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Self-acceptance could be the key to a happier life

05 Mar 2014 | Action for Happiness

** Survey of 5,000 reveals people's 'happy habits'** 

Happiness is more than just a feeling; it is something we can all practise on a daily basis. But people are better at some 'happy habits' than others. In fact, the one habit that corresponds most closely with us being satisfied with our lives overall - self-acceptance - is often the one we practise least.

5,000 people surveyed by the charity Action for Happiness, in collaboration with Do Something Different, rated themselves between 1 and 10 on ten habits identified from the latest scientific research as being key to happiness.

Giving was the top habit revealed by those who took the survey. When asked about Giving ('How often do you make an effort to help or be kind to others?') people scored an average of 7.41 out of 10, with one in six (17%) topping 10 out of 10. Just over one in three (36%) people scored 8 or 9; slightly fewer (32%) scored 6 or 7; and less than one in six (15%) rated themselves at 5 or less.

The Relating habit came a close second. The question 'How often do you put effort into the relationships that matter most to you?' produced an average score of 7.36 out of 10. And 15% of people scored the maximum 10 out of 10.

The survey also revealed which habits are most closely related to people's overall satisfaction with life. All 10 habits were found to be strongly linked to life satisfaction, with Acceptance found to be the habit that predicts it most strongly. Yet Acceptance was also revealed as the habit that people tend to practise the least, generating the lowest average score from the 5,000 respondents.

When answering the Acceptance question, 'How often are you kind to yourself and think you're fine as you are?' people's average rating was just 5.56 out of 10. Only 5% of people put themselves at a 10 on the Acceptance habit. Around one in five people (19%) scored an 8 or 9; Less than a third (30%) scored a 6 or 7; and almost half (46%) of people rated themselves at 5 or less.

Treating our bodies to regular physical activity is another proven happy habit. Yet the survey revealed that this is another habit that often gets overlooked. The average answer to 'How often do you spend at least half an hour a day being active?' was just 5.88 out of 10, with 45% of people rating themselves 5 or less.

Professor Karen Pine, a psychologist from the University of Hertfordshire and co-founder of Do Something Different, said:

"Practising these habits really can boost our happiness. It's great to see so many people regularly doing things to help others - and when we make others happy we tend to feel good ourselves too. This survey shows that practising self-acceptance is one thing that could make the biggest difference to many people's happiness. Exercise is also known to lift mood so if people want a simple, daily way to fee happier they should get into the habit of being more physically active too".

Dr Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness, said:

"Our society puts huge pressure on us to be successful and to constantly compare ourselves with others. This causes a great deal of unhappiness and anxiety. These findings remind us that if we can learn to be more accepting of ourselves as we really are, we're likely to be much happier. The results also confirm us that our day-to-day habits have a much bigger impact on our happiness than we might imagine".

To support participants who want to boost their happy habits, Do Something Different and Action for Happiness have also created a new Do Happiness programme, which sends people regular small positive actions (Do's) to help them practice the habits that science shows tend to make people happy.

How can we practise the self-acceptance habit?

Here are three positive actions that people can take to increase their levels of self-acceptance:

  • Be as kind to yourself as you are to others. See your mistakes as opportunities to learn. Notice things you do well, however small
  • Ask a trusted friend or colleague to tell you what your strengths are or what they value about you
  • Spend some quiet time by yourself. Tune in to how you're feeling inside and try to be at peace with who you are.

Where did the happy habits come from?

The happy habits included in the survey are based on the Ten Keys to Happier Living framework, developed by Action for Happiness based on an extensive review of the latest research about what really affects mental wellbeing. Together the Ten Keys spell GREAT DREAM, as follows: 



Action for Happiness: info@actionforhappiness.org

Professor Karen Pine: karen@dsd.me

Note to Editors:

The Happy Habits survey was launched online on 14th February 2014 via social networks. These data are drawn from the first 5,000 participants to complete the Happy Habits survey between 14th and 21st February 2014. The survey tool can be found here: http://dsd.me/happy-habits-quiz/

The survey questions asked correspond to the Ten Keys to Happier Living and are shown below with the average score out of ten from the 5,000 respondents.



Survey Question

Average score


How often do you make an effort to help or be kind to others?



How often do you put effort into the relationships that matter most to you?



How often do you spend at least half an hour a day being active?



How often do you take time to notice the good things in your life?


Trying out

How often do you learn or try new things?



How often do you do things that contribute to your most important life goals?



How often do you find ways to bounce back quickly from problems?



How often do you do things that make you feel good?



How often are you kind to yourself and think you're fine as you are?



How often do you do things that give you a sense of meaning or purpose?


A final question posed was: 'Overall, how satisfied are you with your life nowadays?' The average score was 6.49, compared to a national average of 6.34 reported in the UK National Values survey 2013.

Do Happiness

The six-week Do Happiness programme, developed jointly by Do Something Different and Action for Happiness is available at dsd.me/dohappiness. It espouses the Giving principle by donating one free place for every one purchased, to someone who cannot afford the £15 programme fee and over 500 people have benefited from a free place to date.


Action for Happiness


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