Take care of your mental health on the International Day of Happiness
March 20th is the International Day of Happiness, a day that has been celebrated globally since 2013, after the UN passed a resolution in July 2012.
This year world happiness has faced an unprecedented challenge.
The restrictions on our lives mean mental health has been impacted by Covid-19 just as much as physical health and the economy.
Global research trends suggest happiness and well being have fallen for a large proportion of the global population since the start of the pandemic.
Dr Mark Williamson, CEO of Action for Happiness, said:
"This has been a tough year for so many of us.
"Today is an opportunity for people to understand what happiness is and what makes us happy.
"The starting point is learning how to look after our own mental health and recognising that it’s ok not to be ok.
"But we need to look beyond ourselves too; one of the greatest sources of happiness is doing things for others - by supporting each other, being part of a community and finding meaning in something bigger than ourselves.”
The World Happiness Report is released ahead of the International Day of Happiness.
The report ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be.
This year Finland tops the report once again, while the UK has fallen from 13th place to 18th place.
When covid struck, the UK personal well being measures fell to unprecedented low levels, reaching the lowest levels since records began.
Measures have since recovered somewhat but remain below the levels they were pre-pandemic.
The key measures of personal well being, 'life satisfaction', 'feeling things are worthwhile', and 'happiness' have consistently remained at lower levels than they were in February 2020 before the first lockdown.
The key measure of 'anxiety' has consistently remained at higher levels.
Data suggests that the decline in mental health during the pandemic has been worse for those who already had more mental health problems, women, young people and poorer people.
This means the pandemic has increased existing inequalities in mental well being.
Since the first International Day of Happiness in 2012, the UK charity Action for Happiness has led the annual global campaign to celebrate the day.
This year the charity is raising awareness of ways to create happiness and support good mental health.
Although happiness isn’t something we can simply choose, there is good evidence that certain actions and behaviours can help make us happier.
For example, actions like exercise, mindfulness and practising gratitude, and prosocial activity, doing things for and with other people, volunteering, finding social connection and being part of a community or cause.
For many, the pandemic may be the first time they have seriously thought about their mental health and the first time they have struggled with it.
We have become used to checking in on each other and taking our mental health more seriously.
According to Action for Happiness, there are 10 Keys to Happier Living, and each Key suggests a type of activity we can do to increase our happiness.
The 10 Keys are giving, relating, exercising, awareness, trying new things, direction, resilience, emotional intelligence, acceptance and meaning.
The charity encourages people to take one action each day based on the 10 Keys to create more happiness as part of daily life.
They want people to think about mental health as something that everyone needs to have a set of tools to look after, just as we do with our physical health.
Vanessa King, Head of Psychology at Action for Happiness, said
"By learning what happiness is and taking simple actions to be happier, we can regain a sense of agency in our lives.
"When we are struggling, sometimes the very act of doing one small thing can help us shift our mood.
"The happiness practices we suggest are a toolkit. Try them out and find the ones that work for you.
"Taking time for self-care isn't selfish. It's essential. And remember that happiness isn't just a solo practice, because doing things for other people makes us happy, and so does building our social connections."
Here are three easy ways you can celebrate the International Day of Happiness in 2021:
Do something for your own happiness - sign up for a course to learn something new, put time aside in the diary to do something you really enjoy, write down three things you are good at.
Do something for someone else - donate to a food bank or charity, text or call someone to tell them what you appreciate them, volunteer in your local community.
Share the International Day of Happiness on social media, help get more people involved in the day and thinking about happiness and mental health.
The 10 Keys to Happier Living:
Giving (Do things for others) - The one place we can go right now is food shopping - so pick up something extra to donate to a food bank or give away the pound from your trolley to someone who needs it.
Relating (Connect with people) - If you've got zoom fatigue, why not plan some good old fashioned phone calls?
Exercising (Take care of your body) - By now, half the country has tried couch to 5k.
Awareness (Live life mindfully) - Try a free meditation app or set a timer to remind you to pause and take a few deep breaths.
Trying Out (Keep learning new things) - There are all sorts of classes and courses that have moved online.
Direction (Have goals to look forward to) - Set some goals for yourself, but nothing too complicated!
Resilience (Find ways to bounce back) - Don’t be hard on yourself.
Emotions (Look for what’s good) - Be honest about your feelings.
Acceptance (Be comfortable with who you are) - Be kind to yourself. Remember, self-care isn't selfish. It's essential.
Meaning (Be part of something bigger) - Look for ways to be part of something beyond just yourself.