Saturday 3 October 2009

Socialist Values Make People Happier

Today is World Mental Health Day and the BBC's Headroom site is suggesting that "we should all try to do five things, every day, that promote happiness".

Strangely, not one of these suggestions includes making money, focusing on 'success', accumulating worthless possessions, screwing people over, thinking only of 'number one', trying to be famous, sucking up to people who are or not caring a damn about the world. Actually, it turns out that what can be broadly seen as socialist values - cooperation, solidarity, inquisitiveness and activism - are actually what make people happier.

It's just too much campaigning without a break that cause stress, anxiety and burn-out...

Anyway, here are the five things to do every day:

1. Connect with others

Human beings are social animals, and making links with other people is vital to mental health. This means we should all try to make time to maintain and develop our relationships with family, friends, colleagues and neighbours.

2. Be active

There is a close relationship between physical health and mental health. Keeping fit can improve our mental well-being too. Sports, hobbies such as gardening or dancing, or just a daily stroll will keep us fit and stimulate our minds.

3. Take notice of our surroundings

There is growing evidence that a mindful engagement with the world - being actively aware of our surroundings - is important for mental health. We can try to make sure that we notice the things around us; the examples of beauty or significance in all sorts of settings, whether walking to work, eating lunch or talking to friends.

4. Learn

It's very important to keep our minds active and growing. We don't all have to enrol with the Open University (although, it's a very good idea). Fixing a bike, learning a musical instrument, or cooking something different can give a sense of satisfaction and confidence. We can learn something new every day - even if it's just Googling something we heard on the radio.

5. Give to our neighbours and communities

It might seem odd to say that giving to other people is good for your own mental health - but that's what the science tells us. People who give their time and energy to other people seem to have higher levels of well-being and happiness. This doesn't mean giving money. It's probably better and more rewarding to get involved in projects which need your time and mental energy.

See also: The Pursuit of Happiness

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