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:
- Connect: Make an effort to be social, whether it be with friends, colleagues or neighbors
- Be Active: Make an effort to be more physical, whether it be walking, running, cycling, dancing, whatever
- Take notice: Stop sleepwalking and start being curious, inquisitive, and mindful; savour the little things
- Keep learning: Learn a new skill, rediscover an old hobby, push past your comfort zones and what you think you know
- Give: Do something nice for a friend or stranger, volunteer your time; see yourself linked to the wider community
Seems simple, no? Go for it—choose to be happy. And live a longer, happier life.