5 science-based facts about happiness

We started Annabee’s Books with the ambition of helping families raise confident, resilient and happy children, through personalised children books.

We all want our children to be happy and to find joy each and every day.
Happiness is a complicated concept and there are many conflicting messages out there about how it’s created and sustained, so we’ve selected our top 5 science-based facts about happiness (that may help you or your child to ‘turn that frown upside down’)!

1. Spend at least 2 hours each week in a warm sunny spot

A tough one for those of us living in a not-so-sunny climate! However, a study which considered the link between being out in nature over the course of seven days and self-reported health and well-being, found that spending at least 2 hours a week in nature is associated with good health and wellbeing.
It doesn’t matter how those 2 hours are achieved (small or large blocks) as long as it hit a minimum of 120 minutes in nature.

A second study found that near water, on a warm day was the perfect spot with marine and coastal environments producing the most positive responses.

2. Practice your real smiles (not your fake ones!)

Our brain’s circuitry of emotion and happiness is activated when we smile. Go on, test it for yourself!
This was first suggested by Darwin in his Facial Feedback Response Theory and, since then, has been supported by various studies (such as this one).

But apparently, a real smile works far better than a fake smile! A real smile also uses muscles around the eye sockets. A study suggests customer-service workers who ‘real’ smile (as a result of cultivating positive thoughts) see their mood’s improved compared to workers who fake smile throughout the day. And if ever there’s a person to practice our real smile with, it’s our children. After all, as they say, smiling is infectious!

3. Establish a simple gratitude routine (you’ll thank yourself for it)

There are numerous studies on the now-well-accepted link between gratitude and happiness.
Regularly expressing gratitude actually changes the molecular structure of the brain and makes us happier and healthier (according to UCLA’s Mindfulness Awareness Research Center).

A recent study suggests that gratitude writing can be beneficial not just for healthy, well-adjusted individuals, but also for those who struggle with mental health concerns. So why not start a simple practice of writing down 3 things you are grateful for in the morning or evening (or both)?
And whilst you’re doing that, why not ask your little ones what they are thankful for each day?

4. Spend time with friends and family

People make our world!
A Harvard study which has been running for 80 odd years has revealed many insights about leading happy lives. The key insight is “That the only thing that really matters in life are your relationships to other people.”

A study from the Journal of Socio-Economics, found ‘that an increase in the level of social involvements is worth up to an extra £85,000 a year in terms of life satisfaction. Actual changes in income, on the other hand, buy very little happiness.’

Right now, as the world grapples with coronavirus (COVID-19), we know it’s really hard to see our loved ones, especially if we need to self-isolate. This is where technology comes in to play. Why not set up a daily or weekly video call with the people you love, who are probably all crying out for human connection too? Yes, it’s not the same as seeing those we adore, but it’s the best next thing. And for children, grandparents, and siblings, it’s a cheery reminder that we’re all there for one another

5. Accept negative feelings and that bad days do exist

When negative feelings, unhappiness and bad days do arise, a key aspect in helping overcome them is to accept them for what they are and to express how we feel.
A study found that a group of subjects who accepted their feelings overcame these feelings faster than the group that suppressed them.

Interestingly, a study from Franklin W. Olin College of Engineering suggests than experiencing happiness and sadness at the same time is a good indicator that our sense of mental health will improve over the long run. So when our little ones are having a tough day, reassuring them that it’s okay to feel that way, can really help their wellbeing in the long run.

How do you approach your own and your family’s happiness and wellbeing? Are there any practices, routines, games, etc than you use at home? We’d love to hear about them!