March 20th is the International Day of Happiness–a time for individuals to focus less on how to grow technology and the economy and more on how to create and maintain well-being and happiness. Unfortunately, few individuals know how to do this.

Promoting Happiness

Despite the fact that few individuals believe that they fully understand the concept of happiness, including how to get and maintain it, many will yet admit that being surrounded by happy people does seem to contribute toward their own happiness. It is actually true that one can increase another’s happiness if they are themselves happy. Following are five ways to increase happiness:

1. Exercise. Studies have indicated that exercise, even just a little bit every day, can be so highly beneficial to an individual’s well-being and happiness that it can actually help an individual to overcome feelings of depression. Exercise can help an individual to relax, stimulate and increase brain power and improve their body image. It releases proteins and endorphins that are part of the feeling of happiness, and even individuals who are certain it cannot possibly help them are often surprised by the beneficial effects after a short, brisk walk.

2. Sleep more. With our busy lives, the plain truth is that we often don’t get the amount of sleep that our bodies need in order to recover and repair so that we can be focused and productive the next day. Studies have also indicated that proper amounts of sleep can affect an individual’s happiness, because sleep-deprived people tend to recall unpleasant memories quite easily and fail to recall pleasant memories easily or at all. In one experiment, sleep-deprived college students who attempted to memorize a list of words were able to memorize about eighty-one percent of negative words, like “cancer”, and only about thirty-one percent of positive or neutral words, like “sunshine” or “basket”. Sleep-deprived individuals are also often more sensitive to negative emotions, whereas well-slept individuals are better able to work through difficulties while maintaining more positive emotions.

3. Spend time with friends and family. A main fact of life is that it is often challenging and difficult. Friends and family can form a strong and loving support team that helps one through these trying times. These social relationships add value and perspective to an individual’s life, giving it a richness he cannot achieve on his own.

4. Go outside often. Fresh air and space can do wonders for one’s well-being and happiness, in fact one study discovered that just twenty minutes spent outdoors in pleasant weather boosts an individual’s mood, broadens their thinking and improves their memory. Natural environments are best, but any sort of time outdoors during pleasant weather can be good.

5. Help others. Many people experience great happiness when they set personal goals and achieve them, but reaching out to help others can be even more rewarding. According to some studies, one hundred hours per year–or roughly two hours per week–of helping others is enough to dramatically improve an individual’s own well-being and happiness. One particular study discovered that when individuals spent money on social activities rather than material goods they were far happier as a result. Another study determined that individuals who spent money on others were far happier than those who spent money on themselves. There is a great sense of satisfaction when one reaches out to someone in need, and helps them to improve their lives in some way.

Every day is a good day to promote happiness, and the International Day of Happiness is the perfect time to spread this message even farther.