Today is International Happiness Day – the first ever formal celebration of humankind’s quest for contentment. The UN resolution that was unanimously passed last March to introduce the day stated that: “The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”.
The proposals were initially put forward by the small, Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, where happiness indicators are used to measure national prosperity, rather than just GDP. Bhutan is thought, in spite of its underdeveloped economy, to be one of the most content nations in the world.
Back in the UK, the rise of anti-depressants in the UK is continuing, with the latest figures showing nearly 47 million prescriptions in 2011 alone. Research from mental health charity Mind indicates that medication for depression is dealt out too easily and for too long. And the most recent records show that suicide rates among men in their late forties and fifties are at their highest since 1986. A survey by the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy revealed that the recession is a major factor in people’s unhappiness: over half of participants said that the economic climate was to blame for their problems.
But it’s not all doom and gloom.
According to a Government report into wellbeing released last November, Brits’ happiness took a nosedive in 2008, when the recession first hit, but it has gone back to the same levels as 2005 since. UK organisation Action For Happiness – set up to promote a joyful nation – say that only ten per cent of happiness is directly down to income or environment; the rest is dictated by relationships, activities, genes and upbringing.
Jan Stanton, counselling services manager for Mind in Croydon told Eastlondonlines: “In our last quarter, the issues that were raised [in counselling sessions] were mostly to do with relationships, family/parents, childhood issues, self-esteem, depression and anxiety.”
So, although the double dip recession may be out of our hands, there are things we can do to improve our happiness on other fronts. Here are five tips to boosting our boroughs’ wellbeing for International Happiness Day:
We’ve all heard it a thousand times, but it’s true that keeping active is really important for your wellbeing – both physically and mentally. A recent study by the University of Columbia assessed over 7,500 adults on the relationship between their exercise regime and their state of mind. The verdict: working-out for between two and four hours each week is the optimal exercise routine for your brain. Mind in Croydon are holding a 15km charity walk around Lloyds Park on May 25th and welcome anyone who wants to join them to exercise, socialise and raise money for a good cause.
Scientists have proven that doing something nice for another person stimulates the same part of the brain as having something nice done for you. Anything from making tea for your flatmate to giving blood or volunteering for a charity will give you a chemical buzz that will improve your state of mind. For information on local charities see our guide, or click here.
Okay, that’s not exactly what the research says, but it’s part of it. Treats, such as small amounts of confectionary, can boost your mood. And they’ve been used in research to prove that being chirpy helps your brain to work better; which, in turn, improves your happiness.
Research shows that doing an evening course or learning a new skill can improve your life satisfaction as much as a pay rise. Statistically, those who take on adult learning courses are less likely to be depressed and are in better health. You can find out more about adult learning in Hackney, Croydon, Tower Hamlets and Lewisham at local colleges or here.
According to research from the British Association of Counselling and Psychotherapy, one in five people have consulted a therapist at some point in the past, and 91 per cent said they felt it was becoming an increasingly acceptable method of dealing with issues. There are plenty of services in ELL boroughs that allow people to get things off their chest, or talk things through with an expert. These range from social networking and group sessions to one-to-one counselling and cognitive behavioural therapy. You can ask for a referral from your GP, or click on these links to see some options in Croydon, Hackney, Lewisham or Tower Hamlets.