Here’s a list of happiness hacks that will give everyone something to smile about.
While most recommendations for living and aging well tend to embrace healthy eating, exercise, social connections and having a sense of purpose, this list of 50 joyful activities pooled by more than 2,000 U.K. adults over 55 embraces the benefits of indulging in guilty pleasures (in moderation) as much as following more traditional advice to enjoy a long, satisfying life.
The British healthcare group Bupa UK commissioned the survey ahead of Care Home Open Day on June 28, which highlights elder care centers. The adults ages 55 and up revealed that they first realized “the secret to a happy life” at age 49, on average. (Indeed, 37% said they are happier now than they ever have been.) And when these people were asked to share what moments, gestures and daily habits made them feel the most content, themes of love, creativity, eating well and being outside popped up again and again.
Having a loving partner topped the list, with “being close to family” coming in second place. Enjoying quality time with people you love or like came up repeatedly on the list, including: “playing with your kids/grandkids” (No. 10), “having lots of friends” (No. 17) and “working with people you get along with” (No. 25). Those polled also said that laughing eight times a day (No. 3) brought longevity as well as levity. And having a pet and having a good sex life were up there, as well.
Doing everything you like is also essential, according to these feel-good gurus, as “having enough money to do what you want” hit at No. 8, along with “having a job you love” in ninth place (which apparently involves working outdoors or at home, as “not working in an office” was No. 44.) Going on a big vacation every year, watching favorite TV shows, sleeping in on occasion, eating whatever you want, spending time outside and “going to the beach as much as possible” also made the list.
What’s more, one in three (35%) said they wanted more time to explore their creativity, which they believed is key to being happy. Reading every day, drawing and painting, knitting and crocheting, as well as playing or listening to music were also included on the master list of happy tasks. (In fact, couples who painted together bonded and released more of the oxytocin “cuddle hormone” than the couples playing board games in a recent study.)
And some tried-and-true health advice was also included, such as avoiding alcohol (No. 28), following the Mediterranean diet (No. 22), getting eight hours of sleep (No. 6) and doing regular exercise (No. 4.)
“We will all have our own theories on what makes for a happy and fulfilled life but it’s fascinating to get the insights of the older generation slightly more experienced people,” wrote Bupa managing director Joan Elliott in the report released this week.
These are the top 50 secrets to a long and happy life, according to Bupa UK.