A day to be happier
It will be the 4th International Day of Happiness on Sunday, March 20th, 2016. Having been founded in June 2012 by the United Nations General Assembly, the first International Day of Happiness was in 2013 and is now a day for people all over the world to celebrate happiness. International Day of Happiness is also an chance for people to remember to find happiness in their day and also to bring happiness into the day of others. The field of positive psychology has often been described as the "science of happiness," and while a large amount of research has been undertaken about happiness, positive psychology covers much more than just happiness, such as hope, resilience, strengths and positive emotions.
Being happy isn't easy
Being happy can be something that is difficult for people, because there can be a daunting expectation that we must be happy all of the time. In reality, it is unrealistic to be joyful and full of cheer all of their time or having a big grin on our face and I believe that to be happier there needs to be an acceptance that there will be bad times. By finding ways to reframe these bad times, means that we can be happier more quickly.
Interestingly, in the recent book Second Wave Positive Psychology: Embracing the Dark Side of Life, Dr. Tim Lomas highlights that there are causes for concern about too much happiness and that it can even have a negative impact in certain conditions.
That being said, on the International Day of Happiness, everyone is encouraged to create more happiness in the world and to enrich our lives and the lives of other people. For a lot of people, this can be easier said than done and individuals may be struggling to think about how they would go about creating more happiness in the world. Luckily, positive psychology research has put forth simple and effective evidence-based interventions to increase happiness.
Finding what makes you happier
Now, I'm not going to assume that the research has found a "one size fits all" way to increase happiness, more that it has produced a number of ways that people can discover which works best for them. In her book, The How of Happiness, Professor Sonja Lyubomirsky talks about the "Person-Activity Fit" Diagnostic (PAFD), which is a questionnaire designed to discover which four of the happiness activities are the best fit for an individual. The PAFD includes 12 different happiness activities, which are:
• Expressing gratitude
• Cultivating optimism
• Avoiding overthinking and social comparison
• Practicing acts of kindness
• Nurturing relationships
• Developing strategies for coping
• Learning to forgive
• Doing more activities that truly engage you
• Savouring life's joys
• Committing to your goals
• Practicing religion and spirituality
• Taking care of your body
When I took the PAFD, my top four activities were savouring life's joys, expressing gratitude, avoiding overthinking and social comparison and practicing acts of kindness. Over a two-month period I would take it in turns to focus on one of my top four activities each day and the impact on my happiness was profound. I discovered that my happiness increased as a result of the activities and that I was experiencing more enjoyment in my day. What was also interesting was that when I was having a tough time, I was able to cope better and become happier more quickly.
What was good about the four activities and why they were a good fit for me was because they came naturally to me and were something that gave me joy when I carried them out. Additionally, the activities were alignment with my values and so carrying them out gave me a sense of meaning, which contributed to increasing my levels of happiness.
And so for International Day of Happiness on 20th March, look for an activity that brings you pleasure or that would make another person happy and lets spread more happiness throughout the world.