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The secret of happiness: Family, friends and your environment

15 Aug 2010 | The Independent

We've suffered horrendous job cuts and plummeting investment values, and watched the high streets grow increasingly pockmarked by empty shopfronts, even as we face public sector job losses and the possibility of a double-dip recession. We might be forgiven for allowing ourselves a moment of misery. And yet, a growing school of thought believes that we have actually gained something from the last few years of economic gloom; that we are starting to value the things that matter: our friends, homes and the world we live in. Even more remarkably, they suggest that these things are making us happier than the conspicuous consumption and hedonism of the boom years.

While, arguably, everyone could be forgiven for battening down the hatches and looking after number one, it seems that across the UK people are becoming less materialistic and more outward-facing: volunteering, joining clubs and caring for the environment in record numbers.

From more Brits spending their weekends involved in wholesome outdoor pursuits instead of scouring the high street for the latest must-have item, to the growth in household savings - which rose to 6.9 per cent of disposable income in the first quarter of 2010, up from less than zero in the first quarter of 2008 - experts believe there is evidence that people have realised that happiness may not lie in the relentless pursuit of more, and better, "stuff".

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Why happiness ?

"We all want to be happy and we want the people we love to be happy. Happiness means feeling good about our lives and wanting to go on feeling that way. Unhappiness means feeling bad and wanting things to change"

Richard Layard

Lord Richard Layard
Founder, Action for Happiness

Action for Happiness

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