We all want to be happy!
But what’s the secret to achieving happiness even when experiencing depression or anxiety? Seeing the film ‘Happy‘ has given me some new ideas on how to help myself and that is what I’d like to share.
Filmmaker, Roko Belic, travelled to more than a dozen countries (over 6 years) searching for the meaning of happiness. This delightful movie,which brings together empirical research and personal interviews, offers a superb insight into what makes people happy – no matter where they live or their life circumstances.
The movie concludes that seven things contribute to human happiness; practicing happiness, keeping moving, investing in our community, rethinking success, helping others, expressing gratitude and deepening our self-awareness.
Today, I am interested in how we can practice happiness as a way of improving mental well-being.
It is well documented that too much stress is bad for us and a contributing factor towards reduced mental well-being, depression and anxiety.
If happiness is an antidote to stress, then it follows that practicing happiness will improve mental health.
According to this film, 50% of our personal happiness effect is controlled by the genes we receive from our parents. Then, surprisingly only anther 10% of our happiness is due to the circumstances of our lives: status, money, career and the things we have. That means we can do something about the remaining 40%. Wow, that surprised me.
Coming across this information has given me an increasing confidence that I have control over my happiness effect. And if I am lucky enough to be born with optimistic genes then my chances for happiness are even higher.
It might seem obvious that when we alter our thinking, we will be happier. But I don’t believe that we truly appreciate this fact when we are head down, getting on with life. I know how quickly I can forget how to practice happiness, when under stress or over-striving.
Secondly, if I intrinsically understand that I can be happy by just practicing it, then why do I spend so much time: worrying about what people think of me, buying things I don’t need or criticising others in the belief that I will be happier.
At times it can feel difficult to change the circumstances that we find ourselves in. For me, when my mood is low everything gets harder to manage. This includes getting up, doing exercise and making friends. I also get very stuck in my thinking.
So from now on, I need to keep reminding myself that 40% of my happiness effect is within my control.
We can all think of examples of people who have succeeded well above the circumstances of their lives. At the same time we know many others trapped in life situations apparently beyond their control. But how would their situation improve if they recognised and truly understood that practicing happiness is life changing?
One thing we must do before we can practice happiness is to be kinder to ourselves and do the things that truly make us happy. Then we need to stop feeling guilty about taking care of ourselves! If we fail to look after our own happiness first, then we are unlikely to be able to help others.
I know that when I am experiencing depression or high anxiety levels, my brain doesn’t work well, my memory is patchy and my ability to focus declines. During these times, it can be difficult figuring out what I should do to feel happier. It’s at these times I am lucky that I have friends and family to help me through. They do this with their wisdom, good spirits and empathy.
Fortunately, it’s not always this way and these days I like to spend my time thinking about how I can help others improve their happiness effect.
What about you? Please think what you can do to support the people you know with mental health issues to live happier lives.