International Day of Happiness

Smile – it’s International Day of Happiness!

March 20th is the Student Wellbeing Champions’ favourite day of the year – it’s International Day of Happiness! This year it seems more important than ever to mark it, as we continue to face a global crisis together.

Recently there was an online event entitled ‘How to be Happier’, hosted by Action for Happiness, and featuring Dr Tal Ben-Shahar. We highly recommend it – you can catch the hour-long event on YouTube here:

If you don’t have a spare hour, the crux of the event is summarised here:

The key to happiness is resilience, or as Dr Ben-Shahar puts it ‘anti-fragility’. Not to be confused with being invulnerable, it can be described as the ability to bounce back after pressure has been applied.

The conditions required to build resilience are as follows:

  1. Embrace your emotions – positive AND negative. If we try to deny or reject painful emotions, this can intensify them. We need to accept negative emotions and then we are in a position to deal with them with control and awareness. This could be done with the help of counselling, having a trusted friend to go to, or journaling etc. Express, don’t’ supress!
  • Introduce periods of recovery. Stress is not necessarily a bad thing – it can allow growth. However, if stress levels are consistently high, without periods of recovery between them, this is a bad thing. Find something that works for you in order to introduce periods of recovery, whether that is meditation, exercise, deep breathing, going for a walk, talking to a friend, sleep. And make this a priority each day.
  • Cultivate meaningful connections. This is such an important factor in happiness, whoever the relationship is with, whether it is friends, family members or even colleagues. With deep relationships comes the ability to listen. If we listen, the other party is much more likely to listen also, and if we feel heard, we feel more valued.
  • Be kind. Every day, take 15 minutes to be extra kind – go out of your way to be kind! Kindness deepens relationships and makes us feel helpful. If we feel more helpful, we feel more hopeful. It is also important to be kind to ourselves; to focus on self-care. It is often seen as a negative thing to be ‘selfish’, but Dr Ben-Shahar encourages us to re-phrase it as ‘self-full’. Take care of yourself first, and then you will be capable of also helping others.
  • Live in the present. Human beings are goal-orientated and there is a school of though that says that happiness is about achieving goals. However, this tends to make us quite future-focused. The key is to think about the meaningful end goal but consider how you can translate it into day-to-day actions, so break a larger goal into daily tasks to bring a future goal into the present.
  • Practice gratitude. Research has linked gratitude with benefits including strengthening your immune system and improving sleep, feeling more hopeful and helpful, experiencing more joy and pleasure, and feeling less lonely and isolated. Take time at the end of each day or week to consciously think about the things you are grateful for, even if it’s really small stuff. You could start a gratitude journal. This can help you to see beyond any present hardships and, practiced regularly, it will eventually become habitual.
  • Physical exercise. This can help mental toughness as well as physical toughness. Prioritise getting 150-300 minutes of physical activity each week.

We really recommend you watch the Action for Happiness You Tube video for more in-depth information and techniques for living a happier life.

Happy International Day of Happiness!

Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind.