"The pursuit of happiness is serious business." - UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon, 2015.
On March 20, people all around the world will be celebrating the United Nations International Day of Happiness.
This joyous day was founded on June 28 2012 by United Nations adviser Jayme Illien who came up with the idea of a U.N Resolution that recognised the pursuit of happiness as a human right and a “fundamental human goal”, and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples”.
Ever since the first International Happiness Day in 2013, happiness initiatives have popped up all over the world.
So what can you do to celebrate this happy day?
Start simple. Do something small that makes you happy and that contributes to your wellbeing, and the wellbeing of others.
Here are some ideas of how you can easily cultivate some happiness this International Happiness Day, and every other day!
Smiling is one of the most immediate and natural ways to shift yourself—and other people—into a positive mood.
Start the day on a positive note with a smile. You can do this by practicing smiling at yourself in the mirror for 30 seconds. Make it fun. If it doesn’t feel right to start with, you will soon be laughing at yourself and feel better naturally. The muscles you use to smile will tell your brain you are happy. Smiling, like positive emotions, is contagious.
Gratitude is strongly associated with higher wellbeing. Science indicates it is possible to become more grateful and strengthen the character trait of gratitude.
Take some time to write down three things that you are grateful for. These can be big things such as good health, supportive relationships and career successes, or little things such as a perfect cup of coffee or hearing your favourite song on the radio.
You could take this further by cultivating gratitude in your relationships. For example, take time out of your day to say thanks to the person who may often be unappreciated. Go out of your way to thank a friend, partner, family member or work colleague for things and behaviours that have become routine or expected. Be specific when thanking people, so instead of saying “thanks”, clearly outline how they have helped you or others. For example, “thank you for helping me out by picking up my children from school. You really made my busy day easier and I am really grateful.”
Spend Five Minutes Being Mindful
Mindfulness is defined as “paying attention in a particular way: on purpose, in the present moment, and non-judgmentally”.
The benefits of mindfulness are overwhelming. With regard to wellbeing, being mindful makes it easier to savour the pleasures in life as they occur, helps you become fully engaged in activities, and creates a greater capacity to deal with adverse events. Being present sharpens your focus and helps you appreciate the little things.
Practice five minutes of mindfulness, ideally aligned with an activity you do every day, such as eating a meal or walking to work. Try to use all of your senses to take in your surroundings. There could be a beautiful sunrise, or you might simply relish the taste of your lunch.
Complete a Random Act of Kindness
Deliberately practicing kindness and becoming more aware of your own kind behaviour toward other people can positively impact wellbeing.
Small acts of kindness can brighten another’s day. They also brighten yours. Kind actions give us stories to tell to help us and others savour happy times.
Kindness can involve both small and big gestures, from letting a car get in front in traffic to helping a friend move house. People also vary with regards to the kind acts they are amenable to giving and receiving. Do kind acts you are comfortable with and enjoy. And if it’s reciprocated, it has a wonderful ripple effect.
Use Your Strengths
The understanding and mindful implementation of our strengths has some of the most positive benefits to both our performance and our overall wellbeing.
Linley defines a strength as “a pre-existing capacity for a particular way of behaving, thinking or feeling that is authentic and energising to the user, and enables optimal functioning, development and performance” (2008). Put simply, Linley (2012) says, strengths energise people, enabling them to be at their best.
By applying our strengths we achieve higher levels of happiness and wellbeing. When engaging our strengths with others and assisting them to use theirs, we build stronger and more co-operative relationships.
It is the small things you do every day that make a difference to increase happiness levels, and each positive action or choice has an impact that can spread happiness, and spread positive ripples out in the world.
Click here to get involved in International Happiness Day!