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Founder of Blue Monday reveals his formula for happiness

In line with Jurys Inn’s recently launched Stay Happy campaign, Dr Cliff Arnall and Jurys Inn have also developed a Stay Happy guide to help people build and maintain their happiness and well-being long after the day itself.

While we cannot ignore or shy away from recent events and the unstable political and economic climate, Dr Cliff offers advice on how we can remain calm and control in this period of uncertainty, in line with the admirable response and stoicism from the nation in recent months.

The Stay Happy guide will be on display throughout Jurys Inn hotels and Dr Cliff will be hosting happiness workshops for all their staff.

E – Emotional connectedness. This factor is about experiences rather than stuff, preferring people and animals to things, friends and family, the development and maintenance of high quality relationships.  People move away from their family and friends to pursue a better paid job only to realise that it’s not worth the trade-off. No amount of money buys true friendship. This factor includes connections with animals too: Brits have a deep down affection and appreciation of animals both domestic and wildlife. Being emotionally connected includes taking the opportunity to express tenderness, gratitude and love with the people closest to you.  This factor encourages us to act in a caring empathetic way toward others. People who are disconnected emotionally can often end up inviting a range of unhelpful behaviours such as being overly critical and fault finding which hurts both the people receiving these messages and those sending them.

M – Mindful.  This factor is about being in the ‘now’ – and not straying into the past or future too much. Being mindful very much involves being aware of the present moment and making high quality memories by being totally in the moment. People at concerts who are more concerned with how the video upload is going to look rather than enjoying themselves in the here-and-now are actively reducing their happiness. The longer people remain in the present moment the happier and calmer they will be. Mindfulness encourages us to appreciate the things we do have in life.  This includes simple experiences like really tasting our food rather than wolfing it down whilst rushing onto the next thing on our to do list. Being mindful means using money to buy experiences that we can look forward to, enjoy, remember and talk about (Kumar & Gilovich 2013).  A witty confirmation of this comes from Art Buchwald who said ‘The best things in life aren’t things.’ The psychology here is very important: what really matters is planning and reliving shared experiences with the people closest to us.

K – Kindness. This factor refers to being friendly, willing to help, share. It’s about developing kind hearted nature. A sure fire sign of deep down happiness is the ability to be consistently kind. This can range from giving time, energy and praise, and moving away from making negative personal comments and judgements.  A great way of improving well-being and happiness is to engage in acts of kindness and helping others out. Helping others boosts confidence, self-esteem and mood and lowers anxiety. People who go beyond themselves are happier than those who remain insular and cut off.  As the maxim goes, there’s always someone worse off than us. This is not meant to induce guilt but compassion instead. The feel-good, do-good phenomenon first proposed by Salovey (1990) suggests that we feel measurably better when we help someone out or do a good deed.  And when we help people out, we feel better – a total win-win.

H – Health. this includes the four main aspects of health:

Physical – this focuses mainly on aerobic exercise and requires relatively little effort to build and maintain over the long term. Walking is one of the best forms of exercise. Regular sports whether table tennis, badminton or football are made more enjoyable when there is a social element. Another very important element for global health is sleep.  Many people are currently in sleep debt – that is they are not getting enough good quality hours of sleep.  Restful satisfying sleep boosts immune function and repairs the body and mind. Sleep is the only thing a human being can’t resist. And that’s because it’s critical for optimum health.  Anything that improves sleep will directly boost happiness in the short and long term.

Psychological – this feature of health refers predominantly to what we think – about ourselves, other people and the world. Psychologically healthy people tend to enjoy learning and discovering new things, and they report being curious about lots of things. They are also very good at choosing work that gives them a sense of purpose and contribution. Their work will engage and match their skills, reflect their values and challenge, but not overstress them. Psychologically healthy people will often talk about their work and hobbies getting them into a flow state where time passes very quickly following a state of complete absorption.

Emotional – this feature relates to how we feel.  Being emotionally intelligent means knowing how you and others around you feel. It means being able to handle and marshal feelings of anger and to use these feeling to their advantage.

Spiritual – this refers to a connection with something greater or bigger than ourselves.  The spiritual dimension of health could include having a faith in gods, people or mother nature for example.

A – Authenticity. This factor covers several areas including setting your own agenda, not wearing fake masks and being who you really are regardless of the situation or environment you are in. Authentic people tend to set their own agenda and live according to their strengths and values. They don’t follow the pack and thereby forge their own path learning from mistakes along the way. They like to try new things but do so quietly and with a low ego. They don’t show off because they don’t need to. Recognition or praise from others is not so important as an internal sense of what is right for them. This factor also incorporates self-respect which in turn leads to respecting others opinions and differences. Increasing authenticity levels boosts self-confidence which in turn improves decision making, planning and happiness. Authentic people refuse to tolerate low quality social encounters and relationships instead preferring being around people who tend towards optimism, fun and fairness.

F3 – Fun, family and friends.  This trio of factors incorporates a healthy attitude to life. Humans are social animals. Put simply, experiences are more fun when they are shared. Family and friends provide a secure base, a sounding board and a rich source of happiness. Confiding in friends and family can quickly remove our fears and doubts which frees up room for humour, fun and new experiences.  The people closest to us also allow us to be ourselves which links this F3 factor very closely with Authenticity. Investing in relationships is far more rewarding than spending time and energy trying to be successful. The proponents of the positive psychology movement talk about the importance of sensing the world like a child does, being able to experience pleasure, to allow yourself to relax and not take yourself too seriously.  Play and being playful with others is an important aspect of well-being and happiness and yet many people seem to be taking themselves too seriously.

U – Uncertainty.  This factor represents both internal and external uncertainty. Brexit, terrorism, a hung UK parliament, Presidents Trumps and Putin are all external sources of uncertainty. These issues can easily produce heightened levels of anxiety for a sizeable number of people.  UK citizens, as well international financial markets, thrive on certainty but the difficulty right now is the extraordinarily low level of certainty. It is important to note that these events and situations are stressful for lots of people because there are lots of unknowns.  The challenge is to increase the amount of personal control we have.  Often this is based on a perceptual change rather than an actual change in reality.  In other words we change our attitude towards an event or situation by focusing areas of our lives we can control.

C2 – Calmness and Control.

Calmness is one of the antidotes to uncertainty. It’s something we can all learn. Many people react to situations on autopilot rather than taking a step back to consider the different options that are available.  The truth is we choose how to respond – but at the time it often feels like we have no choice other than to take a stressful path. When there is much uncertainty it is easy to feel trapped and to either respond by fighting, where we become aggressive, or running away which can include feelings of denial and dread.

The Control factor in the formula helps us to react in a calmer more balanced way. It focuses on two aspects – the personal and the external.  We have very little, if any, control of external events. A first step in increasing control is to let go of the many things we can’t control. The second step is to be clear about the things we can control in our lives and to focus our energy on these. So, the things we can control are usually within a few metres of us and include our personal choices, our behaviours and attitudes toward others and how we spend our time.

Many people don’t get the best out of the 24 hours we are all allotted each day.  We get 24 hours just like everyone else. Happy people have learned to spend their time well and with wisdom. They watch less than 5 hours television a week, they spend more time outdoors, eat food at a table and go to bed when they are tired (instead of faffing about for an hour wondering whether to go to bed or not)

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