Don't Worry, Be Happy!

Mental Health

Before you start whistling or humming yourself into a nostalgic frenzy, a question … have you heeded the advice of the great Bobby McFerrin (he’s the guy who sang it). He’s only been telling us for 30 years!

It’s a beautifully simple idea, and now that that chorus is stuck on loop in my head, I wonder...

Can it really be that simple?

Despite the passing of three decades, this is a topical and very timely subject. Tuesday 20th March 2018 is International Day of Happiness. So here's a question for you:

How are you helping yourself to be happy? Yep, you read that right… What are you doing about your own happiness, and could you be sabotaging yourself?

I’m not sure about accessing the universes “secret” to think ourselves happy, but it turns out that we are more in control of our own happiness than we think.

How we interact with the outside world in our daily activities, and our attitude to life, has a huge impact on our wellbeing – and our ability to be happy. Small changes can make a big difference and help you to thrive, not just survive. I talked about ‘Thriving versus Surviving’ in an earlier blog, illustrating this with pumpkins (yes, really).

If you’re familiar with our work at Oakwood Training, or can take a moment to form a view of the concept of thriving, you won’t be surprised to learn that the key is mental health. I think it’s the same with happiness – and that’s a concept over which we can exert control.

"Ways" and "Keys" to Happiness

The International Day of Happiness campaign is based upon a recognition that true ‘progress’ needs to be measured in terms of human happiness and wellbeing, rather than relying on statistics and data about a growing economy. That recognition is not new, but it’s great to see it being articulated with a movement towards something personally rewarding and tangible. For me, ‘The Economy’ is not particularly tangible. But happiness most definitely is. Good work, IDoH campaigners!

The campaign debates ways in which we might become happier. I’d love that to be entitled ‘Reasons to be Cheerful, Part 3’ (with suitable deference to Ian Dury & The Blockheads, of course), but it’s not. In fact, we are told there are “Ten Keys to Happier Living”, based on reviews of the latest research from psychology and related fields.

We know that everyone’s path to happiness is different, but the evidence does indeed suggest that these Ten Keys consistently tend to have a positive impact on people’s happiness and wellbeing.

What I particularly like about the Ten keys is the even balance between the first five that relate to our interactions with the outside world, and the final five which are to do with internal attributes.

The first five are based on the ‘Five Ways to Wellbeing’ developed by NEF as part of the Foresight Project.

The ‘internal’ five, which I sum up as our Attitude to Life, include things like our emotional resilience. Ah “Resilience” (one of my “favourite” words, you’ll discover) is something I covered in a previous blog, so you might like to check that out.

So how happy are we in the UK? Let’s end with some positive news: we’re in 19th place out of 156 countries ranked by their happiness levels. That’s not bad! Feel free to access all 172 pages of the World Happiness Report 2018 here. Yes, it’s a mighty document but hugely insightful, with a special focus this year on migration.

Personal happiness is, well...personal.

It’s also often down to the way we see the world. Now I’m not big fan of handing out medals for coming 19th, but maybe there is something to the whole “see it from a different angle idea”. Let’s give it a go: France came 23rd … see that feels better already!

Among the things making me happy at the moment is the fact that I will be travelling to Norway to celebrate a special birthday (a number ending in a zero between 30 and 50 but we’re not saying it’s name) in a few weeks. It is most pleasing, therefore, to learn that Norway topped the chart for world happiness last year and is second in this latest report. I’m off to see what all the fuss is about!

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About the Author

Terry is Director and Head of Training at Oakwood. He helps clients promote a proactive, rather than reactive approach to both personal safety and the positive mental health of their staff. He has over 12 years teaching experience in these areas, and advises organisations in the development of appropriate risk assessment and policy.