If I asked you to name the things that make you feel happy, what would spring to mind first?
Perhaps you might jump straight to that holiday you’re looking forward to, a career milestone you hope to achieve within the next year, or finally reaching a target fitness level. But I bet if you really stop and think, it’s actually the little things that make the biggest contribution to how regularly we feel happy.
Butterkist recently conducted some research to investigate the general happiness of the nation, so I popped to London to hear about the results, and learn just what the secret of being happy is. It’s less complicated than you might think!
The Butterkist Happy Place Project
The Butterkist research polled 1,500 adults in the UK, and revealed that the average Brit feels true happiness 432 times a year, with 60% of those surveyed claiming to be happy with their lives.
According to the survey, the average adult feels genuine happiness up to eight times in a typical week, with Brits rating themselves a seven out of ten on the overall happiness scale. Not bad!
The research went on to identify the top ‘happy places’ for Brits, and this is where things get really interesting. Yes, being on holiday is in there, but overwhelmingly the list is compiled of smaller, more everyday experiences. Respondents named things like cuddling your partner, cosying up on the sofa for a family TV session with popcorn, enjoying a barbecue in the garden on a sunny day, sitting down to mum’s roast dinner, and enjoying the great outdoors as their ultimate happy triggers.
I found it so refreshingly positive to hear confirmation that when it comes down to it, the things that make people truly happy are simple, and it’s all about appreciating the little moments. And those little moments are rarely about material ‘stuff’ – many of the happy experiences that scored highly cost absolutely nothing.
The Art of Happiness
During the day we were also joined by happiness expert Andy Cope, who shared his thoughts on the Butterkist research findings, and gave an uplifting talk about what it really is that makes us happy, as underscored by his findings gathered as part of his Doctorate at the University of Loughborough.
Andy highlighted the fact that our happiness peaks when we are spending quality time with those we love. He explained how today’s digitally-dominated world plays a part in our happiness, or lack of it. We’re all aware of technology causing us to spend less real time in each other’s company, and Andy chatted about how this reduced contact has a knock-on effect on the ‘happy hormones’ that are released when we’re relaxing with those we love. Less interaction equals less feel-good emotions, and that in turn can really impact on our general wellbeing.
And yet, we’re all a bit guilty of not making the most of our time together. The hectic pace of life gives us the perfect excuse to focus on ticking jobs off lists and planning ahead, instead of just living in the moment. Andy explained that, while the big events and milestones certainly do give us pleasure, they also cause us to spend most of our time looking forward to a future happy event, rather than focusing on how we feel in the present.
So, instead of chasing that future happiness, we should be appreciating the little happy moments that we experience all the time. It’s not really about finding more time to enjoy ourselves; it’s more a case of noticing precisely what we are enjoying, when it’s actually happening. Makes sense, doesn’t it?
Listening to all this evidence and expertise, I was struck by the fact that the solution is so simple. Spending time with the people we care about makes us happy, which in itself isn’t hard to achieve for most of us.
Happiness in our home
I came away from my evening with Butterkist heartened, energised, and ready to notice the now that little bit more.
Making a conscious effort to enjoy those happy places ties in well with the mindfulness I’ve been practicing for the last year or so. When I’m living in the moment, I rate myself as a very happy person, and I feel more connected, more upbeat, and consequently more able to tackle my workload and commitments.
And that in turn affects the mood in the house in a positive way too. I think this subtle shift in perspective, and the reminder that the Butterkist Happy Place Project offered, has kick-started an upward spiral in our home. By taking time to enjoy a simple, happy experience, we’re automatically creating the opportunity for more happy times. And that can only be a good thing!
What’s your favourite ‘happy place’?
This is a commissioned post for Butterkist.