How to be happy!
Happiness. It’s something we all talk about. We all want to be “happy” but what does being happy mean and how do we achieve it? What are the keys to happiness? Happiness can often feel elusive, particularly in a time when depression and anxiety appear to be on the rise. Can happiness be an almost permanent state or is it just fleeting moments?

Generally, I think it is recognised that one of the most important factors contributing to happiness is having close and meaningful social relationships. People who have such relationships generally score higher on every positive health outcome. They are the happiest. This isn’t really surprising. Most of us have our warmest and best memories about shared joys with people we care about and love.

Marriage and partnerships can also produce happiness. That is of course if the relationship is loving, caring and nurturing. Interestingly, it has been shown that the boost in happiness is often greater for men. The reasoning here seems to be that women tend to have a greater number of relationships and support outside of their marriage or romantic partnership.

Mental health professionals also often talk about the correlation between gratitude and happiness. There is a difference between the “cup half full” and the “cup half empty” way of thinking. Those who are grateful for what they have are generally happier people than those who are always hankering after more. Many people do a daily gratitude type journal and report that this helps them. The act of being grateful and the act of noting it down certainly does result in positive thoughts. Positivity contributes to happiness.

It is often the small things that contribute to our feeling of happiness. Many of us think we will be happy if we have more of something. More money, more time, more success, more beauty and so on. Happiness is always tied to achieving more. But it really is the small things. Things like spending time with nature, enjoying being in the fresh air, enjoying the greenery and scenery around us. Spring is often a time when people report feeling particularly happy. It’s a time of renewal and growth. It can often give a sense of peace and calm. Savouring small moments can make us happy too. Being with friends and laughing. Seeing children smile. Giving people presents and relishing their enjoyment. Many people also say when they have helped somebody else then that makes them happy too. There’s also the happiness that can be derived from being deeply absorbed in an activity. That can be something creative or something which demands great attention such as researching and writing and academic essay. It creates “flow”. Or it could something very different like playing sport. Anything which demands concentration. Many actors report feeling “euphoric” after being on stage.

The good news about all of this is the way to happiness isn’t a secret. It’s a mix of intimacy, mindfulness , gratitude and kindness. It’s being present in the present, finding joy in the people and places around you. So take out to be in the moment, to spend time with people you enjoy being with. Do something that is fun. Give yourself treats. One of my favourite things is to enjoy a cup of coffee in the garden and just watch and listen. I am of course grateful to have a garden. If you haven’t make sure you find some greenery where you can just sit and enjoy your surroundings.

Of course there may be deeper reasons that are affecting your happiness. If this is the case then reach put to someone you can trust and talk to them. Often talking to someone who will just listen and not “advise” may help you clarify things. I’ll talk about that in more detail though in another blog.