Can you learn to be happy?

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1. Why aren’t we happier?

The UK is only the 21st most happy nation in the world, according to the World Happiness Report 2015. We know that our happiness affects the economy: we’re more productive when we’re happier. And happiness affects our wellbeing as well. If happiness is so good for us, can we get happier? 5 live set out to explore the science of happiness, and whether you can learn to be happy.

The World Happiness Report measures six areas to decide how happy a country is: national income per head of population, your life expectancy, whether you have someone to turn to in times of trouble, if you’ve got the freedom to make life choices, how likely you are to donate to charity, and whether your country is free from corruption. According to their 2015 report, Switzerland comes out top and Togo is the very least happy country. Ireland, the United States, Australia and Israel all rank above the UK.

The UK government began the Measuring National Well-being (MNW) programme in 2010. It’s recorded by the Office for National Statistics, who record 41 measurements of well-being, including whether you feel safe after dark, and whether you’re satisfied with your health.

2. What makes 5 live happy?

Find out what makes the 5 live team happy.

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3. How does your happiness compare to others?

See how your happiness levels compare to the rest of the UK population, based on data from the Office for National Statistics.

Low happiness

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Low happiness

9.68%

of respondents reported low happiness levels.

Medium happiness

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Medium happiness

17.05%

of people felt a medium level of happiness.

High happiness

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High happiness

40.66%

said their happiness was high.

Very high happiness

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Very high happiness

32.6%

rated their happiness as very high, giving it nine or 10 out of 10.

4. Get happy

Most of the criteria used to measure happiness aren’t things you necessarily have personal control over, like income or crime levels. But Action for Happiness says 40% of our happiness is down to the conscious choices we make.

They say there are 10 steps you can take which “consistently tend to make people's lives happier and more fulfilling”.

  • Do things for others
  • Connect with people
  • Take care of your body
  • Notice the world around you
  • Keep learning new things
  • Have goals to look forward to
  • Find ways to bounce back from difficulties
  • Take a positive approach
  • Become comfortable with who you are
  • Be part of something bigger that gives you purpose and meaning in life