3 key ingredients to lifelong happiness

And why happiness is so important!

Happiness is a much talked-about topic lately; even the UK government is looking at measuring and increasing national happiness! But happiness is so much more than a ‘buzzword’. There are many definitions of happiness and plenty of people willing to argue that ‘some people are just happier than others’ and that you can’t work on becoming happier. In this article, I will show you some simple ways to work on your happiness as well as, I hope, convince you of why it is important that you do.

In her book, ‘The How of Happiness’, Sonja Lyubomirsky explains the differences in people’s happiness levels. 50% is down to their ‘set points’ – their genetic pre-disposition. Interestingly, only 10% is determined by life circumstances such as finances, health and relationships. The remaining 40%? According to Ms Lyubomirsky, “the key to happiness lies not in changing our genetic make-up…and not in changing our circumstances…but in our daily ‘intentional activities’.”

People's Happiness

Source: Lyubomirsky, S., Sheldon, K. M., and Schkade, D. (2005), ‘Pursuing happiness: The architecture of sustainable change’, Review of General Psychology, 9, 111-131

It is these ‘intentional activities’ I am going to explore further. But first, why is happiness so important?

In his book, ‘The Happiness Advantage’ and his TED talk boasting nearly 12m views, Shawn Achor describes how happiness makes us more productive, more competitive and more successful. Why, therefore, wouldn’t you want to work on being happier?

Let’s explore 3 ‘intentional activities’:

Gratitude

If you do nothing else after reading this article, practise gratitude!  Much research, particularly by Prof. Martin Seligman and Dr Robert Emmons, has gone into gratitude and its effect on emotional well-being and happiness.

As for me, I came to the UK to study at the University of Bradford in 1990 and met my husband there.  We now have two daughters who, between them, have had two cardiac arrests, three open heart surgeries and more hospital stays than I can count!  I am grateful for the fact they are still here and, on a day to day basis, very well.  I am grateful for the NHS.  And I am grateful for the fun and laughter they bring into our daily lives!  You can read more about Charlie’s cardiac arrest and my thoughts on gratitude in this LinkedIn article and about Hannah’s latest open heart surgery journey in my blog.

You can practise gratitude by keeping a gratitude journal.  Prof. Seligman’s Gratitude Letter is also a very effective way to boost your happiness.  And simply making a point of thanking people for small day-to-day things makes a huge difference.

Altruism

According to Mogilner et al., giving your time can be a great way not only to feel happier, but to feel like you have more time when your diary is packed full.  Buddhist Monk Mathieu Ricard has written a book on Altruism and its importance not only to our own life satisfaction but to the economy, politics, the environment and more.  Aknin et al. describe the ‘positive feedback loop’ between prosocial spending and happiness.

You could give your time to mentor current Bradford students or donate funds to support students facing financial hardship.  You could support charities or local community projects.  You can simply be kind to people.  The list is almost endless, but if you give your time selflessly, you will benefit immensely in return.  So go on, be selfishly selfless!

Keep learning new things

Whether you learn how to shake your booty on the dancefloor in salsa classes, discover your artistic side in painting classes or watch TED talks online, you will not only have fun but will boost your health, live longer, and become happier. And of course, there is also the option of returning to more formal training or education leading to qualifications. So stretch yourself, keep learning and boost your happiness!

The ‘Recipe for Happiness’ has many ingredients. In this article, I have briefly outlined three of them. Try them out, see what works for you. Doing something is better than doing nothing! And do let me know what you do and how it works for you.  I’d love to hear from you!

About the Author

Frederika Roberts

Since graduating from the University of Bradfrord with a BSc (Hons) in Business and Management, Frederika  Roberts has been a teacher, has co-owned a recruitment business, launched a food business and worked as a Social Media Marketing Trainer and Consultant.

Since 2013 she has been primarily working as a Professional Speaker on the subject of Happiness, also  appearing as an expert in Radio and Press interviews and on ITV’s Calendar News.  She is the author of ‘Recipe for Happiness’.

Earlier this year, Frederika joined forces with Paralympic Medalist Elizabeth Wright and Cancer Conqueror Jayne Snell; they created RWS| Resilience Wellbeing Success, a 9-11 week programme that launched in 4 pilot primary schools in September.  As well as expanding into further primary schools, RWS is due to launch into the business/corporate sector early in 2016 and into secondary schools in the 2016/2017 academic year.

You can contact Frederika by e-mailing her at fred@happiness-speaker.co.uk or by calling 07984 80 66 51.

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