My friend Natasha introduced me to the Five Ways to Well Being created by the “Happiness Czar of Britain,” Richard Layard. She discovered the Five Ways to Well Being while she was in London, attending a conference on shared reading.
The Five Ways to Well Being:
Social relationships play a prominent part in our well being whether they are with family, friends, or work colleagues. Foster them and favor them. In addition, get out into your community of choice—religious, artistic, intramural sports, hobby oriented, yoga class, fitness center, book club, whatever resonates with you because you are with like minded people doing like minded things.
This is not to say that being alone does not foster well being. Some people, like myself, and introvert and introspective, do well with solitude and gain well being from giving myself that solitude. But I also know that I need to connect with family, friends, and community. Find the balance for yourself based upon your personality.
I reminded of the famous quote by E.M. Forester, “If only we connect.”
Exercise is good for us physically and mentally. The two are interconnected. Our physical health contributes significantly to our mental health and while it's harder to understand, our mental health contributes to our physical health. Walk, hike, bike, run, lift weights, participate in a group fitness class-cardio, zumba, pilates, whatever--move on the elliptical or treadmill, swim. Whatever interests you or works for you.
Be active is also tied to connect. Get out and do something with friends or family. Find hobbies or activities you enjoy doing with others and do it. Participate.
The world is an amazing. Appreciate it. Slow down and smell the roses as the cliche goes. Be grateful for what you have and do. Gratitude—reflecting at the end of the day—is one of the key scientific findings in positive psychology that contribute to well being. In order to be grateful though you first need to take notice. This means being mindful. Be mindful—or take notice--of what you see, smell, taste, touch, feel, and hear. Start there with the five senses. Then begin to take notice of your own thoughts and emotions. Strive toward positive thoughts and emotions—optimism, hope, gratitude, perseverance.
Again, the world is amazing. There is so much to learn, Not only learning knowledge abut learning skill. Do both. Learn by reading about topics that interest you and learn to do something you didn't know how to do before or would like to do better, A wise ninety year old friend of mine said, “When you think there's nothing left to learn or do then you're usually done living.”
In addition to the five ways to well being, in his book, Happiness:Lessons from a New Science, Richard Layard researched factors affecting happiness and narrowed it to seven factors. Layard is an economist so he studied the happiness of countries as a whole. He surveyed people in approximately 70 countries asking them about their level of happiness and from this determined what made them happy and which countries are the happiest. Happiness here not being cheerfulness and cupcakes and butterflies, but well being. These seven factors resemble and reiterate Martin Seligman's five areas of well being——positive emotions, engagement, relationships, meaningfulness, and accomplishment—and Tom Rath and Jim Hartner's five essential elements of well being—career, social, financial, physical, and community.
Laynard's seven factors affecting happiness:
Community and friends
I've explained the first five in my two previous blog entries on well being so I won't explain them here again. The important point is that numerous research scientists in the field of positive psychology come to the same conclusions about what creates well being. I do want, however, to briefly touch about the last to of Laynard's seven factors affecting happiness because I believe they are important reminders to all of us living in a first world country.
Richard Layard writes, “Happiness also depends on the quality of our government. In the West [and some Asian countries] we [can] take for granted two factors that are lacking in half the globe: personal freedom and peace.” Measures of quality of government reflect six different features: the rule of law, stability and lack of violence, voice and accountability, the effectiveness of government services, the absence of corruption, and the efficiency of the system of regulation. This is not to imply that Western countries succeed in all these features, but they certainly succeed more and therefore create greater happiness or well being than those countries that fail significantly in all six features of a quality government.
Richard Layard writes,” Our happiness depends on our inner self and philosophy of life. Obviously, people are happier if they are able to appreciate what they have, whatever it is; if they do not always compare themselves with others; and if they can school their own moods....People find comfort from within from all sorts of ways, but these generally include some system of relying for help on the deep positive part of oneself....Some people call this source of comfort “divine” ...One of the most robust finds of happiness research [is] that people who believe in God are happier. On the individual level one cannot be sure whether belief causes happiness or happiness causes belief.”