International Day of Happiness

At 11.02am today the spring equinox will occur marking the start of spring. Spring is often a time for celebration and happiness as the days get longer, the weather gets nicer (let’s ignore the snow for now!) and everywhere you look little lambs are frolicking in the fields.

happinessIt’s only fitting then that the UN will be celebrating another first on 20th March 2013 – International Day of Happiness. Today the UN recognises that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”

In July 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/281 which decreed that the International Day of Happiness would be observed every year on 20 March. The creation of the International Day of Happiness followed on from the first ever United Nations  conference on Happiness and Wellbeing and an earlier UN resolution calling for member states to place a greater focus on the happiness of their citizens.

Many governments are now moving towards measuring national prosperity beyond economic factors to include new elements such as happiness and wellbeing. Indeed, David Cameron stated that Britain will “start measuring our progress as a country not just by how our economy is growing, but by how our lives are improving, not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life,”

For a long time research in the field of mental health has focused primarily on mental ill-health rather than the full spectrum of mental wellbeing. However, the growth of positive psychology in the late 20th century has given rise to the importance of giving attention to our positive thoughts, feelings and actions, as opposed to focusing on negative thoughts or actions. By reminding ourselves what went well instead of what went wrong, positive psychologists believe we can build a buffer against unhappiness, making us better able to take life’s knocks when they occur. Having a greater insight into what makes us happy in the first place can lead to practical actions to make us happier.

One of the founders of positive psychology, Martin Seligman summarizes human happiness:

When we have…

   Pleasure (tasty foods, warm baths etc… )

   Engagement (the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity)

   Relationships (social ties are extremely reliable indicator of happiness)

  Meaning (a perceived pursuit or belonging to something bigger)

  Accomplishments (having recognised, concrete goals)

Do you agree with Martin Seligman? Join the discussion on twitter with #happyday and share what makes you happy.

Give a thought to your mental wellbeing this St Patrick’s Day

This weekend pubs in Edinburgh will be packed for two reasons. Many will be celebrating or commiserating the end of the six nations but many more will be celebrating in the name of St Patrick – Ireland’s patron saint.

There is something about St Patrick’s Day that has captured the hearts of people far from the shores of the Emerald Isle. With its growing popularity St Patrick’s Day has become synonymous with drinking large amounts of alcohol. And it’s fair to say that we like our alcohol in Britain. A 2005 report published by WHO found that the UK has the 15th highest consumption of alcohol in the world (Ireland was 13th).

St Patricks Day Thirst


We all know that binge drinking is bad for us. But how aware are we of the drinks we rack up throughout the week? A bottle of wine with dinner, a pint after work or even a nightcap doesn’t seem like a lot but it can all add up with many people drinking far more than they realise.

Government guidelines recommend that women shouldn’t drink more than 2-3 units a day and men, 3-4 units and we should also be aiming to have at least TWO alcohol-free days a week.

If you drink responsibly and stick to the sensible drinking guidelines, you can have a positive effect on your health and wellbeing, both in the short and the long-term. Some of the benefits are obvious when you look in the mirror; others are about feeling happier, healthier and having more energy.

You don’t have to be an alcoholic or dependence on alcohol for it to effective your physical and mental health. Many successful, high-achieving business men and women often use alcohol as a way to unwind and relax after a stressful day at the office. Overtime alcohol can become associated with relaxation and an unhelpful coping strategy develops to help manage everyday anxiety and stress. Research has found that anxiety and depression are more common in heavy drinkers and heavy drinking is more common in those with anxiety and depression.

So why not use this St Patrick’s Day to examine your relationship with booze and give a thought to your mental health.

If you feel that you use alcohol to help cope with anxiety and stress we can help. Get in touch with resolve on 0131 718 6003 or email

What is love?

In case you didn’t guess from all of the hearts, red roses and chocolates that have besieged the high street over the last few weeks, today is Thursday 14th of February: Valentine’s Day.

Valentine’s Day can be stressful. People who are in relationships worry about what to get each other (Will they like it? Will it be good enough? Is it too predictable? Have a spent enough?). Those who don’t have a partner can sometimes feel sad or lonely and convince themselves that they are the only single person on the planet. At the very least, the day can bring confusion about what people should be feeling versus what they are feeling, in or out of relationships.


Photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani / / CC BY

The top question asked of Google last year was: What is love? A difficult question with many answers and even more interpretations, the Oxford English Dictionary describes love as “a feeling or disposition of deep affection or fondness for someone”. The definition doesn’t mention soul mate, partner or ‘the One’ so why do we so closely associated a partner with the ability to participate in a day that celebrates love?

Whether you’re single or coupled-up why not use Valentine’s Day as an opportunity to celebrate all of your relationships (romantic or not)?

Instead of trying to prove your love for someone on a single day with grand gestures, take the time to show your appreciation for the people in your life who are important all 365 days of the year.

  • Reach out to friends and arrange a dinner with a group to catch up on news.
  • Take today as an opportunity to spend some time to yourself. Book a massage, have a bubble bath, buy yourself a present, make your favourite meal, or do an activity that you enjoy. Today doesn’t have to be about spending a lot of money, use the day as an opportunity to appreciate you.
  • Visit family members you don’t see very often. By spending the day with them you will make them feel special and may be surprised at how good you feel too.
  • Curl up in front of the TV and watch a film. Love Actually was recently voted the most romantic film in a LoveFilm poll. You may not want to watch a romantic film but try taking them as a bit of entertainment and appreciating that most are unrealistic – no one has ever fallen into a lake as often as Colin Firth!

You have the power to choose whether you want Valentine’s Day to be a positive or negative day. It shouldn’t matter whether you have a significant other or not.

And finally, if all else fails, remember that in less than 24 hours it’s Friday – a much better day by far!

Photo credit: seyed mostafa zamani / / CC BY

January blues

My birthday is in Japarty on....nuary.

I mention this because despite it being my birthday, even I find January a rubbish month. The thrill of Christmas is gone, everyone is on a detox (no birthday drinks for me then), pay day seems like an elusive pot of gold at the end of a rainbow and it’s dark …. all the time!  January doesn’t really fill me with positivity and it seems that I’m not alone.

The Samaritans report that more calls are made about financial worries in January than at any other time of the year as our pre-Christmas credit card bills land on the front mat with a thud.  And it’s not just money worries that are affecting people’s mood. Ruth Sutherland, Chief Executive of Relate, the relationship charity, reports a 52% increase in the number of clients attending with relationship problems.

“We expect this week to be the busiest ever for Relate as people get back to work and think about their relationships following the Christmas break”

Adding to my pessimistic view of my birth month is the arrival of ‘Blue Monday’. If you’ve read any newspapers today you are likely to know what I’m talking about.  The third Monday of January is apparently the most depressing day of the year. This year Blue Monday lands on 21st January….today.  After all this is it any wonder that we all feel a little flat in January?

But how helpful is all of this doom and gloom?

As a psychologist I know that where we choose to focus our attention has an impact on our mood. If we focus on all of the negative things that are happening, then this will likely have an adverse impact on our mood. This is true for any time of the year so why pick on January?

With a little digging you are likely to find out that Blue Monday was actually invented in the mid-2000s by Sky Travel to boost holiday sales. Often cited as a ‘fact’ this label was a PR spin that isn’t based on any scientific research. Another well-known ‘fact’ about January is that it is the month with the highest suicide rate: not true. Research isn’t consistent but reports spring, summer or autumn as the peak depending on what you read.  Winter isn’t even mentioned.

It is true that people report more financial and relationship difficulties in January than other months but perhaps this is a good thing. I see it as people taking advantage of a new year to face up to problems that started long before January even began. Perhaps the ‘enough is enough’ mentality is at its strongest in January and it makes us galvanize into changing our lives for the better?

With a new year comes New Year’s resolutions and I only have one this year…… be kinder to January and in turn, it might me kinder to me.

  • Enter your email address to follow this blog and receive notifications of new posts by email.

    Join 51 other followers

  • Categories