Category Archives: Happiness strategies

Pack up your worries. In an envelope.

If something’s troubling you, write it on a piece of paper then seal it in an envelope.

This was the conclusion of research conducted at the University of Singapore Business School.

Participants were asked to write about a recent decision that they regretted, then half of them handed in their papers as they were, while the other half sealed their papers in envelopes first — then handed them in.

The envelope sealers reported feeling less negative about the event than the non-sealers did.

Whilst I can think of things that might have complicated the result (perhaps those who sealed their envelopes worried less that their regrets were going to be pored over by the experimenter?) the basic principle seems sound.

I reckon you could add to the effect by destroying or discarding the envelope too.

Maybe worth a try.

More on what made Slough happy.

There’s a clip on YouTube of the Managing Director of an engineering firm who took part in the BBC’s Making Slough Happy series in which he declares ‘I don’t do happiness’.

I’m pretty sure he changed his mind after the happiness experts worked their magic on his business.

Anyway, as promised on Wednesday, here are three more nuggets from the book that supported the BBC series:

1. Several studies have shown that the presence of a pet can reduce blood pressure and stress, promoting health and happiness.

2. According to a new look at a 40-year-old study on child-rearing practices conducted at Harvard, those children who were hugged and cuddled the most grew up to be the happiest.

3. People with strong social support and intimate friendships visit the doctor less often.

It all makes so much sense doesn’t it?

And you wonder why, if it really is that easy, there’s still so much low mood around.

If they could make Slough happy…

Twelve years ago, the BBC ran a short series called Making Slough Happy.

I think they probably chose Slough because it has a reputation for being a rather glum place (apologies to all who live there).

There was of course a book to go along with the TV show (How To Be Happy by Liz Hoggard, BBC Books), and browsing through it, I came across a few little nuggets about happiness.

Here are three for you:

1. If you do 20 minutes of exercise three times a week for six months, your general feeling of happiness will improve by 10-20 per cent.

2. People who rate in the upper reaches of happiness on psychological tests develop about 50 per cent more antibodies than average in response to flu vaccines.

3. Immigrants tend to acquire the happiness characteristics of the nation to which they move, not the nation in which they were born.


I’ll pop another three in Friday’s message.

Writing a song a day, every day

When you’re feeling less than sparkling, the tasks and projects around you can feel insurmountable.

That’s when it’s time to break them down into small chunks. I was prompted to think about this when I read about an American singer-songwriter called Jonathan Mann who set himself the task of writing a new song every day. By November 2014 he’d hit the Guinness Book of World Records by keeping up his song-a-day habit for 2,146 days.

He says his theory is that ‘70 per cent of what you write is going to be mediocre, 20 per cent is going to suck, but 10 per cent is going to be genius.’

The point is, Jonathan could have sat around for years thinking about writing a hit, but instead he just got on with it.

Little and often. Doesn’t matter if today’s result isn’t earth-shattering, there’s always tomorrow.

Now, while you may not have ambitions in the music department, exactly the same strategy works on, say, tidying and organising your home.

So why not take five minutes to make a start on that monster task? Five minutes. That’s all. Just 300 seconds.

Then the same again tomorrow, and the day after. Before you know it you’ll have made real progress, and that will feel great.

The power of puppies.

Apologies for my radio silence over the past couple of days, and thanks to everyone who not only spotted it, but amazingly also checked in with me to ensure I was OK. Too kind.

The reason for my unplanned absence, though?

Well, I was house-sitting for an absent friend over a long weekend, taking care of two dogs and two cats, and I’d forgotten just how much work it can be to single-handedly look after pets, particularly when one of them is a five-month-old puppy.

Tons of fun, but all-consuming, and actually pretty difficult to concentrate on anything else.

So it may not be too surprising that today I simply want to pick up on the mood-lifting potential of animals, even when they’re not your own full-time responsibility.

Walking the dogs, I was amazed and pleased that so many people asked to pet them, particularly the puppy of course.

Stroking her head and back invariably led these others to smile broadly, and it was evident that she (the pup) was having a fine old time too.

I know that plenty of readers already share their lives with critters of all shapes and sizes but if you don’t, please consider going out of your way to say hello to another species in the very near future.

Judging by my weekend, it should do you a power of good.

Or, should that be, a paw of good?

The mood hack that takes you back.

I’ve been thinking deeply about “mood hacks” — little actions designed to lift your mood, that you can take with almost immediate effect.

Recipes, almost. So here’s one I’m trying right now:

1. Think back to a time in your past that was particularly good for you, and pin down its month and year. I chose August 1979, when I got home after a year at art school in the US.

2. Head to Google, and type in “music from month, year” — so for me it was “music from august 1979.”

3. Follow a link from the results showing you the record charts for that month and year, in your country.

4. Looking down the list, pick a tune you can remember. Even better if it’s a “guilty pleasure,” as mine was.

5. Head over to YouTube, type in the song title and artist.

6. Then listen — intently — really trying to recall in rich detail how you felt when it was regularly on the radio, at a time when you were particularly enjoying life. I bet it can make you smile.

For example I’ve just been wigging out to Johnny Mathis doing his disco thing with Gone, Gone, Gone. And the memories have been flooding back.

You should find just about any piece of popular music on YouTube, and what a great way to give yourself a healthy dose of nostalgia.

I wuv you wobot

You may have already seen this short (35 seconds) video, as it’s rapidly going ever so slightly viral.

In it, a little girl named Rayna comes across a discarded water heater in the street and thinks it’s a robot, or — as she puts it — a wobot.

Actually, I don’t know about you, but I agree with Rayna that the water heater does indeed have the look of a wobot about it.

Anyway, “Hi wobot,” she says as she stands in front of the forlorn-looking appliance.

Then she hugs it, and warms it up with a, “I wuv you wobot.”

If you haven’t already seen the video, be my guest.

And if you did already see it, well, you could do a lot worse than watch it again.

Then, and here’s the important bit, please share it with someone YOU wuv.

The world’s always a bit better when there’s wuv in the air.

Don’t you agree?

On the menu today.

When you go out to a restaurant, what sort of decision-maker are you?

Some people delight in studying every line of the menu, cooking up a mental picture of each dish on it.

I’m afraid I fall into the other camp, which generally involves pointing at the first item that comes into focus.

The thing is, we generally expect to be offered a choice in a restaurant.

Mind you, I can recall several spectacular meals when I’ve left the decision to the waiter or chef. If you’re brave enough to do it, and the establishment is brave enough to let you, you may just end up with something delectable.

My point today, however, isn’t really about letting go of the decision-making process. It’s more to do with the idea of choice itself, which I reckon can apply to the way you decide to think about your everyday life, just as much as it does to the way you select what to order in a restaurant.

So why do we, all too often, act as though there’s a single solitary way of viewing everything life throws at us?

More often than not, you do actually have the power to choose your reaction.

Perhaps that’s something to bear in mind the next time something untoward happens.

Pass the emotional menu, please.

It’s A Hap-Hap-Happy Day.

A very happy International Day of Happiness to you.

Each year since 2013, our fine friends at Action for Happiness have orchestrated this special day, always held on March 20th.

For the first time in its brief history, March 20th is a Monday, but I’m sure the campaign will take defeating that “Monday morning feeling” in its stride.

After all, it’s a day mandated by an official United Nations resolution, no less.

Here’s the day’s official website.

Mark Williamson is Director of Action for Happiness, and a very nice man. Here’s what he says: “The International Day of Happiness is more than just a fun celebration, it also reminds us all that the world is a better place when we connect with, and care about, the people around us.”

Of course, there will be all sorts of organised events today around the world, marking the Day of Happiness, but I’d urge you to stage your own “guerilla” actions. Operate under the radar. Ruthlessly steal the idea. Become an undercover happiness agent.

Your mission? To act as Mark suggests above.

Connect like crazy today, and care like there’s no tomorrow. Deliberately make contact with more people today than you might usually do.

And you know what? I think if we all do this, the world might just get a little happier.

Best of all, when you connect, when you show you care – guess what? – it’s not just the person you connect with, YOU become happier, too.

I’m sure the United Nations won’t mind if you “borrow” a bit of their happiness.

I won’t tell them if you don’t.

Finally, here’s my unofficial suggestion for a theme tune.

You really can’t beat Arthur Askey.

The right stuff.

What went wrong?

When things don’t go to plan, we want to know why, and this applies to moods just as much as it does to missions.

When you’re down, it’s understandable to believe that there must be a cause or reason (even though there isn’t always one — sometimes low mood can just strike of its own accord).

But there’s a different sort of question which we don’t ask nearly enough: what went right?

If you have a day on which you feel better than usual, it really makes sense to try and pin down why.

This time you may be more likely to succeed.

Good moods are often inspired by something, or a collection of things.

Feeling good isn’t simply the absence of bad — it actually needs to be the presence of good.

Of course it helps to know what might take you down so you can avoid it, but it’s just as useful to know what may take you up.

So you can do more of it.