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International Day of Happiness!

A whole day to celebrate happiness! Yay. Let’s do it!

Happiness is a choice. But what does it really mean to be happy? Psychologists say that a happy person experiences frequent positive emotions such as joy, interest and pride and infrequent (though not absent) negative emotions, such as sadness, anxiety and anger. It also relates to life satisfaction and appreciation and recognition of moments of pleasure.

So we’re not saying a happy person never experiences negative emotions but they experience them less frequently or they process them differently. If you think about the happiest person you know, how do they deal with minor events that cause frustration and angst in other, less happy people? They probably keep a greater sense of perspective, allow themselves to feel the negative emotions and then move on. Happy people don’t suppress their emotions when they feel sad or upset, but they don’t dwell on them either. Happy people also deal with disappointment differently by understanding their role and what they can do to change things for the next time. They accept responsibility for their own actions, but without overly self-critiquing. For instance, if a happy person doesn’t get a job after an interview, they accept an appropriate and proportional amount of responsibility (e.g. ‘I didn’t answer the second question very well and next time I will do a better job by preparing more thoroughly’, or ‘I did the best I could at the interview. If they offer the job to someone else it is because they are better suited than me’) and they may feel disappointed and sad about not getting the job. But they do not either place the blame elsewhere (‘They wanted their best friend for the job’ or ‘The interviewer just didn’t like me’) nor take one event to mean more than it does (‘I will never get a job, I am useless.’)

The ancient Greeks defined happiness as

‘the joy that we feel when we’re striving after our potential’

which implies several components;

  • the positive emotion of joy

  • the act of striving, which itself also implies an element to do with

  • satisfaction.

Whilst I like this definition, I think it does miss out on the components around recognition of moments pleasure. Shawn Achor, head of Goodthink and author of The Happiness Advantage puts this at the heart of 5 exercises developed to make you feel happier. I love these habits (which you can read more about here) but the one I think we could all practice today is the fifth habit which he calls ‘conscious acts of kindness’. He says ‘For two minutes each day, start work by writing a two-minute positive e-mail or text praising or thanking one person you know. And do it for a different person each day.’

Today is the perfect day to try this out because not only will you feel happy for having done something but the person that you reach out to will also feel happy. Encourage them to do the same thing and let’s create a wave of happiness and positivity on this International Day of Happiness! It doesn’t even have to be an email or a text, let’s start by tagging a person whose small act of kindness has brought you a moment of pleasure. Share this photo and tag those that help you find joy!

If you would like more ideas to be happy, you can join Action for Happiness here where you can get some great downloads for local action and activities for children.

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