9 ways to make yourself happier

The Bolton News: These people are happy. Just look at those smiling faces. You can be too, experts believe, if you follow this guide. These people are happy. Just look at those smiling faces. You can be too, experts believe, if you follow this guide.

TODAY is "International Happiness Day", and we've spoken to experts from Action For Happiness, who have come up with 9 ways to make you a happier person.

1. GIVING IS GOOD FOR YOU

When we give to others it activates the areas of the brain associated with pleasure, social connection and trust.

Altruistic behaviour releases endorphins in the brain and boosts happiness for us as well as the people we help. Studies have shown that giving money away tends to make people happier than spending it on themselves.

2. CONNECT WITH PEOPLE

People with strong and broad social relationships are happier, healthier and live longer. Close relationships with family and friends provide love, meaning, support and increase our feelings of self worth. Broader networks bring a sense of belonging.

So taking action to strengthen our relationships and build connections is essential for happiness.

3. TAKE CARE OF YOUR BODY

Our body and our mind are connected. Being active makes us happier as well as being good for our physical health. It instantly improves our mood and can even lift us out of a depression.

We don't all need to run marathons - there are simple things we can all do to be more active each day. And we can also boost our well-being by unplugging from technology, getting outside and - importantly - making sure we get enough sleep!

4. NOTICE THE WORLD AROUND YOU

Ever felt there must be more to life? Well good news, there is! And it's right here in front of us. We just need to stop and take notice.

Learning to be more mindful and aware can do wonders for our well-being in all areas of life - like our walk to work, the way we eat or our relationships. It helps us get in tune with our feelings and stops us dwelling on the past or worrying about the future - so we get more out of the day-to-day.

5. KEEP LEARNING NEW THINGS

Learning affects our well-being in lots of positive ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment and helps boost our self-confidence and resilience.

There are many ways to learn new things - not just through formal qualifications. We can share a skill with friends, join a club, learn to sing, play a new sport and so much more.

6. HAVE GOALS TO LOOK FORWARD TO

Feeling good about the future is important for our happiness. We all need goals to motivate us and these need to be challenging enough to excite us, but also achievable. If we try to attempt the impossible this brings unnecessary stress.

Choosing ambitious but realistic goals gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.

7. FIND WAYS TO BOUNCE BACK

All of us have times of stress, loss, failure or trauma in our lives. But how we respond to these has a big impact on our wellbeing.

We often cannot choose what happens to us, but in principle we can choose our own attitude to what happens. In practice it's not always easy, but one of the most exciting findings from recent research is that resilience, like many other life skills, can be learned.

8. TAKE A POSITIVE APPROACH

Positive emotions - like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration, and pride - are not just great at the time. Recent research shows that regularly experiencing them creates an 'upward spiral', helping to build our resources.

So although we need to be realistic about life's ups and downs, it helps to focus on the good aspects of any situation - the glass half full rather than the glass half empty.

9. BE COMFORTABLE WITH WHO YOU ARE

No-one's perfect. But so often we compare our insides to other people's outsides. Dwelling on our flaws - what we're not rather than what we've got - makes it much harder to be happy.

Learning to accept ourselves, warts and all, and being kinder to ourselves when things go wrong, increases our enjoyment of life, our resilience and our well-being. It also helps us accept others as they are.

What makes you happy? Take our quick survey here.

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