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How to Take Control of Your Own Happiness in 2021

In the dystopian world we have found ourselves living in for the past year or so, it seems more important than ever to look after our wellbeing. Isolation, depressing news stories, and increased screen time led to a 2020 that could have been better. However, there are strategies you can implement to take control of your own happiness!


Cut down on screen time

If it’s not the seemingly constant gloom-ridden news reports, or the social comparison and incessant distractions from social media, there’s always something negative to be said about how long we spend on our phones. However, especially now with online learning, it can seem like all we do is flick from screen to screen, whether we are actually achieving anything or not.

With lockdown, we rely on technology to stay as connected with the world as we can, so deleting social media entirely may not be realistic. Instead, putting time limits on apps can help to stay focused and present. The Forest app lets you set a timer for the amount of time you want to spend focused, and ‘plants a tree’. If you close the app and leave ‘the forest’ to go on another one your tree dies! This is a fun way of helping to organise your screen time, so that you don’t spend more hours than you have to online.

Make the most of your breaks

Cutting down on screen time is good, but the benefits of it will be much greater if you spend the time instead, engaging in activities that promote mindfulness. It’s often hard to stop our mind wandering, jumping from thought to thought, and thinking about something other than what we are currently doing. Research has found that people’s minds wander nearly 50% of the time.

You can practice mindfulness in any activity that involves purposefully paying attention to your experiences in the present moment – your bodily sensations, posture, breath, and thoughts and feelings associated with your current activity. A good way to do this is through going on a walk, or mindfulness meditation, which has been shown to have benefits of positive mood, lower anxiety, and even a stronger immune system – all of which are ideal for a global pandemic, right?

Be kind to others, not just yourself

Thinking of yourself all the time can be exhausting and bring you down. Instead, thinking of others and being kind to them will not only make them feel happier, in turn creating positivity from their end, but it may also have benefits to you. Matthieu Ricard, a Tibetan Buddhist monk dubbed “the world’s happiest person” has said the key to happiness lies in altruism.

"It's not the moral ground," He says. "It's simply that me, me, me all day long is very stuffy. And it's quite miserable, because you instrumentalize the whole world as a threat, or as a potential sort of interest [to yourself]."

"If your mind is filled with benevolence, you know, the passion and solidarity ... this is a very healthy state of mind that is conducive to flourishing," Ricard says. "So you, yourself, are in a much better mental state. Your body will be healthier, so it has been shown. And also, people will perceive it as something nice."

Hopefully you can apply some of these strategies to your own life, and take them into a better 2021!

Katie May

Bristol '22

Katie is a psychology student and lifestyle editor, currently in her second year at the University of Bristol.
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