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The Office of National Statistics have just released its 2016 figures on happiness in the UK. Needless to say, people immediately went and tagged one town ‘the unhappiest in the UK’ slightly missing and also proving a point. Hear Averil talking about this on the radio: Nationally, 7 out of every 10 people say they are satisfied with life, what they do is worthwhile, they felt happy yesterday and they didn’t feel too anxious. In anyone’s opinion that has to be a good result. There are 43 scores in all. In 2016, 22 stayed the same as last year, 4 went down and 10 scored higher. Life is indeed getting better all the time. Sadly, people do not always notice that. This is partly due to a perceptual error. We are programmed to think of what didn’t get done, what hasn’t been achieved and what isn’t good enough. This ensures we get things done but can make us miserable and give an unrealistically pessimistic view of the world. Research shows we can increase happiness, wellbeing and as a consequence, health. Start with shifting your perception to notice what went right today. Choose positive emotions rather than dwelling on or even seeking out the negative. Relationships matter. In lower scoring towns, people found it difficult to belong to the neighbourhood. Working long hours, people become isolated and lose touch with friends. To flourish we need to work at positive emotions, to use our strengths optimally in our work, to build relations and to make every encounter count, to have a sense of meaning and that there are issues more important than our own petty irritations and also to have a sense of accomplishment. (our book, Positive Psychology for Dummies provides key information on the origins, theory, methods, practitioners and results of positive psychology.) By the way, the place that scored highest was Orkney in the Outer Hebrides but the key thing to remember is that you don’t have to move that far away to increase wellbeing. Just change a few habits today.

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