THE BLOG

Your Happiness Is Part of Something Bigger

18/03/2015 13:49 GMT | Updated 17/05/2015 10:12 BST

This Friday is not just the first day of spring, it is also the International Day of Happiness - a day to celebrate the things that contribute to human wellbeing and a flourishing society.

One of the strongest findings from all the research about wellbeing is the vital importance of our relationships. We are a deeply social species and we thrive when we're closely connected to others. But modern society is undermining rather than enhancing these connections.

Our cities and public spaces are increasingly crowded, but more of us are living alone and fewer of us know our neighbours. The digital age promises endless connectivity, but we have fewer face-to-face interactions and often find ourselves paying more attention to the smartphone in our hand than the people we're with.

The effects of this are devastating. Loneliness has been shown to be twice as deadly as obesity and is now becoming an epidemic among young adults as well as older people. Social isolation is as likely to cause early death as smoking.

Fortunately, there are lots of ways we can start to put this right. In particular, we need to give much greater priority to helping people at risk of loneliness and isolation and supporting the many excellent initiatives that address these issues, including campaigns, befriending services, social prescribing, helplines and more.

But this is also about how we treat the people around us in our daily lives. We can each play our own small but meaningful part in helping to create a happier, more connected world.

The theme for this year's International Day of Happiness is "Your happiness is part of something bigger" - highlighting the importance of these small, everyday connections with others. The aim is to encourage people, wherever they are in the world, to reach out and make more positive connections with the people around them.

This can include simple everyday actions - like chatting to a neighbour, reconnecting with an old friend or sharing a few friendly words with a stranger in the supermarket.

Or it could be something more unusual. For example, Action for Happiness activists (or 'Happtivists' as they like to call themselves) are planning Positive Flash Mobs in various major cities, including Amsterdam, Barcelona, Bucharest, Kiev, London, Milan, Perth and Washington DC. The aim is to transform places where we normally ignore each other - like busy streets or train stations - into places of friendliness and connection.

And in the online world, many thousands more people will be supporting the day by sharing inspiring personal messages and images using the #InternationalDayOfHappiness hashtag. Our online relationships will never be quite as valuable as those we have in person, but the internet can still be a great tool for creating more positive connections.

Of course, just one day focused on spreading happiness is not enough by itself; it needs to be the trigger for wider and more sustained changes. That's why Action for Happiness, the non-profit movement behind this campaign, is also working to encourage on-going action across society, through initiatives like Happy Cafés and the Action for Happiness course.

So if you'd like to help transform our disconnected society into a friendlier, happier and more connected place, visit www.dayofhappiness.net and download your free Happiness Pack which has lots of suggestions for how to get involved.

The International Day of Happiness will be more than just a fun celebration, it will also help to remind us all that the world is a better place when we connect with and care about the people around us.

As Mark Twain once said: "The best way to cheer yourself up is to cheer someone else up".