As we near the end of another week and start preparing for the long weekend, we’ve begun noticing a certain spring in people’s step. Just that little bit of ‘bonus happiness’ as we all approach what, we’re sure, is a very well deserved break.

According to Martin Seligman, ‘the pioneer of happiology,’ there are three dimensions to happiness: the Pleasant Life, the Good Life and the Meaningful Life.

Through vigorous scientific research and questionnaires, Seligman explored the definitions of each of these dimensions.

To summarise his findings, Seligman suggests you can experience the Pleasant Life when learning to appreciate the most basic of pleasures like companionship, fulfilling our bodily needs or by enjoying the world we live in.

If you dig a little deeper, you might start to experience the Good Life by uncovering what it is that makes you, you. He suggests in order to experience the Good Life, an individual must start to understand their own unique virtues and strengths, and then employ these attributes in creative ways that enhance their quality of life.

In order to reach the final stage of Meaningful Happiness, a person must learn to harness these same attributes and apply them to a purpose greater than themselves. In his theory, Seligman suggests by employing strengths external to oneself, you will experience the truest sense of personal fulfilment.

So, what is happiness really?

Scientifically speaking, happiness is attributed to a part of the brain known as the hippocampus.

In this area of your brain, you experience happiness and positive memories. In a very simplified explanation of happiness, microscopic neurotransmitters called serotonin transmit happiness signals to the hippocampus from the cells in your body.

Serotonin is responsible for regulating mood, learning abilities, sleep, sexuality and appetite.

How can you ensure you are happy? This is definitely a tough question, although there are a few triggers that have been researched and proven to boost or supress happiness.

Here are a few happiness stats:

  • Spending at least 20 minutes outside every day in good weather will boost your mood, broaden your thinking, and improve your working memory.
  •  Married people are 10 per cent happier than unmarried people

According to the latest statistics from the Legatum Institute’s Prosperity Index (2013) the top 10 happiest countries in the world are:

  1. Norway
  2. Switzerland
  3. Canada
  4. Sweden
  5. New Zealand
  6. Denmark
  7. Australia
  8. Finland
  9. The Netherlands
  10. Luxembourg.

So, as you can see, our nation is one of the happiest places to live!

How does this correlate to health?

There have always been theories that happiness is linked to health. Findings from Carnegie Mellon University Psychology Professor, Sheldon Cohen’s 2006 study revealed, when exposed to a cold virus, people who reported they were experiencing happy, lively, calm or similar positive emotions, were found to be less likely to fall ill than those who cited experiencing less of the positive, happy emotions.

Here are our top five tips to ensure you have a happy, long weekend:

1.      Turn off technology and enjoy the outdoors.

Sensibly soak up some rays, and enjoy getting outdoor. A series of studies published in the June 2010 issue of the Journal of Environmental Psychology, determined that being outside for just 20 minutes a day is sufficient to significantly boost your vitality levels.

2.      Exercise.

As Elle Woods so wisely put it in the 2001 movie, Legally Blonde, “Exercise gives you endorphins. Endorphins make you happy. Happy people just don’t shoot their husbands.” Although quite a specific example, Elle may have been onto something here.

There have been loads of scientific studies undertaken to prove a link between exercise and happiness. The Cochrane Review released data from 23 of its meta-analysis studies, concluding “exercise had a large clinical impact on depression,” due to an improvement in mental well-being.

3.      Say thank you.

By just saying thank you, you might be able to hang onto your happiness for longer than just the weekend. A 2005 placebo controlled empirical study, conducted by Georgia Psychological Association, compared two participant groups. The first were instructed to focus on a time in their lives when they were at their best and to reflect on their strengths, while the second group were engaged in a gratitude visit. The second group reported more happiness for one month following the intervention.

4.      Spend time with positive people.

Even without a scientific study to prove it, we’re confident everyone knows that you always feel a little bit happier when hanging out with family or friends.

But just in case…

A long-term study undertaken by Psychologist James H. Fowler examined data collected from observations gathered from 5,000 people over a 20 year period. He discovered that happiness benefits other people through three degrees of connection, and that the effects last for a year. He explained, “We found a statistical relationship not just between your happiness and your friends’ happiness, but between your happiness and your friends’ friends’ friends’ happiness.”

5.      Don’t drink too much.

There’s nothing worse than waking up with a hangover, and to scroll through your texts to discover a couple of regrettable messages you sent overnight!

So, this long weekend, why not treat your liver nicely and look after yourself? Eat nutritious food and drink plenty of water, and as with any indulgence, moderation is key.

So, on behalf of Team VIVA!, we wish you a happy and health (long) weekend.