International day of happiness

woman on computer smiling in sunshine.jpeg

International Day of Happiness is an annual event held on the 20th of March. The event is observed by all UN member states, with the aim of promoting “the happiness and wellbeing of all peoples”. In recognition of International Day of Happiness, we’ve come up with a few things you can do to help yourself stay happy.

Invest in Yourself

One of the driving forces behind depression is in many cases a lack of purpose. People who don’t know where they’re going or what they’re doing can find it hard to look forward to an uncertain future. At the same time, it can be harder to look back on accomplishments without having something to work towards, amplifying these feelings.

Even if you haven’t quite figured out what you want to do in life, you can still take action to improve it. Taking up a new hobby or class gives you a measurable goal to accomplish, which will help give you a sense of accomplishment. If you don’t know what your dream job is, it doesn’t matter. Getting a degree in something like data analytics will help you in any job. Nobody has ever been ashamed of knowing how to cook, so why not try that? There’s no limit to the number of ways you can invest in yourself, and as long as you choose things you really care about, you will get that sense of accomplishment.

Exercise More

Another way you can invest in yourself is to invest in your physical health. Our minds and bodies are intrinsically linked, literally, and each can have a tremendous impact on the other. Poor physical health will make us feel sick, sore, tired, and release fewer endorphins such as dopamine. This is the beginning of a downward spiral, as our minds feel more and more fatigued, and less inclined to get up and move.

One study examined the effects of exercise on depression by taking a group of patients and dividing them into three treatment options: medication, exercise, and both. The exercise required was 45 minutes, 3 times a week. After 4 months, all groups were roughly on par in terms of happiness. After an additional 6 months, 38% of those who had taken medication had relapsed, 31% of the combination had relapsed, and 9% of the exercise group had relapsed.

Sleep Better

You don’t need to be a scientist to know that people who don’t get a good night’s sleep tend to be a little crankier than the rest of us. The reason for this is that a lack of sleep affects the brain’s ability to regulate the amygdala, the area of the brain responsible for memories, survival instincts, and emotions. Psychologically, these are three things that overlap quite heavily, as our emotions and memories serve to keep us safe from danger. So when we don’t get enough sleep, these three key areas of our personalities go haywire.

A study published by Ninad Gujar et al. supports this. Gujar found that employees who are given the opportunity to take a nap around noon were calmer, more relaxed, and happier. The study showed that with sufficient sleep, the amygdala is much more responsive to positive emotions than to negative ones, so if you have trouble getting a good night’s sleep, don’t rule out the impact a nap could have.

2017 marks the fifth anniversary of International Day of Happiness. The day is recognised by all UN member states, so find out more about how to get involved and spread the joy.

David Clarke