If ever there was a time when we needed a crash course in how to find happiness, it’s now.
It’s only natural to feel fear and anxiety, whether in times of global health crisis, political uncertainty, or the looming climate crisis. On any given day, little triggers can make those emotions feel especially potent.
But can a course help us be happier? The answer would seem to be a resounding yes, according to researchers at Oxford University and the London School of Economics. They followed participants through an 8-week Exploring What Matters course run by UK charity Action for Happiness that is based on scientific principles.
Exploring What Matters
Over 175,000 people across 19 countries have participated in the course and researchers compared their life satisfaction before and after the course. Participants in the course saw a 1% increase in average happiness, which is statistically significant – more than finding a partner or getting a job.
‘People who start the course, you see that rise – it’s really rather incredible. The results are really staggering…even more than I would have expected. This is one of the ways to work with communities directly to try to raise wellbeing across our societies.’Professor Jan-Emmanuel De Neve, Oxford University
The Exploring What Matters course takes participants through a series of themes to explore their values and identify what really brings them happiness and peace of mind. It looks at the importance of relationships in our lives and the role our work and our communities play in our mental wellbeing. And it asks how we can proactively create a happier world ourselves.
Because while Action for Happiness says that 50% of our happiness may be down to our genes and background, only 10% is related to our income and environment. The other 40% is directly related to our everyday actions and the choices we are making – both things that are within our control.
How to Find Happiness
- Giving: Do things for others
- Relating: Connect with people
- Exercising: Take care of your body
- Appreciating: Noticed the world around you
- Trying Out: Keep learning new things
- Direction: Have goals to look forward to
- Resilience: Find ways to bounce back
- Emotion: Take a positive approach
- Acceptance: Be comfortable with who you are
- Meaning: Be part of something bigger
While the in-person courses are paused momentarily (because, physical distancing), they do offer a 10 Days of Happiness email-based coaching programme that’s worth checking out.
‘Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.’Dalai Lama
If you want to dive deep with an online course, check out The Science of Well-Being by Yale University, available for free on Coursera. Created by Professor Laurie Santos, this course is one of the most popular classes in the school’s 319-year history.
Laurie is quoted on Big Think as saying ‘Our intuitions about what to do to be happy are wrong…This is a great moment when we have rigorous research on positive psychology – what makes us happy, but also on behavioural change.’
While this moment is challenging and frightening in many ways, it’s also an opportunity to re-evaluate what makes our lives meaningful and begin to craft our days in ways that can make us happier.