Ten Key Ways to Happier Living

How much of our happiness is within our control?

When asked what they want most in life, people across the world put happiness at the top of their list. Happiness is one of the most vital, momentous things we can do for ourselves and others. And yet, how many of us spend any time thinking, talking, planning or taking action on our happiness?

So what do you think makes you happier?

  • Losing weight, looking good, looking younger?
  • A nice car, big house, fashionable clothes?
  • Getting married, having a child?
  • Getting a promotion or a salary increase?

Interestingly culture, society, education mostly tell us that these types of things are our access to happiness. In fact, research shows that none of these will make us substantially happier for any length of time. The things we believe will make a huge difference in our lives make only a small difference, while we overlook the things which really will affect our happiness.

Research has established that:

50% of our happiness is genetic

We each have a unique natural set point for our happiness. When good or bad things happen in our lives, the level will either increase or decrease, and after time it will revert to its natural set point.

10% of our happiness is affected by our personal circumstances

A surprisingly low figure influenced by things like your home, car, appearance, job, income, marital status, even health.

40% of our happiness is affected by how we behave and think

The great news is that we have the power to control this 40% of our level of happiness.

What can we do to increase our levels of happiness?

Research has shown that there are there are a number of ways of thinking and behaving which indisputably affect our happiness. The wonderful thing about these is that they are generally free, easy to do, and not necessarily time consuming.

My ten key ways to happier living are:

  • Connect with people
  • Be kind to others
  • Be curious and keep learning
  • Take time to regularly appreciate the world around you and your life
  • Be part of something bigger – get involved with your community in a way that makes you happy
  • Take care of your body
  • Set yourself goals to look forward to and achieve
  • Find ways to help you bounce back
  • Practice using positive language and having a positive attitude
  • Give yourself a break – get in control of that inner critic and acknowledge yourself for the good stuff

Free Hugs Delivered

It’s Saturday March 16th and I am back at home after delivering free hugs to people in Bedford. I was joined by Hannah, Lynda, Roshan, Ann, Becks, Beth, Ian and another girl whose name I didn’t get.

We hugged for an hour – people of all ages, shapes, sizes, genders, races, nationalities, creeds and colours. There were toddlers and pensioners, people in wheel chairs, groups of people, single people, couples, and some came back for more.

It was lovely to see people smile and to hear people say ‘thank you’ or ‘I needed that’. And we all had fun, laughed and enjoyed some really moving hugs.

Thank you Bedford – that made me really happy today and I will remember it for ever.

Free Hugs Flash Mob for Happiness

March 20th is the first UN World Day of Happiness which gives me a great opportunity to do something which I have been wanting to do for a while – Free Hugs.

I’ve seen a few people in London doing this on the South Bank. They stand with a sign saying Free Hugs, and wait for people to take them up on the offer. I always have and invariably felt very warm and fuzzy after the experience. There is something strangely touching about getting a hug from a random stranger in the street.

If you haven’t ever experienced it or seen it, here’s a video from Australia.

The other thing I have always wanted to do is take part in a flash mob, so I decided to do both and attempt to do a free hugs flash mob.

So on Saturday March 16th in the centre of Bedford where I live, in front of Marks and Spencer’s and Clinton’s Cards at 2pm I am inviting people to gather discreetly bearing a Free Hugs sign which can be as large or small, simple or extravagant as you like.

At 2pm all flash mob huggers will take out their signs and offer hugs to other mobbers as well as unsuspecting passers by. I have no idea how this will work. It would be amazing to see a crowd of huggers, and it may just be me there. Whatever happens, I’m going to have fun and I will have done something which I have been thinking about doing for some time. I love to tick things off my life list!

Come along, spread the word, make a cool sign, wrap up warm. Be ready to hug, laugh, spread some happiness and get connected with people.

By the way if you want to know more about UN World Day of Happiness and get involved, here’s a link UN World Day of Happiness

Bring Me Sunshine

I have been thinking about Happiness tunes – ones which refer directly to happiness and also those which make me laugh, smile or want to dance.

The other day I decided to get on iTunes and buy a few and then listen to them on my way into London and see how they affected my mood. I started with iconic theme tune for the Morecombe and Wise show. You know the one (if you’re old enough or watch the Christmas Specials they still show after all these years) which they would exit the programme to every week skipping away from camera, waving their arms in the air.

‘Bring me sunshine, in your smile.
Bring me laughter all the while.
In this world where we live there should be more happiness.
So much joy you can give to each brand new bright tomorrow.’

Brilliant lyrics and the melody just makes me smile, and sway a little, which is what happened on the East Midlands train from Bedford to London. It was crowded and I was standing in the alleyway in front of the toilet, swaying and mouthing the words and smiling away. I caught one lady’s eye and she beamed at me thankfully instead of wondering if I needed medical attention.

It’s extremely evocative music which anchors me to a joyous, fun childhood. Wow, I loved that show and, more than the show itself, I loved those Saturday evenings watching TV with my parents and sister in the snug with some kind of chocolate treat.

The next track to be added to my Happiness Playlist was Monty Python’s classic ‘Always Look on the Bright Side of Life’.

‘If life seems jolly rotten,
there’s something you’ve forgotten,
and that’s to dance and laugh and sing.’

Surely as profound as anything written by any philosopher. And the title is a ready made mantra for life – Always look on the bright side of life. I have decided that this is one for my funeral, so I have added it to my special requests in my will! In fact, I am going to add ‘Bring me Sunshine’ too as the music to play when people are leaving – genius.

So what next? Well as I am a child of the 1970s then Ken Dodd has to be on there with his wonderful song ‘Happiness’.

‘Happiness, happiness,
the greatest gift that I possess.
I thank the lord that I’ve been blessed,
with more than my share of happiness.
To me this world is a wonderful place,
I’m the luckiest human in the human race.
I’ve got no silver and I’ve got no gold,
but I’ve got happiness in my soul.’

I also now have Judy Garland’s ‘Get Happy’ and of course the classic ‘Don’t Worry Be Happy’ by Bobby McFerrin.

Then there are the tracks which cant’ fail to make you want to dance. For me it has to be ‘Hey Ya’ by Outkast, and ‘Love Shack’ by the B52’s.

Sol that’s what I have come up with so far – it’s a work in progress. And I am looking for others to contribute some inspiring suggestions.

Nothing is Wrong

In the words of William Shakespeare – ‘Nothing is good or bad, but thinking makes it so.’

Well said Mr S. How much time do we spend making ourselves and others wrong for all kinds of thoughts, words and actions? How much better could it be if we remembered these words and realised that they are just thoughts, words and actions. They only become ‘good’ or ‘bad’ once we choose to give that meaning to them.

I have those words, along with the title of today’s blog,  ‘Nothing is Wrong’, stuck up on my window frame, in front of my desk, so that I am sitting looking out of the window my eyes will glance regularly at that message.

I am setting up my own coaching business, and currently most of my days are filled with learning how to do new things, or learning new stuff. That means that quite often I have no idea what to do, never mind how to do it. 

This is a dangerous space within which lies a lot of potential blame and wrong waiting to be attributed. It is manna from heaven for that voice in my head, my inner critic. ‘Why aren’t you doing more?’ ‘How come you don’t know how to do that?’ ‘I can’t believe it’s taken you so long to complete that piece of work?’ ‘Other people are so much more creative than you.’ 

And then I am reminded of the message that nothing is wrong. Today is what it is, and if I need some space to think more slowly and indirectly about the many things that I am dealing with at the moment, then so be it. That is what I need and that is fine. 

Making myself wrong will in the end make me less productive. If I ruin my day by struggling through something and at the same time blaming myself for not being good enough to do it quicker, better, or more creatively, then I will be more demotivated to start again tomorrow.

So I divert myself to doing something else, something which in my current mood I will find easier or more interesting. I do that and I enjoy it and do it well. It restores my faith in my own ability and returns my equilibrium.

Learning to be as kind to yourself as you would be to others is a key step to happiness, especially when you are your own boss and manager. Remember – nothing is wrong.