5 Ways To Be “Happier Together”
March 20 is International Day of Happiness and this year's theme is “Happier Together”, focusing on what we have in common, rather than what divides us. In this extract from The Happiness Bible, wellbeing author, Cheryl Rickman explores what we can do to widen and deepen our connection with each other.
Today, with social media becoming all-consuming, we are more connected than we have ever been, in a virtual sense; but in reality, studies have revealed that many people still feel alone. All the more reason to make an effort to increase real-world connections. As well as forging strong bonds with those we are especially fond of, it’s important to build “bridging connections” to unite different groups within a community.
Doing so demonstrates a commitment to the notion that we’re all in this together, and that the common good is important for a good life.
- Build Social Capital. Consider ways in which you might bring people from different backgrounds together through a shared interest, to build what Harvard professor Robert Putnam calls the “social capital” of a community, facilitate trust and impact positively on the wellbeing of the whole community. For example, you could:
- Eat together round a campfire, BBQ or candle-lit table. Fire and food create that “Hygge” feeling of cosy warmth and togetherness.
- Plant a community vegetable garden.
- Create a directory for your street, listing names, occupations and resources that can be borrowed.
- Make a “street library” cupboard or fill an old phone-box with books, so that residents can donate and borrow books. Just make sure it’s waterproof!
- Consider how you make other people feel. Notice the good in others. Focus on what’s right with people, rather than what’s wrong. The “Losada ratio”, named after Chilean psychologist Marcel Losada, states that in order to flourish you need to give/receive five positive statements for every critical statement. With that in mind, practise focusing on what your partner/family members/friends have done right, rather than on what they’ve done wrong. Praise and encourage rather than criticize.
- Show empathy. Consider other people’s point of view before you respond. Or try viewing everyone as a vulnerable child, to minimize blame. Remind yourself that we’re all just muddling through, and we all make mistakes. It’s easier to judge and criticize than it is to praise and empathize. Yet the latter is far more rewarding and has a wide-ranging social impact. For example, teaching empathy in schools reduces bullying.
- Do more together as a family: Whether it’s playing tennis, going for regular walks, popping to the park, finger-painting, kite-flying or playing Scrabble, create a routine that means you do at least one of those things together every week. It’s all too easy to sit and watch telly together. But interaction generates laughter and positivity resonance, which strengthens bonds. Teamwork and team-play, especially of the family kind, boost positive emotions and enhance relationships.
- Make one night per week “analogue night”: Deposit all your devices in a basket and enjoy a “no-phone zone” for at least a few hours. The kids can play outdoors or find something to do that doesn’t involve a screen, and you can have extended talks round the dinner table or in the lounge, read a book together or make something.
We are all leading increasingly busy lives, and although we shouldn’t become over-dependent on others or allow them to dictate our mood, we should invest sufficient time to build quality relationships with those in our support network. Because positive connection is key to our happiness.
“Of all the things that wisdom provides to help one live one’s entire life in happiness, the greatest so far is friendship.”
Epicurus, ancient Greek philosopher
About Cheryl Rickman
After her parents' lives were cut short, Cheryl Rickman decided to devote her life to helping others make the most of their own precious lives, through the books she writes and the workshops she creates. She has written and ghostwritten 15 books on flourishing in life, including The Happiness Bible and The Flourish Handbook. Cheryl is a qualified Positive Psychology Practitioner, an Ambassador of Wellbeing for the Network of Wellbeing and a contributor to Psychologies and Breathe magazines, among others. You can find out more at www.CherylRickman.co.uk
About The Happiness Bible
The Happiness Bible works with the reader to explain how happiness works and evolves; where it comes from, and how it can be nurtured and maintained in order to flourish. The book introduces the principles of positive psychology, the science of happiness, and how it works to achieve happiness. It examines what happiness studies have revealed and how positive psychology exercises help to banish the "thieves of happiness". It also explores why acceptance of unhappiness is also important in our quest for joy.
Tips on being kinder, getting out in nature, nurturing supportive relationships, talking back to mind chatter, cultivating gratitude, finding and savouring the good, using strengths, creating meaning and developing accurate, optimistic thinking are also included. The book is filled useful quotations that do more than just inspire but also share wisdom worthy of reflection.
About International Day of Happiness
March 20 has been established as the annual International Day of Happiness and all 193 United Nations member states have adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority.
In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which recognised happiness as a “fundamental human goal” and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples”.
In 2012 the first ever UN conference on Happiness took place and the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution which decreed that the International Day of Happiness would be observed every year on 20 March. It was celebrated for the first time in 2013.