1. ITV Report

Happy International Happiness Day! But can you really learn to be happy?

The UK came in 15th in the UN's most recent World Happiness Report. Photo: PA

The search for happiness is - for many - one of the fundamental goals in life.

It may be a surprise that the UK ranks very highly for personal satisfaction, with the UN's most recent World Happiness Report placing the nation 15th out of 156 countries surveyed.

So what are the routes to a happy life and do the traditional methods - more time with family and friends, an interesting working life, greater wealth or enhanced self-esteem - still hold true?

ITV News spoke to a few experts working to encourage happiness in 2019 to see what it looks like and if it can really be achieved.

The happiest place in the UK

Leigh-on-Sea was ranked the happiest place in the UK last year. Credit: PA

Somewhere that knows the importance of happiness is the coastal town of Leigh-on-Sea who were crowned the happiest place in the UK by Rightmove last year.

And the key to their happiness is getting residents to "join in" according to West-Leigh councillor John Lamb.

With a balance of historic sites and niche shops, he believes the "feel good factors" have invited people into the region.

He said: "It very much has a community spirit, where people do actually spend time to talk with each other.

"It's an area where people connect."

The town has even appealed to a younger people with more and more names added to their scout unit waiting list each month.

"The area lends itself to the open spaces and parks, it's a fantastic atmosphere," he added.

Not everyone can up and move to the coast but the one piece of advice he offers is: "Enjoy your area, enjoy the people and be a part of the community."

"When you join in, you fill the atmosphere," he added.

Sharing the load to boost your mood

Lead psychologist Vanessa King developed the book '10 Keys to Happier Living' to help people boost their mood. Credit: Action For Happiness

Sharing the load is something the social movement Action for Happinessalso encourages, with lead psychologist Vanessa King citing mood has a ripple effect on those around you, she said: "Mood states have been shown to be contagious."

She added: "How happy we feel is a shared responsibility."

Action for Happiness has been running for almost a decade, asking communities and individuals to take their pledge to "create more happiness and less misery".

Ms King led the development of the '10 Keys to Happier Living' for Action for Happiness.

These are the areas science shows we can take most readily take action in to maintain and enhance happiness, covered in her book '10 Keys to Happier Living'.

Importantly she said should these should be seen as “a menu and not a prescription.”

She pointed out the old truth of giving the time to help and nuture our connections with others as a great place to start to improve your happiness.

She said: "We can be very reluctant to ask for help as it looks like a weakness, that we don't know what we're doing.

"We have a need to be seen and to be valued," she added

The pressure gets to everyone especially when you're faced with a tough deadline and when asked, Ms King suggested that Prime Minister's responsibilities around Brexit have prevented her from taking the steps to be happier.

She suggested: "What Theresa May isn't doing is asking for help and acknowledging that she needs to bring people in."

The seven hacks to happiness

The University of Bristol launched a 'happiness course' in October in a bid to help their students. Credit: ITV West Country

With exams season around the corner, students also know the stress of a heavy workload as well as trying to balance their social life.

Last October, the University of Bristol became the first to launch a 'happiness course' which has so far seen more than 800 students complete 10-weeks worth of lectures to boost their mood.

Students are taught seven 'happiness hacks' by senior students, including advice like clocking regular sleep hours to learning to be kinder to others.

Other tips such as mediating, regular exercise, saying thanks and even the simple act of savouring the moment are taught on the course.

Professor Bruce Hood who runs the course noted that an important lesson they teach is getting people to talk, he said: "Social connection is ultimately where we drive most of satisfaction."

But it's not a one size fits all approach, he said: "Not everything is for everyone, I don't prioritise one over another."

However, the one piece of advice Professor Hood does give his pupils is: "Life isn't an examination, try and put less focus on the outcome.

"There is no simple solution and it's ok to fail."

Although the university has yet to fully analyse the success of the course, they believe new students are excited to take part and this year their efforts will contribute towards degree credit.

He added: "We found that those attending the lecture course maintained their levels of mental well-being whereas those who were waiting experienced a significant drop."

Alongside the course, the university offers a wide counselling network to support students.