On the 28th of June 2012, the United Nation General Assembly established 20th March as the International Day of Happiness. It is celebrated to acknowledge the importance of happiness and well-being as global goals and values throughout the lives of people and the relevance of their awareness of sustainable development goals. It also identified the need for a more equitable, inclusive and structured framework for economic expansion that seeks to promote sustainable development, alleviate poverty, and happiness for everyone.
There is no formal definition of happiness; we notice it when we feel it, and the term often refers to a variety of feelings, such as joy, fulfilment, and gratefulness. It may be the feeling of joy that comes from being satisfied with one’s value and the desire to maintain the status quo. It is a subjective feeling yet closely related to objective factors. It is affected by internal factors but also restricted by external circumstances such as environmental, sociological and psychological aspects. However, happiness is built on the basis of survival, safety, and the development of a proper social and ecological environment.
According to a survey done by Ipsos across 27 countries on level of happiness in 2020, 63% of adults worldwide reported that they are happy. The statistics have shown that the pandemic outbreak did not influence much on the prevalence of happiness throughout the world. However, profound changes in the level of happiness of different countries have been found in the report. The data showing the incidence of happiness indicated that Spain, Canada, the United States, India, Mexico, Peru and Chile have dropped significantly by eight points or more. While adults in China, Malaysia, Argentina and Russia experienced eight percent growth in the degree of happiness.
In conjunction with another global survey report, the key findings showed that the level of happiness of countries severely affected by the pandemic appears to be generally lower than those with fewer cases. Not only the death of a loved one has a significant impact on the level of happiness, but the limitation of daily movement and social gatherings have disrupted people’s daily lives. “New normal” does more than just wearing a mask, constantly washing your hands, and keeping your distance when you are out.It has also hugely impacted people’s mental health.
Since we can’t change the reality, we should shift our mindset, create our own happiness and use the positives to overcome every challenge. Happiness is contagious, it could be transmitted to others when we ourselves are happy. Only by actively nurturing happiness, can one obtain it. So, let’s treat it as a habit and cultivate it!
There is no doubt that the new normal is really a huge challenge for most people, but how can we break through the difficult times and create our own happiness in this inevitable situation? Let’s take a look at the following tips:
1. Practice gratitude and express it.
Be truly grateful for the good deeds of others, and focus on what you owned instead of things that you can’t control! Express this feeling by writing down on a notepad or by simply telling someone a “thank you”! This little habit will definitely boost your happiness in the long run.
2. Stay connected with your loved ones.
Having a hard time? Try to refrain yourself from spending all day on social media and spend quality time with your loved ones if they are living nearby! In these critical times, it is especially important to have physical support from each other.
In fact, relationships with your closed ones play an extremely important role. Most of the time, happiness comes from your social network. Having healthy social connection with others can help you get through most of the difficult times.
With social distancing and the implementation of the lockdown policy that have prevented physical contact between humans, it is understandably a challenging task for long distance relationships. Nevertheless, let’s utilise technology wisely to stay connected with our loved one!
3. Boost your energy!
Physical wellness is the fundamental basis of happiness, so here are some healthy lifestyle changes that can help you create more happiness!
i. Eat a balanced diet according to your own recommended daily intake
Have you ever experienced mood swings after eating sugary treats or simply feel frustrated because of your digestion problems? Obviously, our moods are intrinsically linked with what we eat. Although most of us are trying to look for a sweet treat to cheer us up when we are in an unpleasant mood, research has found that those who consume higher sugar intake are less likely to be happy. To complement the blood sugar spike, one’s body stimulates the release of endorphins, that’s why we will initially feel happier and sometimes even calmer after eating sugary food.
However, the drastic changes in blood sugar level will result in the decline in our mood and might lead to depression. Study has also shown that a nutritious diet, or even healthy eating habits, might also result in increased happiness and energy. This is because a balanced diet helps to nourish our brain while also promote the growth of useful gut bacteria.
ii. Let’s sweat!
You may think that it is a cliche that exercise makes you happy but if you’ve ever had a sweat-inducing experience, you know that science isn’t lying. In fact, as little as 10 minutes of exercise a day can significantly increase a person’s happiness index. A Yale University study found that people who regularly go to the gym or practice yoga are happier than people who win the lottery.
By implementing regular exercises to our daily lives, our brains will automatically respond to it by producing more chemical signals such as dopamine and serotonin compared to a sedentary lifestyle.
iii. Get enough sleep.
The reason behind having a good sleep is very simple. We tend to get easily frustrated if we don’t have quality sleep over the night. It is vital to get sufficient sleep as well as a good rest throughout the day. Having difficulties in getting enough rest? Try rescheduling your bedtime! Consider doing some guided meditation and get rid of all electronic devices 1 hour before you sleep.
4. Create little joys by celebrating small wins
Small wins differ from person to person. It might be as small as waking up early or staying hydrated everyday. They wouldn’t transform our lives but they can bring positive energy to us in order for us to stay motivated and move forward in our lives. As a matter of fact, we often focus too much on the bad things that surround us instead of noticing the little wins. Let’s embrace the excitement and happiness and bask in the glory of accomplishing our small wins so that it will boost your sense of satisfaction.
5. Practice mindfulness.
It is not hard to believe the continuous turn of events that we are experiencing has made people expect the worst instead of the best. However, the journey of life is much easier, much more enjoyable and much more likely to fill with happiness when we let go of the past and focus on the present, rather than trying to control it. Aware of your feelings as they flow past your mind. You would acknowledge and recognise certain regularities which just come up. How we perceive these events are our choice.
6. Try positive talk.
The way we feel is based on the pictures we make in our head, and the words we say to ourselves. We must always be aware of the way we communicate with ourselves as it will affect our perception and our reaction to the things that occur around us. With positive self-talk, we can emphasize on our strengths and actually listen to our inner voice while making decisions. Practicing frequent positive self-talk will help our mind move towards pleasure and away from pain.
Examples of positive self-talk:
“ I can do it if I want to learn it.”
“ It is a great opportunity for me to learn.”
“ I’ll try my best next time.”
“ I want it, I love it, I’ve chosen for it.”
In addition, we shouldn’t blame ourselves when things go wrong. For example, we can try to shift the patterns of our inner voice from “If I have ___, then I’ll be happy” or “If that doesn’t happen to me, then I won’t feel ___” to “I know something great is coming even though I’m going through hard times now.”
In a nutshell…
The definition of happiness is subjective and is different to everyone. There is no universal standard that can be used to measure “happiness”. We should learn to accept the truth that happiness is created, not found, This International Day of Happiness, let us all start cultivating the habits of creating happiness and spread positivity to the people around us. After all, we could all use a little sunshine in our lives.
“The pursuit of happiness lies at the core of human endeavour.”
— Ban Ki-moon
[Written by: Li Yi Xin]