From practicing gratitude to seeking the good in others, Mark Williamson from Action for Happiness suggests five habits for happiness
Science shows that grateful people tend to be happier and healthier. Gratitude can be a stress-buster and can even have a beneficial effect on heart rate. Consciously nurture the habit, by noticing three good things each day. For example: “Bumped into Dave – I’d forgotten how much he makes me laugh,” or “Really enjoyed lunch away from my desk.”
Research indicates that we can get as much out of volunteering as the people we give our time to. The ‘helper’s high’ is associated with reduced depression and anxiety and improved wellbeing. Volunteering is also a way to get stuck in to social and community life – another thing that is strongly associated with life satisfaction.
It’s easy to take our nearest and dearest for granted and criticism can come easily, especially in long-established relationships. Psychologist John Gottman recommends aiming for five positive interactions for every negative one you have with a person. These can range from showing affection, to thinking about what we value about them.
If you’re a parent, try to show your child how to find constructive solutions to conflicts. All parents argue, and sometimes it’s in front of children. But try to let them also see resolutions: how two adults can solve their differences and return to a caring, supportive relationship, despite difficult emotions.
When we put our strengths into practice, we’re usually energised and feel at our best. Identify your best traits – with the help of friends and family if necessary – and use them! For example, if your top strength is ‘curiosity’, try taking a different route to work, attending a talk on a new subject, or cooking or trying food from a different culture.
Mark Williamson is director of Action for Happiness