The Science is In: 3 Ways to Increase Your Happiness

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This Sunday is the International Day of Happiness. Did you know that Canada was ranked as the sixth happiest country in the world in the 2016 World Happiness Report? What does “happiness” mean to you and where do you get yours from? If you’re looking for a couple ideas on how to boost your bliss, we’ve got a couple for you to check out (all backed up by science, no less).

Volunteerism

For some, the act of giving back to their community can be a source of happiness. There have been a number of studies that have shown that the more people volunteered their time, the happier they felt. The leading theories as to why that is centre around the development of empathy (which leads to satisfaction) and creating and strengthening social bonds (we humans are social creatures after all). As if that wasn’t enough, research has even suggested that volunteering can help you live longer!

Of course, through volunteering, not only are you able to make yourself happier, but you are making the lives of those you serve happier as well. Of course, happiness is easier to come by when the basic necessities of life are taken care of. The notion that certain supports and basic needs have to be in place before happiness can be prevalent in a society is one of the main ideas behind the International Day of Happiness. As Secretary-General of the United Nations, Ban Ki-moon put it:

The world needs a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.

If helping others is something you think you’d like to get more involved in, there are many places in Alberta to give back and volunteer your time. With more than 24,000 charities and nonprofit organizations across the province, there’s no shortage of places to feel the rewards of volunteerism. And right around the corner is National Volunteer Week, the time when we celebrate Canada’s 12.7 million volunteers, and the opening of nominations for the 2016 Stars of Alberta Volunteer Awards. Join in, give back, and celebrate the folks who make our communities better.

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Participation in the arts

Speaking of volunteering, a great place to volunteer is at music festivals and other arts showcases. Even if you’re just going for the show, attending a concert, play or artistic performance, or even participating in one, can be a source of happiness. In fact, in the list of the top five things that bring people happiness, three are arts related (following exercise/sports and intimacy/sex)!

We know that a lot of Albertans enjoy the arts; in fact 91 per cent of Albertans attended or participated in an arts event or activity in 2013. And it’s pretty easy to understand why people enjoy art so much; it’s not work! The arts let us experience something different from our day-to-day routines. They make us feel something, or show us something new, or make us think about things in completely different ways. The arts connect us to new communities, especially when you are sharing an experience with hundreds of other people in a theatre or concert hall. Movies, television, paintings, music, sculpture, dance…the list goes on…they are the things that we use to make our lives better, even if just for a moment. As the former Chair of the Premier’s Council on Culture, Todd Hirsch, likes to say: “You can make a cookie without sugar, but it wouldn’t taste very good. Culture is the sugar of life.”

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Tourism

So we know that Albertans love the arts, but maybe what you’re into isn’t available in your city. Which means it’s time to hit the road and travel right into our third prescription for happiness: Tourism!

Just like the arts give us the opportunity to experience new things, changing your scenery is also a great way to improve your outlook on life. But it doesn’t take a trans-continental flight to get you someplace new; In Alberta, we are surrounded by heritage, history and many cultural offerings that provide learning opportunities and a healthy sense of something larger than ourselves.

Speaking with the Huffington Post, Marilyn Tam – entrepreneur, author of The Happiness Choice, and a key player in the introduction of the International Day of Happiness – put it this way:

Travel expands our capacity for wonder, joy and appreciation of the amazing diversity on our lovely planet. It makes me very happy indeed. If I didn’t travel, I may never have had the opportunity to meet the Minister [of Home and Culture in Myanmar] and, who knows, maybe the International Day of Happiness may not have happened yet.

Taking a trip ourselves can make us happier, but so can welcoming visitors who decide to take a trip to Alberta! Playing host to millions of visitors each year is a great way to increase provincial pride as well as our overall happiness. Who doesn’t like to show-off all the fantastic things about our province? And when we hear stats like the most popular National Parks in Canada are right here in Alberta, how can that not make you feel a little bit happy?

Coming or going, tourism is a great way to get happier. There no time like the present to seek out opportunities to expand your horizons, explore Alberta and find your new favourite thing in our province. With all the things there are to do in Alberta, you’re bound to find something that brings a smile to your face.

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So the science is in! Travel, the arts and volunteering are three great ways that Albertans can increase their happiness.

What makes you happy?

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