The Internet's Top 5 Guides to a Happier Life
Would you like to know the secret to a happy life? I know I would, if there is a secret! So I decided to find out.
Amazingly, I discovered that the question ‘How to be Happy?’ is one of the most asked questions on the whole internet!
A google search reveals 267 million search results for ‘how to be happy’!
How to be happy was closely followed by ‘how to be pretty’ and ‘how to be single’. I have no idea how to be pretty, and being single - let’s not go there!
Here are the top five results, in reverse order... drum-rolls….
I love this WikiHow article. It is extensive and has been reviewed by experts too, and that shows. I’d say this is my personal favourite out of them all as it’s so detailed and yet attractively put together too. Here’s 3 tips I’ve pulled out for you:
- Your choice of activities matter. Scientists have discovered a ‘Happiness Formula’. And after genetics, 80% depends on the activities you chose to do (what you choose to do and think regularly) and 20% depends on your circumstances (income, job, living situation). So, choosing activities you enjoy doing everyday and being grateful for what you do have, has a much bigger effect on your well being than just income - although of course, you need enough money to meet your basic needs. It’s nice to know what you choose to do makes such a big difference!
- Make friends with people who share your values - a Harvard study in 2010 found Church goes were happier than no-church goes, but only if they cultivated friendships with fellow church goes. What matters is what your values are, and cultivating friends that share those values. It could be a mosque, your local football team or our ‘Happier World’ community in London, for example.
- Practice mindfulness - had to get that in! Cultivating present-moment awareness rather than constantly thinking about your past experiences and future plans is very good for your body and mind. There’s thousands of research studies that agree. Why not take a moment right now to be present and enjoy your surroundings.
The NHS has an excellent website and their suggestions make a lot of sense. Here’s a selection of them:
- Use humour and enjoy yourself - seeing the funny side in life is good for you! And jokes are a great way to ease your worries. Here’s one for you…Patient: ‘Doctor, doctor I feel like a pair of curtains’. Doctor: ‘Pull yourself together!’
- Boost your self-esteem - listen to your inner voice. Speak to yourself kindly, as you’d speak to a good friend...in a friendly, caring way.
- Build your resilience - try writing, painting or singing to help process any difficult emotions you’re going through.
This is a fascinating article, filled with links to research articles. If there’s any scientists out there, you’ll love the site. Here’s my 3 favs that I feel are doable:
- Have 5 Close Relationships - most of the research on happiness states good quality social relationships have a huge positive effect on happiness. Coming up with 5 people and focusing more on them seems like a sensible idea to me. He also states ‘National surveys find that when someone claims to have 5 or more friends with whom they can discuss important problems, they are 60 percent more likely to say that they are ‘very happy’. Precise figures there!
- Be Busy, But Not Rushed - Feeling rushed is not good for you. But being bored isn’t great either. So having something meaningful to do seems like the happy medium. He quotes Derek Sivers: For things that you aren’t obligated to do, it either needs to be a “Hell Yeah!” or a simple “No.”
- Plan Fun and Spend Money on Experiences - If you’re fortunate enough to have a bit of spare money, he quotes a variety of research showing that buying experiences is far better for you than buying material goods - stuff. Experiences are good for you for many reason: experiences improve over time as you reflect on them; experiences are more unique than stuff; you feel more energised for longer following an experienced compared to purchasing a good, and experiences are social which is always great for you.
I’ve followed this advice for the last few years and haven’t regretted it one bit - visiting places with close friends, attending conferences and events with my favourite speakers, and going on retreats with my favorite teachers have been a joy for me.
Next up, the Guardian’s piece by Dr Raj Raghunathan at the University of Texas. He found at a reunion he went to, that people who were intelligence and achieved outer success seemed miserable. He found five key areas that can have a huge effect on wellbeing – all of which are within your control. Highlights include:
- Don’t pursue happiness, prioritise it - He says prioritise happiness rather than chasing happiness. Make a list of the things that make you feel happier and focus on them - don’t obsess about how happy you actually are all the time.
- Trust strangers - the happier countries in the world have the highest degree of trust of strangers. I do enjoy speaking to strangers in a queue or waiting for a bus. But please stick to safe places when you try this one, of course :)
- Follow the flow. When you lose yourself in activities, you’re ‘in flow’ and that feels great. Look at what you’re good at - writing, cooking, gardening? Make a list and have a go at one of them regularly.
In at number one, we have Gretchen Rubin’s 10 tips on Happiness. She spent a year trying a combination of ancient wisdom, modern psychology and tips from popular culture. The ones I liked were:
- Don’t start with profundities - in other words, rather than diving in with long meditations and existential questions, do the simple things like going to bed on time and eat when you feel hungry!
- Fake it till you feel it. Your feelings follow your actions. If you’re feeling low, act cheerful and you may find yourself actually feeling better.
- Realize that anything worth doing is worth doing badly. Your brain is stimulated by novelty. So people who travel somewhere different or learn a new game for example, are happier than those sticking to familiar activities all the time. She tells herself to “Enjoy the fun of failure” and tackle some daunting goal. For me, that’s organising this Happier World conference. For you it could be your current project or challenge.
There are many ways to feel happier. Common-sense approaches like getting enough sleep, eating healthily, exercising a bit every day and valuing time with your friends make excellent first steps.
As the Dalai Lama says, ‘Happiness is not ready made. It comes through your own actions.’
Above all, being kind to others, slowing down to enjoy the journey and taking time to be grateful for what you do have makes a big difference for most people. And when things get difficult, smiling and taking nice deep breaths is always a good thing too!
Helping others to feel happier and more peaceful is most meaningful for me. So that’s why I’m organising the Happier World Conference on the 5th Nov 2016 in London. You’re warmly invited to come along. Meet fellow changemakers, leaders and teachers exploring how together, we can be the change we wish to see in the world. We’ll explore how we can make ourselves and the world a happier place to be. I’d love to meet you there.
If that’s impossible, fear not. We hope to live stream the event for free, for all to enjoy. Add your email address to our list to get the details on that.