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The researchers go on to put forward several several policy changes that could help governments and councils make their citizens happier, including providing more libraries and volunteering opportunities.

When they analysed the 1930s happiness accounts the team found the top three themes to emerge as being connected with happiness were 'contentment/peace of mind', 'family and home' and 'other people'.'Contentment' and 'peace of mind' meant having 'enough' rather than seeking wealth.'Family and home' was seen as happy marriages, healthy children and a place for repose.'Other people' meant giving to and helping others less fortunate than themselves.

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They should ask what they would most enjoy.''Scientific research shows that enjoyment is important for happiness and wellbeing, keeping active is good for health and helping other people can be beneficial to the giver.'The researchers suggest that the lessons from 1938 should be learned by present-day initiatives to enhance wellbeing in towns like Bolton.

Among the wellbeing policies they favour are: Wider use of public facilities such as libraries, leisure centres and schools; expansion of the voluntary sector and higher levels of participation by people as volunteers; and more facilities for active leisure.'We welcome the move of the Office for National Statistics to measure people's wellbeing and not just look at economic measures,' Mrs Mc Hugh said.'This helps raise awareness and can be a prompt to action.

In 1938 the Bolton Evening News ran a competition for two guineas for the best letter on 'what does happiness mean for you and yours?

'The resulting 226 handwritten letters were transcribed by researchers at the University of Bolton to give an insight.

They recommend focussing more on activities we enjoy to better our satisfaction with life.

They also suggest regular exercise and helping other people as good routes to a happy life.

This 'passive' leisure time does not bring us any enjoyment - one of the key components to happiness and wellbeing.

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