10 Steps to Happiness
Posted on: February 19, 2016

This post originally appeared on TheGuardian.com

Here are some thoughts on 10 areas that tend to make a big difference to people’s happiness. Luckily, they are all areas that are within our control.

 Do things for others

Caring about others is fundamental to our happiness. Helping other people is not only good for them; it’s good for us too. It makes us happier and can help to improve our health. Giving also creates stronger connections between people and helps to build a happier society for everyone. It’s not all about money - we can also give our time, ideas and energy. So if you want to feel good, do good.

Connect with people

Our relationships with other people are the most important thing for our happiness. People with strong relationships are happier, healthier and live longer. Our close relationships with family and friends provide love, meaning, support and increase our feelings of self-worth. Our broader social networks bring a sense of belonging. So it’s vital that we take action to strengthen our relationships and make new connections.

Take care of your body

Our body and mind are connected. Being active makes us happier as well as healthier. It instantly improves our mood and can even lift us out of depression. We don’t all have to run marathons - there are simple things we can do to be more active each day. We can also boost our wellbeing by spending time outdoors, eating healthily, unplugging from technology and getting enough sleep. Regular exercise can lift you out of depression, but even if you’re healthy a burst of activity will boost your mood.

Notice the world around you

Have you ever felt there must be more to life? Good news – there is. And it’s right here in front of us. We just need to stop and take notice. Learning to be more mindful and aware does wonders for our wellbeing, whether it’s on our walk to work, in the way we eat or in our relationships. It helps us get in tune with our feelings and stops us dwelling on the past or worrying about the future.

Keep learning

Learning affects our wellbeing in lots of positive ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence and resilience. There are many ways to learn new things throughout our lives, not just through formal qualifications. We can share a skill with friends, join a club, learn to sing, play a new sport and so much more.

Have goals to look forward to

Feeling good about the future is really important for our happiness. We all need goals to motivate us and these have to be challenging enough to excite us, but also achievable. If we try to attempt the impossible, this creates unnecessary stress. Choosing meaningful but realistic goals gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.

Find ways to bounce back

All of us have times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. How we respond to these events has a big impact on our wellbeing. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose how we react to what happens. In practice it’s not always easy, but one of the most exciting findings from recent research is that resilience, like many other life skills, can be learned.

Take a positive approach

Positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration and pride – don’t just feel good when we experience them. They also help us perform better, broaden our perception, increase our resilience and improve our physical health. So although we need to be realistic about life’s ups and downs, it helps to focus on the good aspects of any situation – the glass half full rather than the glass half empty.

Be comfortable with who you are

Nobody’s perfect. But so often we compare a negative view of ourselves with an unrealistic view of other people. Dwelling on our flaws – what we’re not rather than what we’ve got – makes it much harder to be happy. Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all, and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong increases our enjoyment of life, our resilience and our wellbeing. It also helps us accept others as they are. Ask a friend what they think your good points are – you’ll be surprised at the lift it will give you.

Be part of something bigger

People who have meaning and purpose in their lives are happier, feel more in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress, anxiety and depression. But where do we find meaning and purpose? It might come from doing a job that makes a difference, our religious or spiritual beliefs, or our family. The answers vary for each of us but they all involve being connected to something bigger than ourselves.

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