After being founded in June 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly, the International Day of Happiness will be celebrated for the fifth time on March 20th, 2017.
The day marks recognition of wellbeing as a basic human right – but is also a timely reminder for people to find happiness in their day and bring happiness into the lives of others.
For many people, this can be easier said than done – and some individuals may find it difficult to imagine how they would go about creating more happiness in the world. Luckily, positive psychology research has put forth simple and effective evidence-based interventions to increase happiness.
To support International Day of Happiness in 2016, an organisation called Project Happiness created a 21-Day Happiness Challenge to help people create positive and sustainable habits. These habits are co-ordinated with the days of the week, and encourage different types of positive behaviours.
Have a read and consider how you could inject these habits into your daily practice!
1. Mindful Monday: Mindfulness, the ancient practice of focusing non-judgmental awareness on the present moment, is a proven way to reduce stress, increase focus, enhance emotional intelligence, and decrease anxiety. It also helps activate your senses so you can fully experience greater positive emotion.
2. GratiTuesday: Gratitude is the practice of giving thanks in life. By intentionally focusing on the good parts of our day, we are affirming that there is goodness in the world, so the feeling of positivity grows. Shawn Achor, a positive psychology expert, suggests that just 21 days of daily recording of three ‘gratitudes’– will begin to produce positive effects on the brain and body. And if you pass on your gratitude to others – you’ll create a ripple effect of happiness!
3. Wellness Wednesday: Simply put, happiness is good for your health. Choose a form of exercise that you love – dance around the kitchen, find a yoga class, walk with a friend – studies show that just 15 mins of exercise a day flushes the body with dopamine, a positive neurotransmitter released in the brain. Make sure you get enough sleep, and choose foods that energise the body instead of dulling the mind. Simple, basic and it works!
4. Thoughtful Thursday: To feel good, do good. Helping others, even in very small ways, will contribute to your long-term happiness. Giving to others releases endorphins, activating the parts of our brains that are associated with trust, pleasure and social connection. As the researchers write, “Increases in well-being promote altruism that, in turn, increases well-being. Such a cycle holds the promise of creating a ‘sustainable happiness’ with broad benefits for altruists, their beneficiaries, and society at large.” Do something selfless, and experience the positive impact in your relationships with others.
5. Friday Freedom: Being your authentic self allows you to live with greater freedom. According to Dr. Brene Brown, when you embrace an authentic and vulnerable stance in life, people will meet you there in that openness, allowing you to experience true connection. Part of Friday Freedom is letting go – of stress, anxiety and ill will towards others…so if you’re holding a grudge, try letting it go and enjoy the happiness you receive in return!
6. Saturday Social: Connection is important in boosting mental and physical health and even increases immunity and longevity. Did you know that happiness is contagious up to three degrees of separation (for example, to the friends of one’s friends’ friends). One study reports: “People’s happiness depends on the happiness of others with whom they are connected. This provides further justification for seeing happiness, like health, as a collective phenomenon.” Make time for friends and family – your well being depends on it!
7. Soulful Sunday: Most people would agree that having a life of meaning contributes to sustainable happiness. There are many ways to experience meaning, and most of them start within. It is in the quiet moments that we can connect to our inner guidance, as well as to something greater. These moments can show up in nature, they open us to a sense of spirituality, or even emerge In conversation with a trusted friend. Take the time to connect with your innermost essence; it will guide you to know that all the answers reside inside.
Whether you adopt the full 21-Day Challenge, or just one of these happiness habits – use International Day of Happiness this year to bring happiness into focus and start creating the positive life you want to lead.
Posted by Erin Strube.
Happiness Habits adapted from Project Happiness – https://projecthappiness.com/
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