Every day happiness!
Norway is one of the world’s happiest countries, only beat by the Danes. Despite our high rate of happiness this there is an increasing amount of children and adults who get treatment within mental health.
As we write this, we are in Moscow participating in the 6th European Conference in Positive Psychology. At the conference researchers and practitioners share knowledge about what makes humans function optimally. During the conference we had several good conversations with Nic Marks, a colorful researcher and founder of the Centre of Well-Being. This is an independent, non-profit company which in 2008 received an assignment from the British government (The Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Well-Being) to begin compiling work from over 400 researchers around the world. Marks work identifies the best evidence based measures to increase degree of happiness. The challenge was to compile thousands of measures and actions into 5 universal pieces of advice that would have wide appeal and be simple to follow. It goes without saying that the advice also needed to have solid evidence that the measures would be effective. Here are the five pieces of advice:
CONNECT. With the people around you. With family, friends, colleagues, and neighbors. At home, at work, at school, at the gym and in your neighborhood. Think about these as cornerstones in your life and invest time and thoughtfulness in developing them. Social connection gives support, feelings of belonging, joy, and enrichens your daily life with new impulses. Research clearly indicates that social relations are one of the most important factors for everyday life and that they work well as a buffer against worries. Research shows that most people want to spend more time with other people that are important for them, because this gives a sense of belonging, intimacy, and appreciation of each other.
BE ACTIVE. Take a walk, a run, or find that bike. Spend time outside or in your garden. Play a game. Dance. Physical activity gives good feelings, as long as you find an activity you enjoy and which fits your level of fitness. Regular physical activity is associated with wellbeing and can make a difference for those with depression and anxiety, regardless of age. If you are training it is difficult to feel resignation because you are engaging in something that is taking away from negative focus. Research is, however, not clear if the feelings of happiness come as a consequence of training or vice versa.
OBSERVE. Be awake and curious. Use your senses to look around at the beauty around you. Take notice of the unusual. Enjoy the changing of the seasons. Be present in the moment, as you walk to work, eat lunch, or talk to friends. Be aware of the world around you and how you feel. Reflect about your experiences. This will help you to appreciate what means something for you. Mindfulness training affects our ability to regulate our own thoughts and feelings and enables us to make wiser decisions. In the course of the conference in Moscow we were presented with results from an experiment with participants in an 8-week course in Mindfulness. The results registered neurobiological changes in the parts of the brain which are associated with learning, memorizing, self-regulating, and empathy.
CONTINUE TO LEARN. Try something new. Re-experience an interest or hobby from the past. Be a member in a choir or take a class. Take on new responsibilities at work, at home, or in a club. Repair a bicycle. Learn to play an instrument or try a new recipe. Discover a new author. Set yourself a goal for something you really want to achieve. To learn new things gives a sense of achievement and is fun. Learning plays and important role in the social and cognitive development of children, but by continuing to learn through your whole life can positively affect your self-confidence. Learning in this way encourages socialization, and an active life can prevent depression in the elderly. Setting a goal for yourself is strongly associated with a higher level of happiness, and learning in as an adult has been shown to have a large impact on quality of life, optimism, and the feeling of well-being.
GIVE. Do something kind for a friend or a stranger. Be generous and share graciously. Show your appreciation of others. Give compliments. Smile. Do volunteer work and a helping hand. Become a part of a group. To see yourself as a part of a larger community can give you energy and creates new relationships and social meeting places. Most experiments show changes in the brain’s reward system when we give or share with others. People who are genuinely interested in helping others report more vitality and a stronger feeling of purpose. Giving can also be a start to new and strong relationships.
The happiness of daily life is about to main elements: to feel well and to function well. Feelings like joy, curiosity, interest, engagement are characteristic for those who have good experiences in life. Functioning well is also important, not least because positive relationships with others and some level of control over our own life gives life meaning. These five pieces of advice have spread throughout the world. In Norway, the national advice for physical health has also taken these in as a part of their new brochure on happiness in daily life and has shared it with 1600 kindergartens in Oslo.
No one is born with a wish to be sad or unhappy, but in a busy daily life we need reminders and good advice about what brings more joy in our lives. We hope this can inspire you to make a difference and make positive change in your life.