Merry Christmas! Santa is here, with the gift of happiness! Bold statement I know, I’m not really Santa Claus, but I do have a beard, a bit of a paunch, some of my friends are elves, and my principal mode of transport is a carriage drawn by reindeer, and one of them has a red nose.
HO HO HO! Have you been eating your five a day over Christmas? I have! Sprouts, Parsnips, Carrots, Peas & Red Cabbage – yum! Alongside vast quantities of turkey, stuffing and brandy butter of course – oops. However, have you been doing your 5 a day for a healthy and happy mind? Do you know what they are?
A lifetime of pondering, twiddling my hair, contemplating the meaning of life has finally led to my eureka moment, in a bath too funnily enough, when I was reading “can we be happier” by economist Lord Richard Layard. Richard, my new favorite Economist, launched the Action for Happiness Movement in 2010, and counts the Dalai Lama amongst his friends. Pretty cool for an economist I thought?
Anyway, without further ado, here’s the “Happy 5”
It’s quite widely known that moving around (“move” in the Happy 5), and exercising in general releases endorphins, and this helps to lift our mood. All of the Happy 5 are linked to simple acts that help activate our brain chemistry, making us a little bit happier each time. For example, “Connect”, or hanging out with friends and family, releases Oxytocin, “the love hormone” … which promotes bonding and feelings of trust and well-being.
Hopefully we’ve all done a bit of “connecting” over this festive period already, and perhaps some “giving” too (this releases serotonin, promoting feelings of happiness and satisfaction), maybe we had a moment of calm at some stage if we were lucky (releases gamma-aminobutyric acid, which helps calm the mind and alleviate anxiety and stress)… so in between the over eating, occasional bickering, and granddad’s chronic flatulence …. Maybe we’re all a bit happier already?
The point of the “happy 5”, is that by having a very basic understanding of our own brains, or our “wet ware” as my friend and Neuroscientist Dr Jack Lewis puts it, we have the power to help steer this miraculous piece of kit, towards happiness. Or as Lord Richard Layard, and other Economists who study the “Science of Wellbeing”, may put it, we can be agents of our own happiness. In short, we can take responsibility for, and improve how we feel, by being mindful of 5 daily habits for a healthy and happy mind – the happy 5!
There must be thousands of self help style books addressing the subject of happiness – well, I’ve read a smattering of them, and I’ve joined some dots – to create the Happy 5 – fortunately you don’t have to take my word for it, as the broad concept is already quite widely understood by Neuroscientists and Psychologists all around the world. However, as far as I’m aware, no drastically under accomplished scientific nobody has packaged it together into a 5 a day concept – that’s where I come in!
My new year resolution is to write a book about this happy 5, but in the meantime, via this and series of blogs and interviews with impressive people, the idea will be put out there for free, so that it may help to spread a little happiness right away.
The handful of people I’ve shared the idea with so far, have already found it quite useful, and so I hope you do too. “The best things in life are free” and I’d like to emphasis how the Happy 5 have been chosen with simplicity and economy in mind – we can all easily do these things, and they are all uncontentious and free. For example, “move” might be popping to the shops, “give” could be giving a busker a couple of quid, “connect” could be calling your granny for 10 minutes, “grow” could be listening to a 15 minute podcast…
The book and the idea is for everyone, and the desire is that it may help make the world a little bit happier. However, the book will also help people who are feeling low, and some who are suffering from depression. When you’re depressed it’s very hard to motivate yourself to do anything at all …. But if you go for a quick stroll, you’ll get a trickle or endorphins, read an interesting article for a dash of dopamine… There is a cumulative effect, so each day you do a little bit more to keep these happy brain chemicals flowing, gradually they will turn from a trickle to a flood!
Most books like this start with the author thanking about 50 people who helped them to write the book in some way, and so this blog is designed to also find people who’d like to be thanked at the start of my book! My first thank you goes to Anna Valero, a great friend and distinguished policy fellow at the London School of Economics – because she introduced me to the work of Richard Layard! Thank you Anna!
So, if you’d like to help me create this book, be interviewed for the podcast, or help me to share this idea in some way, or if you’d just like to read my new weekly ‘happy 5” blog, please drop me a line!
Engaging in learning and growth activities (“grow” in the happy 5!) triggers the release of dopamine, a neurotransmitter associated with pleasure and reward, which can lead to increased motivation and a sense of accomplishment. So to tick the “grow” box in your happy 5, make sure you email me right now email@example.com !!
Thank you for reading this blog. I’d love to hear your thoughts directly to me, or in the comments below. Merry Christmas to you, and also I hope you have a very HAPPY new year, and experience an ongoing and ever increasing happiness in 2024!