Engaging in acts of kindness, writing gratitude notes and even chatting to strangers are just some of the ‘happiness hacks’ a team of experts has devised.

Delievered as part of the University of Bristol’s ‘Science of Happiness’ course, the tips also include meditation, getting enough sleep, exercising, savouring experiences and being aware of positive parts of the day, such as noting down three good things that happened.

The team behind the list say the habits must be practised regularly for the benefits to be felt longer term, saying: “It’s like going to the gym – we can’t expect to do one class and be fit forever.”

Students at the university are told about the hacks if they take part in the 10-week Science of Happiness course. Those who keep using the hacks are found to have better mental wellbeing two years later.

Study co-author Dr Sarah Jelbert, a lecturer in psychological science, said: “The intention was that by the end of the course students have a well-rounded understanding of various factors that can contribute towards their own well-being — rather than a ‘to-do’ list of activities.

“What we found was that as long as students continued to practice something from the course their elevated wellbeing was maintained. But we didn’t need to be prescriptive about exactly what to do and when.”

Study co-author Professor Bruce Hood, a professor of developmental psychology in society, said: “Just as with physical health, we have to continuously work on our mental health, otherwise the improvements are temporary.

“Much of what we teach revolves around positive psychology interventions that divert your attention away from yourself, by helping others, being with friends, gratitude or meditating.

“This is the opposite of the current ‘self-care’ doctrine — but countless studies have shown that getting out of our own heads helps get us away from negative ruminations which can be the basis of so many mental health problems.”

Research showed that some students carried on writing down their ‘three good things’ once the course came to an end.

Others came back to the activity ‘every now and again’, such as when they were experiencing a time of stress.

The University of Bristol’s ‘Science of Happiness’ was the first of its kind when it launched in 2018.

Participants take part in workshops and attend lectures.

Research has found that more than half of participants said taking part in the course had a positive effect on their mental wellbeing, with just under half saying they continued the hacks once they had completed the course.

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