Can you describe what it is to be happy? You might be able to articulate the feeling well, that sensation of warmth, contentment, satisfaction, joy. Could you explain what caused you to feel that? What makes us happy differs from person to person, it could be spending time with friends, laughing at a joke, dancing, achieving something you are proud of, taking 10 minutes to really enjoy a cup of coffee.  Happiness is personal, and many elements of our lives contribute, from the small to the momentous.

What doesn’t make us happy?

There is a trap many of us fall into, especially in today’s world, of chasing material gain.  Who doesn’t love the buzz of shopping, spending your hard-earned money on something new that you really want? But the trouble is, the ‘happiness’ we gain is very short lived, and, often, leaves us feeling a little hollow. Simply, happiness isn’t about material possessions, what you have, what it's ‘worth’ and how much of it you have. In fact, research shows us that what actually makes us happiest is connection, sharing, the feeling that we have purpose and make a difference in the world. 

Another misconception is that to be truly happy means being happy all the time.  Not only is this unrealistic but a notion that sets us up for failure because who can be happy all of the time? Life is full of ups and downs for all of us, regardless of how ‘together’ our lives are.  Events outside of our control will impact how we feel.  Modern life is busy and chaotic, and this impacts us. 

How can we increase our feelings of happiness?  And is it really that important?

As we’ve already mentioned, happiness is incredibly personal, but studies have shown us that there are many universal happiness ‘truths’.  Doing things for others promotes a sense of wellbeing and belonging which in turn, creates a feeling of happiness and worth.  It doesn’t have to be giving someone a gift (though of course, that’s lovely too!). It can be as simple as smiling as you pass someone in the street or giving a hug.  Reading a book to your child or helping out someone in need. 

Volunteering is another excellent happiness booster; one UK study of over 50,000 adults found that they reported greater life satisfaction on days they had volunteered.  This is great for our organisations too – happy staff are good for business after all. There is a lot to be said for a selfless act!

One company that knows this well is Tyler Grange, an environmental planning consultancy with a strong emphasis on staff wellbeing. They offer all staff a day month to volunteer. Check out Episode One of our podcast, A company built on happiness, where we speak with Simon Ursell, Managing Director at Tyler Grange about their journey.

What colour is your mind?

Have you heard the terms blue mind and red mind?  A red mind is used to describe what a vast majority of us experience, the feeling of being highly anxious, over-stimulated and overwhelmed, often a symptom of modern society where technology leaves us permanently connected, exposed to blue light, doom scrolling on social media and not able to switch off.  However, there is an amazing antidote, and the good news is, it’s easily accessible!  Nature. 

There is growing evidence to show that being in a natural environment resets our minds.  The term blue mind is used to describe the effect water has on us; calming and relaxing, almost meditative.  Spending time in or near water can actually help to achieve long term happiness.

If water isn’t your thing, perhaps consider the Japanese art of Shinrin Yoku, or forest bathing.  Turn off your phone and go for a walk in the woods, take it slowly and breathe deeply.  Spending time outdoors on a regular basis, even in a local park, will boost your long-term happiness and for most of us, it’s a cheap and accessible option!

Looking for other hints and tips to boost your wellbeing? Check out our podcast series, where we chat all things wellbeing with experts in their field.