The UN International Day of Happiness is Here!

It has finally arrived… the first day of Spring … AND the 2nd Annual United Nations International Day of Happiness!

Today is the day our global community will celebrate and express their happiness and well-being. It may be a different expression or act for each one of us, but it will probably be similar at the same time. Here are the top 3 things science says will help increase your happiness (and in turn increase your health and a myriad of other benefits):

heart

1. Love. Connect. Do something social. One of the founding fathers of Positive Psychology who passed away last year, Chris Peterson, is known for his finding that “People matter.” They matter for so many reasons that are related to physical, mental and emotional health– and just being around them, and with them can make you and the others much more healthy. You can start with:

  • smiling at people you don’t know (it’s contagious– gets our mirror neurons firing);
  • being present in all your social interactions today– looking at who you are speaking to start the elicitation of oxytocin (nature’s bonding/love/compassion neurotransmitter)
  • giving a hug (to release more oxytocin) and having it last up to 30 seconds.
  • savor the relationships in your life. No one has an expiration date labeled on them. Let those you care about know.
  • experience a guided version of loving kindness meditation… with the focus being someone you care about, then moving on to yourself then to another you may have some conflict with. In the end, all your relationships will benefit.

Check out Barbara Fredrickson’s Book/Site, Love 2.0, to find out what science says about this great positive emotion. And view this TedTalk by Matthew Lieberman that talks about the social brain and it’s superpowers! Both very insightful.

grateful

2. Be grateful. Say thank you. To others. To yourself. To the world. Studies show that happy people are grateful people, and that grateful people are happy (See the GreaterGood Science Center @ UC Berkeley for more info). Not sure what to be thankful for, especially if your life is turning upside down? It can be as simple as the breath you breathe today. For the ability to feel. For the gift of another day. It can be for the big things in your life (from relationships to your calling). Here’s a couple of songs that may help you think of more ideas for which to be grateful:

3. Give back. Doing something for someone else, who is not expecting it can boost your return on happiness profoundly. Volunteer for something, to help a friend or someone you know. Give time to your favorite charity, or help out with funding a community project related to something you find important (spending your money on others will bring you more happiness). There’s a ton of ways to give back. The Random Acts of Kindness site has some great ideas too. Giving back also means contributing to the greater good. Think about posting a picture of what makes you happy on the Day of Happiness website. Contribute good vibes back into the world.

Want more info on what science has found on this topic connected with health? Check out The Greater Good Science Center. Also, if you find you are always giving to others, try giving back to yourself. Self-compassion is something many of us do not practice– when the benefits for doing so can be profound. See Kristin Neff for more on Self-compassion.

You see, being happy is not just about smiling, clapping our hands, and dancing (though those are great things to do if you want to be happy— Thanks Pharrell Williams). Being happy is also about social connections, gratitude and giving back. These acts can help us get through challenging times, adversity, and conflict. Which one will you choose today? Or what other act of happiness will you intentionally express?

All of the concepts above are covered in The Happiness Journey Class that I teach with Hapacus. Interested in learning more… consider taking a class… if a different day/time works better, just let me know.



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