August 30, 2010

Five ways to well-being [life extension]

There's no question that our sense of well-being is a significant contributor to our overall longevity. While it may or may not impact directly on aging, it most certainly influences the ways in which we engage in life and with others—and that most certainly impacts on our mental and physical health.

But the idea that we can actually choose to be happy is largely rejected in our society; much of Western culture is rooted in the idea that externalities control our mood and that we as individuals are merely reacting to either negative or positive stimuli. That's why the media constantly hammers us with the message that purchasing a next generation iGadget will unlock our happiness.

Fortunately, we have more control over our happiness than we think.

Back in 2008, the New Economics Foundation was commissioned by the UK Government’s Foresight Project on Mental Capital and Well-being to review the inter-disciplinary work of over 400 scientists from across the world. The aim was to identify a set of evidence-based actions to improve well-being, which individuals would be encouraged to build into their daily lives.

The NEF came up with five evidence-based ways to well-being:
  1. Connect: Make an effort to be social, whether it be with friends, colleagues or neighbors
  2. Be Active: Make an effort to be more physical, whether it be walking, running, cycling, dancing, whatever
  3. Take notice: Stop sleepwalking and start being curious, inquisitive, and mindful; savour the little things
  4. Keep learning: Learn a new skill, rediscover an old hobby, push past your comfort zones and what you think you know
  5. Give: Do something nice for a friend or stranger, volunteer your time; see yourself linked to the wider community
The NEF suggests that we try to engage in all five of these activities over the course of each day.

Seems simple, no? Go for it—choose to be happy. And live a longer, happier life.


Nick Roy said...

Thanks for this information, George. Scientific inquiry continues to benefit me (and most everyone) at a quickening pace in both obvious and non-obvious ways.

Rich said...

I think that if people could learn to observe their life for what it IS and not for how they perceive it through the filter of the mind, then most people would be a lot more content. A lot of unhappiness and despair comes from comparing our situation to others and for not seeing the world and themselves as objectively as possible. This isn't to say that someone living in extreme poverty will become "happy" by seeing their lives as it really is, but they could see that they are surviving and are alive and experiencing the world the best way they can considering the cards they've been dealt.