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How to have your happiest year ever

The secret to happiness turns out to be not-so-secret. Family. Relationships, love, human connection – that’s basically it!

So here’s something for all the family, some quirky/fun tips taken from the science of positive psychology.

1. Get huggy

Christmas is a time for family & friends and, chances are, you will be giving and receiving more hugs than usual. Here’s some science that might just change your life. Apparently, the average hug lasts 2.1 seconds. So a quick one…two… and it’s done and dusted. However, for the love to transfer a hug has to last 7 seconds or longer. So a top all-year round tip is to treat the ones you love to the full 7 seconds. Obviously, don’t count out loud as that spoils the effect, and they might start wriggling after 4 or 5 seconds – but a 7 second hug says ‘I love you’. Everyone wins. Hugging releases oxytocin (a happy chemical) in you and the one you’re hugging.

2. Be a hygge spotter

The Danes have a word – hygee (pronounced ‘hoo-ga’) – that has no direct translation in English. The closest I can give you is ‘comfort’. For me hoo-ga is sitting by an open fire, drinking hot chocolate, while a storm rages outside. And hoo-go is also being wrapped up snuggly and warm on a snowy walk. Hoo-go is also sharing a tub of Quality Street while I watch trashy Christmas TV. Work out what your hoo-ga moments are, and then get good at spotting them, all year round. This is linked with mindfulness and improves your happiness by enabling you to appreciate more wonderful moments.

3. A year of experiences

Get everyone in your family to write an early Christmas list for December 2019. The exact question is this: What 20 things would you would like for Christmas? That aren’t things.

Share the ideas. Schedule them into 2019.

4 – Celebrate what hasn’t happened

Have you ever asked yourself, what hasn’t happened that I didn’t want that I haven’t celebrated?

Feel free to read that line again. And again. And again? Sadly, unless you’re a black belt happiness ninja your children don’t sit in a maths lesson thinking how lucky you are to have a nice school and a wonderful teacher. They curse because they have to remember stuff. And when you’re stuck in traffic you don’t sit there marvelling at the sunglasses compartment and cup holders, you curse and swear at the delay.

The opposite of savouring good experiences is to notice the many things that could have gone badly, but didn’t. Hence the question again – what hasn’t happened that you didn’t want that you haven’t celebrated?

Here’s my list for today (and it’s only 7am): I woke up and didn’t have toothache. My laptop isn’t broken. I haven’t got measles. My children aren’t poorly. I haven’t just stubbed my toe, we haven’t run out of Cheerios, there hasn’t been an earthquake and I haven’t been bitten by a zombie.

I mean, what a fabulous start to the day. None of those bad things has happened! Of course, it’s hard to notice something that didn’t happen. But it’s helpful to sometimes switch your thinking to all the bad things that could have happened, but didn’t. And then celebrating the positive result.

Share it with your children and get them to think of examples. The chances are there’s will be much more creative than yours!

[These quirky top tips are brought to you in association with Andy’s new book ‘Diary of a Brilliant Kid’ – available to buy in our Happiness shop!]

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