In 2011, global not-for-profit Action for Happiness launched, with the aim of reducing mental ill health. They led the development of the evidence-based 10 Keys to or Happier Living, the acronym for which is GREAT DREAM.
The first five keys (GREAT) are about how we interact with the outside world in our daily activities. The second five keys (DREAM) come from inside us and depend on our attitude to life.
GIVING: Do things for others
Caring about others is fundamental to our happiness. Helping other people is not only good for them and a great thing to do, it also makes us happier and healthier too. Giving also creates stronger connections between people and helps to build a happier society for everyone.
RELATING: Connect with people
Relationships are the most important overall contributor to happiness. 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 create new connections is essential for happiness.
EXERCISING: Take care of your body
Our body and our mind are connected so being active benefits both our physical and mental health. It can improve mood and can lift our spirits. We can also boost our well-being by unplugging from technology, getting outside and making sure we get enough sleep.
AWARENESS: Live life mindfully
Stop and take notice. Learning to be more mindful and aware can do wonders for our well-being. 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 each day.
TRYING OUT: Keep learning new things
Learning affects our well-being in many positive ways. It exposes us to new ideas and helps us stay curious and engaged. It also gives us a sense of accomplishment, helps boost self-confidence and resilience. There are many ways to learn new things: join a club, learn to sing, play a new sport and more.
DIRECTION: Have goals to look forward to
Feeling good about the future is important for our happiness. Goals help motivate us; these need to be challenging enough to excite us, but also achievable. Choosing ambitious but realistic goals gives our lives direction and brings a sense of accomplishment and satisfaction when we achieve them.
RESILIENCE: Find ways to bounce back
How we respond to stress, loss, failure or trauma has a big impact on our well-being. We often cannot choose what happens to us, but we can choose our own attitude to what happens. Resilience is a life skill that can be learned.
EMOTIONS: Look for what’s good
Recent research shows that regularly experiencing positive emotions – like joy, gratitude, contentment, inspiration, and pride – creates an ‘upward spiral’, helping to build our resources. So try to focus on the good aspects of any situation – the glass half full rather than the glass half empty.
ACCEPTANCE: Be comfortable with who you are
Dwelling on our flaws makes it much harder to be happy. Learning to accept ourselves, 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.
MEANING: Be part of something bigger
People who have meaning and purpose in their lives feel more content, in control and get more out of what they do. They also experience less stress, anxiety and depression. Where we find meaning and purpose will vary for each of us but they all involve being connected to something bigger than ourselves.