IF YOU want to live a good life, one that will satisfy you, forget about buying things that you think will make you happy.
Instead, focus on connecting with others in a rewarding way, says social researcher and author Hugh Mackay in his new book, The Good Life.
Mackay argues that postcode, status, wealth and all the other accoutrements of material success will not result in long-term satisfaction.
Those who feel most fulfilled are the ones with the strongest community links, he says.
Volunteering at a hospital or retirement village, helping a neighbour who is sick or disadvantaged, taking part in a clean-up day or even a community market are all practical ways to raise your feel-good quota.
Philosophy isn't enough, the rewards to your wellbeing are in the doing, says Mackay.
He also believes there are three particular disciplines that bring out the best in us and in those around us.
"Think of them as the three great therapies of everyday life: to listen attentively, to apologise sincerely and to forgive generously," he says.
"None of them requires exceptional skill, though each calls for some courage.
"It we were to integrate them into our way of living many other manifestations of goodness would flow naturally from them."
But there is a fourth one that can also make our lives better - make 'em laugh.
"What type of email do we most commonly forward to our friends?
"This week's rib-tickler circling the globe. Many newspaper readers go straight to the comics or the political cartoon.
"Life is a demanding and sometimes gruelling process and light relief is always welcome.
"It's also partly because we feel good about ourselves when our laughter releases endorphins, the brain's feel good neurotransmitters that raise the pain threshold and reduce stress.
"Why wouldn't we be grateful to anyone who can trigger that magical response in us?"
While Mackay puts the case for all of these life strategies combined with community connection, he also cautions against seeing Facebook and other social media as a substitute for connection in the flesh.
It is a pale imitation of what we need as humans to maintain community, he says.
"Many young people do use social media to keep track of their friends as well as meet up with them physically," he says.
"But when we see social media as a substitute for connecting, that is very dangerous."
Mackay's comments come at the same time as new research that suggests that looking at your Facebook profile can be psychologically good and bad for you.
The finding revealed that checking your profile is capable of boosting your self-esteem while at the same time reducing motivation.
The research by UW-Madison in the United States, is one of the first studies of its kind to use this psychology research tool to evaluate whether there are any psychological effects associated with using the online networking site.
A previous report from the University of Edinburgh Business School said that the more social circles a person is linked to on Facebook the more likely the website will become a source of stress.
In March 2013, Facebook had more than 1.11 billion active worldwide users.
Of course social media can be a positive way to keep in touch long-distance, but for friends and family just around the corner, a cup of coffee, a meal, or just a visit is the gold standard.
Get the most out of social media
- Only join in an online conversation if you have something of value to offer;
- Read links before you share them;
- Access social media when you can give it your full attention, not every second of the day;
- Say something kind rather than something unkind;
- Consider others before posting distressing photos, eg of animal cruelty;
- Keep politics and religion out of it unless you are a political lobbyist or a minister of the church;
- Enjoy the experience before you snap a photo and share it;
- Be authentic.
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