Happiness is the modern day holy grail. We might want to be successful, fit or beautiful but all of those goals are usually second to the overall goal of becoming happy. The management of happiness has become big business, with apps for breathing, gratitude journals and wellbeing retreats raking in money across the lifestyle sector. So how do we sort the wheat from the chaff? If you’re trying to become more content in your life, where can you focus your energy to make the biggest difference?
A factor that we all benefit from, is positive family relationships. Knowing that you have a strong support network that you can build on your relationships with over a lifetime is an incredible comfort. Having your parents to call on for advice, siblings, and cousins for companionship or grandparents and aunts and uncles to talk to and celebrate with is a reliable way to increase your contentment with life. Families can also help you cope better with emergencies, sickness, childcare and a host of practical problems which gives you a greater sense of resilience in the face of life’s challenges. With rare exceptions, picking up the phone and talking to your family or going round for a quick cup of coffee is a very good idea.
The dividends of social interaction and community aren’t limited to family though. Maintaining long term friendships can also be very helpful in giving you a more positive outlook and even helping you to maintain your health. A study released in 2015 by Harvard University looking at long term adult lives and outcomes suggested strongly that individuals that were firmly situated in communities were happier and more well.
Don’t stop your socializing at your personal acquaintances, you could do even better in the happiness stakes by joining a club. Pick one of your hobbies, running, dancing, singing, gardening and do it with other people. It tends to help root people in their communities as well as providing a fun pass time.
Nature has an answer to offer us as well. Measurable benefits to wellbeing exist if you can get outside into an open green space at least twice a week. Even better if you could get out more than that and really stop to take time and breathe deeply while you’re there. Stress levels and hostility tend to reduce and the effect goes on as long as you continue making the time to get out into forests and other green spaces. Even better if you walk briskly and get a little bonus of cardio exercise on the way.
The last big way you can secure a major improvement to your wellbeing is to look after yourself. Regular exercise, particularly intense exercise like running or swimming is very good for your mood. It increases the amount of serotonin in circulation, a chemical linked to happiness. It feels like a pain sometimes to fit in a workout but if you factor in that you could be happier and sharper all day every day because of it, it makes sense.
We dream about lottery wins or windfalls or miracles, but really it’s the everyday things that make the most difference to us.