Ten keys to happier living

A few weeks ago, I took a training to become a certified Mental Health First Aider. It’s an amazing evidence-based training which has been designed in partnership with the NHS and is accredited by the Royal Society for Public Health. Here is the link if you’d like to take it in England, but they offer it in more than 25 countries around the world. Today is World Mental Health Day, so I wanted to take the opportunity to share a framework for happier living we studied during the training.

happier living

A simple model for happiness

The “GREAT DREAM” model for happiness was developed by Dr Vanessa King, a positive psychology practitioner, in collaboration with non-profit organisation Action for Happiness and under the patronage of the Dalai Lama. It offers ten simple keys to happier living.

  • Giving. Doing things for other people, such as donating money to good causes, giving up your personal time for a volunteering initiative, or helping a struggling colleague. Studies show that doing things for others improves your own well-being and has positive effects on your health.
  • Relating. Connecting with the people around you is fundamental to your happiness and well-being. In order to improve your relationships with others, make sure to practice active listening and to understand and respect what they say and how they feel.
  • Exercising. It’s no secret that staying physically active is good for you. Research shows that exercise reduces stress and helps you to think more clearly. It will also help you sleep better.
  • Awareness. Being mindful of the world around you can help you to deal with problems caused by stress and anxiety. The key is to focus on the present, and to notice the details of the world around you and within yourself in a non-judgemental way. Studies found that a regular mindfulness practice can even alter your brain connectivity.
  • Trying out. Being open to new experiences and cultivating the curiosity to seek new experiences and develop new skills will help you feel more in control of your life and will increase your self-esteem.
  • Direction. If done well, setting personal goals that are based on your core values can be enjoyable and rewarding. It’s all about defining targets that really matter to you and using a personal growth framework that makes these achievable.
  • Resilience. You can’t always decide what external events happen to you, but you can choose how you react. Resilience is not a natural attribute, it’s a skill that you can practice and develop. It’s choosing to look at setbacks as temporary challenges rather than as permanent tragedies.
  • Emotions. Regulating your emotions is a big part of happiness and overall well-being. Taking the time to reflect on your emotions and making sure to remember the good ones—for example by creating your personal collection of joy triggers—is a great way to develop your emotional intelligence.
  • Acceptance. Being compassionate with yourself and accepting your strengths as well as your weaknesses will help you being comfortable with who you are. Try to avoid negative self-talk and dwelling on your flaws.
  • Meaning. Research found that people feel happier when they sense that their lives have meaning. Finding meaning is about connecting your work to a higher purpose, feeling that what you do makes a difference, and understanding how the different aspects of your life connect together.

In case you didn’t notice, the first letter of each of these elements form the words “great dream”, hence the name of the framework. This list of tactics for happier living may seem obvious to many, but for those who struggle with their mental health, it’s a great starting point to find ways to improve their outlook on life and their overall well-being. Happy World Mental Health Day, everyone!


Anne-Laure Le Cunff

I’m an ex-Googler, entrepreneur, and part-time neuroscience student at King’s College. If you found this article useful, subscribe to my weekly newsletter about productivity, creativity, learning, and designing engaging products.

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