds that “after years of happiness research, one thing has proved fundamental – the importance of our connections with other people.” Connecting by helping others makes us feel good about ourselves, and connecting with happy people will make you around 15% happier just because it’s contagious!

Keep Learning

Learning improves our well-being in lots of different ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us to stay engaged. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment and boosts our self-confidence… So what are you waiting for? Go ahead and teach yourself something new today.

Take Care Of Your Body

More than you might think, our mind and our body are connected. Being active and eating healthily makes us happier by releasing happy hormones like serotonin and endorphins. Research has also shown that foods rich in omega-3 can decrease your chances of depression, as can getting enough sleep, and unplugging from technology once in a while!

Set Goals For Your Future

Make a call, fill in that diary, tell others your dreams… Feeling positively about the future is really important for our happiness. We all need goals to motivate us and to challenge us, but also for these goals to be achievable. Choosing meaningful and realistic goals brings a sense of satisfaction, accomplishment and happiness when we achieve them!

Be Comfortable In Your Own Skin

Self-respect means to accept yourself, even if you’re not perfect. You have flaws, but you’re bigger than them. So, really get to know yourself; the more you understand about yourself, the more you’ll appreciate your own unique qualities. And, if someone disrespects you, stand up for yourself, and teach that person to treat you differently.

Do Things For Others

Whether it’s through helping charity or just a small, random act of kindness, altruism makes us feel good. Studies have shown that people who participate in meaningful activities are happier, whereas people who focus on pleasure-seeking do not. One study even found that the happiness achieved from volunteering can increase your life-span!

Show Gratitude 

Gratitude is a thankful appreciation for what an individual receives, whether tangible or intangible. Showing gratitude pulls us out of the rat-race and shifts our focus from what’s missing to what’s there, thus generating optimism. And, in psychology research, gratitude is strongly associated with greater happiness.

In a nutshell, happiness is about being able to make the most of the good times and also to cope effectively with the inevitable bad times, in order to experience the best possible life overall.

Ready to celebrate Happiness on this special day?

Lessons Learned:

  • Even if we all understand it differently, we all want happiness.
  • Being happy isn’t about ignoring negative emotions, but rather learning to overcome them.
  • Happiness leads to improved performance, health, relationships and society… So, c’mon – get happy!

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