happiness and jumping

Why happiness is important to your wellbeing during this pandemic

 

Are you happy?

happy woman with smiley balloon

Being happy means a different thing to each of us. To some it is contentment and for others it is waves of joy and excitement.

Research in the area of Positive Psychology defines a happy person as ‘someone who experiences frequent positive emotions, such as joy, interest, and pride, and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and anger’ (Lyubomirsky et al., 2005).

Given the current situation with the coronavirus pandemic, there has never been a better time to be happy! Research by M. Seligman in 2011 has shown that in an experiment, individuals with a positive outlook were less likely to get flu when exposed to the virus.

Your long-term wellbeing

happiness quote

Happiness is when what you think, what you say and what you do are in harmony – Gandhi

What is even better is that positive emotions – like joy, pride and gratitude – don’t just feel good in the moment – they also affect our long-term wellbeing. Research by L. Freidrickson shows that experiencing positive emotions in a 3-to-1 ratio to negative ones leads to a tipping point beyond which, we naturally become more resilient to adversity and better able to achieve things. Interestingly, the evidence linking an upbeat outlook to increased longevity is actually stronger than the evidence linking obesity to reduced longevity.

Happiness is on a scale and things which add to our happiness can change over time.

Facts about happiness

  1. Pre Covid-19 surveys in Britain and the U.S. show that people are no happier now than in the 1950s – despite massive economic growth.
  2. Some societies are much happier than others. For example, if Britain was as happy as Denmark, we would have 2.5 million fewer people who were not very happy and 5 million more who were very happy.
  3. Trust is a major determinant of happiness in a society. Levels of trust vary widely between countries. The percentage of people who say ‘most people can be trusted’ is only 30 per cent of people in the U.K. and U.S., compared to 60 per cent some 40 years ago. In Scandinavia the level is still over 60 per cent, and these are the happiest countries too.
  4. According to R. Layard, “Economic stability has a large effect on the happiness of society, while long-term economic growth has little. Unemployment reduces happiness by as much as bereavement.” That is a sobering thought in current times. I have talked to people recently who feel a deep sense of loss from being furloughed.
  5. The most important external factors affecting individual happiness are human relationships. In every society, family or other close relationships are the most important, followed by relationships at work and the community. The most important internal factor is mental health. For example, if we take 34 year olds, their mental health at age 26 explains four times more of their present happiness than their income does.

How to find the happy you.

boy as superman

Have you ever heard yourself or other people say, “I’ll be happy when…..” . Certainly we will all feel a sense of relief once this virus is under control and maybe we would feel happier as we can do the things we enjoy, but happiness is about being happy or content with yourself in the here and now.  Happiness is short lived when it is pegged to needing external stimulus or material items. Happiness is an inside job.

Here are six things we can do to help to grow our happiness today.

  1. Perfection

perfection is stagnation quote

Successive marketing campaigns have told us that we will be happy when we are young, beautiful, thin and a celebrity. Even if we don’t really believe it, as with all messages we receive our brain can’t tell the difference between real and imaginary events. Subconsciously it is possible to be chasing someone else’s “happy” whilst avoiding our own. Remember that you are unique. The people who love you, love you – not the person you think you should be. Remember you are valid as a human being, no extra talent required!

  1. Remember what made you happy and focus on that

togetherness - a couple together

Happiness is as much a choice as a reaction. If you are wondering what makes you happy – it’s you. When we talk about Emotional Intelligence we focus on self-awareness and spotting emotions as they arise. According to Travis Bradbury in his book Emotional Intelligence 2.0, only 36% of people are able to recognise an emotion as it arises – so only 36% of people know when they are happy as it is occurring!

Do you know when you are happy? List down the times in your life when you have been really happy. Maybe it was your wedding day, or graduation. Maybe it was a special sunset or time with a loved one. Picture it in your mind and remember all of the details. Remember the people who were there, how did you feel? Excited? Loved? What could you smell? What have you noticed? What could you do more of? If nothing springs to mind, try something new – an online course, a different genre of book to read. Then consider what have you learned about what you like and dislike. When an emotion arises, stop and examine that emotion.

  1. Be kind

be kind

According to S. Lyubomirsky in The How of Happiness, doing good is one of the best ways to feel good. People who care more about others are happier than those who care less about others. When people do good, their brain becomes active in the same reward centre as where they experience other rewards. Who could you be kind to today?

  1. Smile moreFun and laughter

Smiling is contagious. The more you smile the more smiles you are likely to receive. It can also give someone a sense of connection and that you value them.

     5.   Gratitude

thank you

Write down ten good things which happened today. If ten is too much start with three. What are you grateful for? Maybe the sun was shining, a smile from a family member, are you grateful for your home? Your car? Maybe having legs which allow you to walk outside on your own?

      6.   Be mindful

mantra and mindfulness

I find that mindfulness and allowing time to be present and in the moment leads to more happiness. I appreciate life more and I notice more wonderful things about the world around me. Research by R Davidson has shown that people who take 8 sessions of mindfulness or meditation training will typically be 20 percentage points happier one month later than a control group . They also have better responses in their immune system. Pretty useful at the moment! Such training can lead to structural brain changes including increased grey-matter density in the hippocampus, known to be important for learning and memory, and in structures associated with self-awareness, compassion and introspection.

Words of wisdom from a happy man!

Dalai Lama

So, there has never been a better time to practice happiness. To understand what makes you happy and to practice mindfulness, gratitude and kindness.

If you liked this article you will be pleased to know that myself and Nicky Marshall hold regular happiness and other wellbeing workshops online. See www.discoveryourbounce.com/events.

We have also written a book which is being launched on Amazon Kindle and in paperback called “Love Your Life! 100 Tips For More Peace And Happiness” in May 2020.

Be happy!

 

Sources

Happiness facts

  1. For U.S., Gallup Poll and General Social Survey. For U.K., Gallup and Eurobarometer
  2. R. Layard, Happiness, 2011, (second ed.) p32
  3. R. Layard, Happiness, 2011, (second ed.) p64, 68-9, 80-82
  4. R. Layard, Happiness, 2011, (second ed.) p64
  5. R. Layard, Happiness, 2011, (second ed.) p63 UK National Child Development Study

Flu research: M. Seligman, Flourish, 2011, Ch 9.

L. Fredrickson, Positivity: Groundbreaking research reveals how to embrace the hidden strength of positive emotions, overcome negativity, and thrive, 2009. E. Diener and M. Chan,Applied Psychology: Health and Well-Being, 3(1):1-43, March 2011

Lyubomirsky, The How of Happiness, 2007; J. Rilling et al, Neuron, 35:395-405, 2002

Bradberry T. et al, Emotional intelligence 2.0 2009, Talentsmart p14.

Davidson et al, Psychosomatic Medicine, 65:564-70, 2003. BK Hölzel et al, Psychiatry Research: Neuroimaing, 191(1):36-43, 2011

 

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About The Author

Sharon Critchlow

Sharon Critchlow is a Wellbeing Advocate, speaker and facilitator at Discover Your Bounce for Business. Passionate about people being the best they can be she is a Time To Change Champion for mental health and holds a Masters level qualification in strategic coaching for performance. Sharon is a qualified accountant and has 20 years experience in senior leadership roles in the financial services sector. www.discoveryourbounce.com www.time-to-change.org.uk