Thursday, 20 March 2014

How to be happy?


Today is the UN International Day of Happiness! That's right, 20th March is a day on which you are 'officially' encouraged to pursue happiness. You might not think you need the encouragement of an 'official' day to help you prioritise your own happiness, even for just one day, but many of us don't actually do this. Surprising, seeing as the one thing we would most want for our children is for them to 'be happy'!

With this in mind, it gives me great pleasure (dare I say it makes me happy!) on this day to tell you about 'positive psychology', a fast-growing sub-discipline within academic psychology dedicated to the study of what makes life worth living, optimal human functioning, and within this: happiness. I feel very fortunate to be involved with one of the few MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) courses in which students can study this subject at university at a postgraduate level. In fact, the course is one of only two MAPP courses in the UK, and one of only around ten in the world!  The students this course attracts are an impressive and diverse group who travel far and wide to take the course with a view to applying what they learn in their own personal and working lives. In fact, the 'word-cloud' above represents the 'language of positive psychology' as expressed by our students over the past week when capturing their thoughts in relation to the course.

One way in which we are marking the International Day of Happiness is through one of our MAPP students, Lesley Lyle, who (amongst other things) is the author of a new book Laugh Your Way to Happiness (published by Watkins books). Over the last year or so, Lesley has been sending out 'Laughter Buddies' (see picture) to encourage people to spend more time doing things they enjoy (with their Laughter Buddy or LB), photographing their LB mid-activity, and sharing these through a dedicated Laughter Buddies Facebook page.

On 20th March 2014, we are sending 10 extra special Laughter Buddies out into the world (well, High Wycombe...) with the instructions to their initial owners to do something fun (they love to have fun!), take a photo, post it on the Facebook page, and then pass their LB on to a friend they can trust to do the same. We will follow the travels of these Laughter Buddies over the coming year via the Facebook page until next year's International Day of Happiness. How far will they travel? And who will be touched by their uncanny ability to bring a little joy and laughter into people's lives?  In the meantime, if you would like to find out how you can get involved (of course you do!), then you can contact Lesley via the Laughter Buddies Facebook page.

Even without a Laughter Buddy by your side, there is plenty you can do on this Day of Happiness (or any day) to boost your own wellbeing. So, with thanks to leading positive psychologist and author of The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky, I'll leave you with some quick tips on how to increase your happiness, all of which have been shown to have lasting effects upon levels of personal happiness:

1. Express gratitude: Encourage yourself to stop and think of three things for which you are grateful. Gives an immediate boost to your wellbeing! 

2. Practice acts of kindness: Go and do something nice for someone. It will make you both happier. 

3. Nurture social relationships: Connect with a friend. Phone one you haven't spoken to in a while and wish them a happy day of happiness! 

4. Increase 'Flow': Do something you love doing, where you lose all sense of time. Do it more often. 

5. Get yourself a Laughter Buddy: OK, I added this one and the evidence may not be there yet. But having a good laugh does release oxytocin in the brain, a neurochemical associated with trust and empathy. i.e., laughing is good for the soul.

1 comment:

  1. UPDATE: There is now a dedicated website for our Laughter Buddies at to make it easier to follow the progress of our 10 Laughter Buddies. Updates will be posted there first and foremost.. because not everyone is a fan of Facebook you know! (And if you've dipped into the archives of this blog that includes me... :-))