- Education and Science
Nettlemere's Ideas on How to Boost your Happiness
The Happiness of having Pets
Pets can increase your happiness in a variety of ways. One of the simplest pleasures is just watching and listening to them. A snoozing cat or basking terrapin emanates contentment which can spread to you the viewer. Dogs playing demonstrate an exuberant joy which can raise a smile after a tough day. The melodic calls of a canary or the earnest but tuneless calls of a cockatiel can make you feel a little happier.
Research supporting the benefits of contact with pets includes a study by Samantha Bailey (2007) which measured the effects a visiting pet had on the mood of nursing home residents and day care centre attendees. Mood was measured using the Profile of Mood States questionnaire (McNaire et al, 1981).Results indicated that following interaction with a visiting pet, the mood of residents and attendees had significantly improved.
If you have a camera taking pictures can add to the fun as you catch moments which were too brief to be fully aware of at the time. For example until I started regularly taking photos of my dogs playing, I had no idea how funny some of their poses are. As you can see from the pictures below it's hard not to crack a tiny smile at least when you look at them. Taking the photos enhances the enjoyment because I can look back at them and remember that funny moment and gain a bit of happiness.
Videoing your pets can also bring joy - as millions of hours of You Tube video can testify. I have a little happiness boost every time I watch Bob my dog trying to say hello to some wholly unimpressed horses.
Bob the Dog says Hi
Captioning your Photos
An additional source of happiness is looking at other people's pets in funny situations or captioned aptly or adding your own captions to your photos. For example at http://cheezburger.com/nettlemere/lolz
The Happiness of Growing Plants
Even if you only have a windowsill with a couple of geraniums on, or a single hanging basket of pansies by your front door, it can be very cheering to grow your own plants. You could take cuttings of your geraniums to give to friends or work colleagues and cheer up someone else's day at the same time, or you could experiment at growing lettuce from seed in a box on your windowsill and get the benefit of adding homegrown lettuce to your sandwich or salad. If you have a garden time spent outside observing what has grown, where the bulbs are beginning to show and deciding what to grow next can be an endless source of happiness.
The Happiness of Walking
Exercise is known to increase the endorphins in your system. These are natural happiness boosters. A study by Thorén, Peter;Floras, John S.;Hoffmann, Pavel;Seals, Douglas R, proposes a potential therapeutic role for exercise for treatment of pain, anxiety, hypertension and depression among other things giving credence to the theory that walking can make you feel better or happier. Walking has a double benefit of being an outdoor activity enabling you to engage in my next recommended happiness booster at the same time. Whatever the weather dress appropriately but get out and walk or wheel your wheelchair, because all weather holds some beauty and might lift your spirits.
The Happiness of Looking at Nature and the Countryside
There is a lot of evidence to show that just looking at nature, plants and the countryside can make you feel better (and even heal faster). For instance A study by Ulrich et al. 1991 indicated that recovery from stress was faster in people shown videos of nature then videos of buildings. This showed physiologically for example with lowered heart rate and anecdotally, as the people who had viewed the nature videos spoke of more positive feelings.
My feeling is that if a video can produce a good result, the real thing will be even better. It really is worth getting out into your local park, sitting by the canal or river that runs through town or taking the bus out into the countryside and spending some time doing nothing more then looking at nature to raise your happiness levels.
The Happiness of Doing a Disliked Task
If there's a task you don't much like doing or have been putting off, wake up tomorrow morning and just do it. This sounds counter intuitive, but the sense of happiness that the task is done can set you up for the day and leaves the rest of the day free for other things.
The Happiness of Spreading a Little Happiness
It's great to do something nice for someone and spread a little happiness and even better to know that it doesn't have to be a huge gesture to make both the giver and receiver happier. In fact a big gesture can backfire because it leaves the receiver worried that they will never be able to pay you back. Some ideas for a little happiness spreading are: Keep an emergency supply of chocolates or biscuits in your desk at work to bring out when everyone's had a bit of a tough day, send a hand written card (perhaps even handmade) to a friend or relative, grow a cutting from one of your house or garden plants and give it to a friend or colleague, take a picture of a friend's child or pet and give it to them in an attractive photo frame, take the trouble to thank a work colleague, in person, for helping you out on a project or mention that you noticed what a great job they did the other day solving a client's problem or speaking at a meeting.
The Happiness of Mindfulness
Mindfulness, also known as meditation (but that can put some people off having religious connotations), can be applied to any moment to enhance the enjoyment. Take the biscuit or cookie you are munching on right now, are you thinking of the next one in the packet which you might eat, with half a mind on reading this and half an ear on the television? In which case are you really enjoying any of the things you are trying to do all at once?
Or are you sitting paying attention to the biscuit or cookie, thinking about the changes in taste as it softens in your mouth, smelling the biscuity aroma before you take the next bite and listening to the crunchy munchiness as you eat? Are you imagining what it would be like if this was the very last biscuit you ever ate or imagining what it would be like to be an alien and never have seen a biscuit before? Suddenly an every day moment like eating can be a happier more interesting moment.
The Happiness of Curiosity
Try to look at the world with fresh eyes and you will soon notice unexpected things. Take my dahlia flower below, I noticed it had a flower head growing out of the back of a flower head which is not usual for dahlias. I followed up my curiosity which an enjoyable bit of research and discovered that this phenomenon has a name - fasciation. It can be a joy finding out little bits of information for yourself.
- Pets As Therapy
- The healing effect of looking at gardens and the countryside
- BBC - Health: Meditation
A simple meditation exercise to help you relax.
This page contains links to the plant and gardening advice for gardeners.
- BBC - Health: Happiness
Practical steps to make yourself happier for the long-term.