In 2011 the United Nations General Assembly adopted a resolution recognizing happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all people.” Since 2013 we observe the International Day of Happiness every year on March 20. At this stage, I declare our ambition should be the pursuit of happiness. However, we can get buried under the material – essays, books, blogs, videos – on this subject so may not get around to pursuing, let alone attaining, happiness. After considerable research, I compiled my top tips, chosen for their ease of implementation and effectiveness.
FIVE TIPS TO INCREASE HAPPINESS
- HumanKind. Be both. During a daily ritual (see tip 4) I happened upon this bit of graffiti, and its profound simplicity moved me. To be kind, say something genuinely nice, every day, to someone, anyone. Offering words of kindness enhances our moods. Plus this act triggers a human mechanism called a reciprocal concession, which means the person will feel more inclined to return a kindness to you and to others. Or, as my friend Pat comments, “if we reach out to others … we’ll receive more smiles than not – and each of the smiles will remain with us for much longer than the seconds they took to pass across our lips.”
- Be grateful. When our positivity starts to wane, stop what we’re doing and identify things for which we’re grateful (a dear partner or friend, an instance of beauty, a decent tennis game). Make sure to think from the heart. Also, remember this enchanting quotation by Marcel Proust: “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom.”
- Practice forgiveness. Carrying grudges or living with resentment allows poison to course through our veins. No one felt it more deeply than Nelson Mandela who explained: “Forgive others, not because they deserve forgiveness, but because you deserve peace.”
- Take a walk. In the 1960s Japan marketed pedometers under the name “manpo-kei,” which translates to “10,000 steps meter.” Popular medicine now advises 10,000 steps a day, but the number’s not critical. Just keep moving. A brisk walk improves our well-being — both physical (prevents high blood pressure, strengthens bones and muscles, maintains balance) and mental (calms our minds, inspires good ideas or plans).
- Live in the present. Whenever we fret about the future, gently come back to the present moment. Whenever we think, “I will be happy when…” say instead, “I choose happiness now.”
Unless we act, these tips remain mere words. So I’m off for a walk and will “try to create more happiness in the world around me” (the UN Action for Happiness pledge).
What actions work for you? Please submit your favourite tips or comment on mine. In a future post, I will prescribe other ways to attain happiness. •