How many steps to happiness?

May 12, 2011 § 3 Comments

Since 1970, the UK’s GDP has doubled, but people’s satisfaction with life has hardly changed. (NEF)   Evidence-based approaches to well-being are emerging and there are a plethora of initiatives and groups transforming those insights into policy and public health campaigns. Recently the Action for Happiness campaign was launched. With a manifesto in the Guardian by one of the directors, Mark Williamson and a smashing website by Public Zone, yet another positive trumpet call has been sent to take care of our well-being. So, what are the suggested means to that end? Below is a rapid countdown from ten of some tactics to gain happiness from current to ancient thinking. Each suggestion is the outcome of volumes of research and wisdom….

10 –  Action for Happiness   – keys to happier living:
With the handy mneumonic “GREAT DREAM”: We have Giving, Relating, Exercising, Appreciating, Trying Out; Direction, Resilience, Emotion, Acceptance, Meaning. Image below. Read more about these here.

5 – New Economics Foundation – ways to well-being
Check out this report on evidence-based approaches to well-being by the  New Economics Foundation published in 2008. There’a wealth of evidence-based reports on that site. They have distilled a huge amount of research into the following:
Connect, Be active, Take notice, Keep Learning, Give

3 – A summary of the Dharma
Or maybe the summary of all the teachings of the Buddhas might be easier to remember:
Commit not a single unwholesome action,
Cultivate a wealth of virtue,
To tame this mind of ours,
This is the teaching of all the buddhas.

1 – The Golden Rule
As Karen Armstrong explains in her TED talk, the emotion of compassion is the vital central point of all the great terditions:
Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.

<1 – Richard Wiseman’s 59 seconds
If you’d rather have a time-based approach check out the book 59 Seconds by Richard Wiseman, which seeks to expose self-help myths by presenting scientifically proven techniques to help you in less than a minute.

It’s a great disservice to list these without detailing each in better depth. I hope to expand on this in future entries.

Are lists and bullet points helpful at all do you think? What other lists are there out there? Schlep your ideas into a comment below.

§ 3 Responses to How many steps to happiness?

  • Orlagh says:

    And more happening in the UK … “Mindapples” is an idea similar to “five-a-day” but for your mental health. Check out the Telegraph article here.


  • liorsmith says:

    I felt scornful at first about reducing well-being down to a list. But NEF’s and Action for Happiness’ ideas all ring true in practice. I’ve been recording everything I’ve done related to NEF’s 5 ways of well-being every day, and I’m happier when I’ve done a few of the ways or done one a lot – in particular being giving to others really works. You have to be taking notice to see opportunities to give, and often this also involves connecting and sometimes learning or being active – so being giving covers many elements that do help with well-being, at least in my case.

    These things work day to day, but deeper issues such as your identity and feeling as though life has meaning are more difficult to deal with. It can be difficult to live a life of being giving if you’re not comfortable with yourself – you have to give to yourself first to be able to give to others.

    After Action for Happiness’ 10 ways I don’t need to read any more lists! My reading around the area from many different sources, and a lot of positive psychology, leads to these 10 ways too. These guys have done their research, the 10 ways work. But just because it’s in a list doesn’t mean it’s easy.

    My recording of well-being is for a design project that will be on exhibition in the Truman Brewery, 1-4 June, at the Goldsmiths show.


    • Orlagh says:

      Agreed: these “top ten” type lists can seem to trivialise the topics they present…. although I admit I like the format and it ropes me into reading other people’s articles.

      The area of finding meaning in everyday existence is so important and yet hard to reduce to any quick fixes. Reading Viktor Frankl certainly opened my eyes to this, and also helped me ask useful questions of myself. ‘Logotherapy’ isn’t something I hear much of in contrast to cognitive/psychoanalytical/MBCT these days. Is there a dangerous line between ‘meaning’ and ‘religion’ that is tricky to navigate? He gives plenty of examples where it doesn’t have to.

      All the best with your show in June!


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