9 ways to be happier including learning from your cat

Here are 9 ways to be happier which includes learning from your cat. According to Meik Wiking, the founder and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute (HRI) in Denmark there are eight ways to be happier and one of them means learning from your cat’s behaviour, so I’ll start with that. I have made it 9 ways which are listed below.

9 ways to be happier which includes learning from your cat
9 ways to be happier which includes learning from your cat. Image: MikeB from an image provided by Pixabay.
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Sit by a sunny window

Cats love to sit by a sunny window. We all know that. They like the warmth. For humans there is an added advantage which is the light, “an overlooked element in our well-being” according to Wiking. His research found that people tend to be happier in homes where there is more natural light. Inadequate daylight in your home increases the chance of depression. Even in winter people should chase the sun which means sitting by a window to expose themselves to natural light. Wiking said: “We have a terraced house. I’m on the top floor, near the window, where the light comes in at this time of day. I’m basically like a cat. I’m going where the light is”.

We can learn from our cat.

Control the small things in your life

My understanding is that we can’t control a lot of our lives, but we are able to control the small things which we can change. This helps to remove a feeling of powerlessness. And people are in charge of how they respond to things even if those things are out of their control. This also leads to feeling of being in control. A feeling of powerlessness brings people down. Wiking said: “I don’t have an influence over what is happening with the economy, but I do have an influence over what we are having for dinner tonight”.

Moderate expectations and find joy in the small things

Happiness is not feeling upbeat most of the time. Wiking has a particular definition of happiness which is: “The experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile.”

Enjoy the small joys in life. For me, after working hard, it is having a cup of tea in front of the television with my cat on my lap or walking in Richmond Park with a friend. And bad experiences can be a learning process to help us find a sense of purpose. I think this is about what I call “expectation management”. We need to accept and expect times of unhappiness because they are normal. If we feel negative or angry, we should reflect on those emotions. Clearly, Wiking’s methods of being happier require self-discipline and the ability to be objective about oneself.

Take the long view

There will be ups and downs, good and bad times but if you take the long view knowing that you will pass through bad times, you’ll feel happier. Wiking says that it is important to distinguish between how you feel now and how you feel overall in your life.

Feel a sense of connection with other people

Good communication is important in creating a strong ‘social fabric’ and a strong social fabric or network is important to happiness. A study published in Psychological Science found a link between how people converse and their happiness. The conclusion apparently is that “Higher levels of well-being were associated with spending more time talking to others and further associated with having more meaningful conversations and less small talk”. One way to facilitate this if you are feeling down is to use your hands such as playing cards. This removes awkward silences.

Family mealtimes

If you live with a family, family meals are linked with fewer depressive symptoms in teenagers. And they boost contentment for adults, too. Mealtimes are a time to bond. “Sharing a meal with a friend or family is a source of happiness”, Wiking says. He also says: “It’s the single best thing we can do for our kids in terms of benefits for physical and mental health”. Mealtimes are generally too short, and they should be lengthened. Many families do not have a set mealtime when they sit around a table in the old-fashioned way. And he suggests that using candlelight at mealtime encourages teenagers to stay and chat. And when they chat, they can offload some of their anxieties.

Don’t chase money to find happiness

This is a reference to the old adage that money does not make you happy. It matters but my interpretation is that if you’ve got enough money to provide for the basics then you can find happiness in other ways. To use his words, you need to ‘decouple’ happiness from money. When HRI asked more than 13,000 people what creates a happy home he said: “Almost nobody mentioned things or stuff”. They talked about aspects of living such as belonging, laughter and love.

Food is important to happiness

The basic mantra is that good food is fundamental to the good life according to Wiking. He is not only referring to the quality of the nutrients in food, but the pleasure gained from simple home cooking from ingredients that you have grown yourself for example. And in Sweden they have a basic rule which is that you keep seven days’ worth of food in your pantry or freezer as a kind of backup in case it snows so badly you can’t get out of the home. Apparently keeping a reasonably well stocked food supply as a source of happiness. It boosts morale. It seems that in doing this you are doing something meaningful and to which you are committed. This is one way to improve happiness levels.

Being outside and in nature

This is one of my pet topics. I believe that you can achieve an instant improvement in your happiness quotient by going outside, perhaps twice a day or at least once for a one hour, walking around a forest or a park, to feel nature, to feel the trees and to absorb that feeling. Walking as an activity is also important so combine it with soaking up the natural environment. This is like balm to a troubled mind in my view. I think people need to connect with nature because in doing so they are connecting with their roots because humans come from nature. Those are my views not Mr Wiking’s.

However, researchers at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark found that people who are outside in daylight for two hours per day have a 40% lower risk of becoming depressed. Wiking believes that walking in say a wood or forest brings a sense of calm because the trees have been standing for centuries.

I can’t recommend it strongly enough. Anybody who feels depressed should go out into a wood or forest with a friend if you want to feel reassured because I understand that for some women it is too scary to go into a forest alone, and soak up the feeling. Let the trees talk to you. That sounds a bit airy fairy but when you get into it you will understand it. Even talk back 👌✔️. I do sometimes.

Mr Wiking has a book out now, published by Penguin Life, My Hygge Home. It is priced at £16.99 p in the UK. I’m thankful to The Times newspaper for this information and Mr Wiking was interviewed by Anna Maxted.

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