Fifty years ago we were being told that ‘you’ve never had it so good’ and the arrival of mod cons was going to usher us into an Age of Leisure. Instead we’ve entered an era where so many of the certainties and foundations of life are crumbling – relationships, jobs, communities. And whereas previous centuries brought epidemics of physical disease, the 21st century is experiencing an epidemic of stress & depression – overwork or no work, constant juggling, job insecurity, redundancy, divorce and the demands of caring for children and families. Whatever happened to work/life balance?
Mostly we pay attention to our physical health and let our psychological health look after itself. But just as there are things like diet and exercise that support our physical well-being, there are also actions that can support our mental and emotional well-being so that we feel better and function well.
The Happiness Habits are a form of psychological hygiene – scientifically-grounded practices that build resilience to help you cope with the stresses of life, overcome the tendency to anxiety and depression and stop the downwards spiral into something worse. I think of them as like pulling on a woolly jumper that protects you from the cold with the added bonus that they also help you feel good!
Here is a preview of the 8 habits of happiness which we teach on the Happiness Habits programme. The 8 weeks of training gives you the time to really master the practices so that you experience an increase in your well-being which is sustainable rather than short-term.
Savour Positive Experiences. This is about deepening the enjoyment of life’s good times so that you squeeze all the juice out of a positive experience. Savouring can take many forms from basking to marvelling, relishing, cherishing, feasting etc. It’s about slowing down and focusing our attention on life’s positive events.
Practise Gratitude. Asking yourself what’s good in life, what’s going well and what you’re grateful for draws attention to the positives in life. This helps to overcome the mind’s negativity bias which makes us tune into what’s wrong before we notice what’s right. Gratitude has been described as a meta-strategy for happiness. Expressing gratitude to someone for a good deed leads to positive emotion bouncing back and forth.
Use your Strengths. Identifying and playing to your strengths rather than focusing on your weaknesses is one of the best ways to build well-being and reduce symptoms of depression. Strengths are two-fold – positive characteristics (personal strengths) and talents (performance strengths).
Live Life with Meaning & Purpose. This is about the deeper form of happiness. The things that give you a sense of satisfaction and fulfilment. Having a sense of meaning and purpose gives you a solid bedrock in life and a goal to strive towards.
Nurture Relationships. Our connections to others are the no1 source of happiness which is precisely why they need tender loving care. We have a need for belonging. What characterises the top 10% of happy people is that they have good close relationships and active social lives.
Learn Optimism. Optimism is psychological self-defence, thinking strategies that can protect you from the pessimistic thinking which fast-tracks to depression.
Build your Resilience. The good news is that resilience is ‘ordinary magic’ as there are many everyday things that strengthen you from the inside to cope with tough times and bounce back from difficulty
Positive Directions. Having a goal that you work towards can give you a sense of progress and achievement.
An e-book on the Happiness Habits is currently in production but if you want to learn more about these evidence-based tools to raise and recover your well-being, they’re all in the book Positive Psychology for Overcoming Depression, self-help strategies for happiness, inner strength and well-being.