Don't worry, be happy

Research also tells us that happiness doesn't come from money, material possessions or having lots of "stuff"

What makes you feel happy?

Everyone will answer differently, of course. Some will say it's when they're joyful or excited. Others might say it's when they're calm, peaceful and contented. Happiness itself is a subjective state, but one thing we'd all agree on is that we'd like more of it.

Research has shown happiness has a huge positive impact upon our physical health. Happy people are much less likely to die from heart attacks, less likely to end up divorced, have greater marital satisfaction and have much lower rates of depression.

In June 2012, the United Nations General Assembly proclaimed 20 March (tomorrow) as International Day of Happiness, saying "the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal". The Kingdom of Bhutan actually started this paradigm shift back in the early 1970s by decreeing that Gross National Happiness be valued over Gross National Product. Then a couple of years ago, Ban Ki Moon, Secretary General of the UN stated that the three pillars of sustainable development are "social, economic and environmental wellbeing" which then define gross global happiness. Suddenly happiness isn't just about having a good day - it's about the world and humanity flourishing.

So happiness, and the scientific study of it, has been pretty topical for a while now. But can something so subjective actually be measured? According to the World Database of Happiness, it can. And not only on an individual level, but even in ways that identify which countries are the happiest. The Legatum Institute in London recently released its latest report for the Prosperity Index. The 2013 Index found Norway to be the world's happiest country based on wealth, economic growth and quality of life indicators (and for the fifth consecutive year!). Australia didn't fare too badly either, coming in at number 7.

No one can be totally happy all of the time. In order to appreciate happiness, we need to experience the whole range of human emotions. This includes those feelings we consider not so pleasant like anger, sadness and fear. But by cultivating more happiness and positive emotions in our daily lives, we also increase our ability to manage the not-so-pleasant feelings, as well as improving our resilience in the tough times.

So how can we create more happiness in our lives?

Australia's Dr Tim Sharp (aka "Dr Happy") says that it "requires nothing more than practicing a few simple disciplines every day". This includes simple common sense things like eating well, exercising, getting enough sleep and nurturing quality relationships.

Research also tells us that happiness doesn't come from money, material possessions or having lots of "stuff". Happiness and money are only correlated up to a certain point. Once basic needs like food, clothing and shelter have been met, more money does not equate to more happiness.

Practicing gratitude is another way of generating happiness. Try creating a gratitude journal where every day you write down five things that you're appreciative of. This helps rewire the inherent "negative bias" of our brains.

Finally, just the simple of act of smiling is an incredibly powerful way to increase happiness! Charles Darwin realised that the act itself makes us feel better. Smiling decreases stress hormones and blood pressure, while increasing mood enhancing hormones. In fact, smiling generates as much brain activity as 2,000 bars of chocolate! Now there's a reason to grin, if ever there was one.