What does happiness mean to you?

I have been on an amazing journey these past 8 weeks.  Admittedly physically not very far – to Esher and back every Wednesday evening to attend an Action for Happiness course.  But emotionally……

Before you switch off and think oh, no not another happy clappy post; just spare me a moment and have a think about what happiness means to you? Not just about you as an individual but how we can make the world a happier place.

Needless to say on the 1st evening I blurted out the stock answer “family and friends” and of course for some there’s loads of others too; a big house, fast car, designer handbags, 5* holidays, money but do they really make you happy?  Think about tolerance, acceptance, belief, understanding, loyalty, openess, friendships and the communities you are part of e.g. work, home, friends, family, online, sports clubs, dog walking – they don’t even have to be particularly profound relationships but they can make you and your environment a happier place.

Just to cite one example….I woke up the other morning in a right huff about my husband (again I hear you shout), life and the world in general (I’ll blame it on those darn hormones).  I stomped off with my dog for a walk and on it I chatted to 2 other dog walkers – who I will probably never see again – about inane stuff.  Walking back home I felt much chirpier and on reflection realised it was all because I had struck up a conversation.

The things I really got out of the course were:

  1. Be outward looking – the more egocentric and insular we are the more miserable we feel
  2. Say hello and smile at everyone you pass (perhaps not always possible on a crowded commuter train when everybody might think you’re a little potty shouting hello to one and all) – it will make someone’s day and make you feel happier too. As an aside there’s a lovely 90 year old man who pops into our local Budgens at least 2 or 3 times a day.  If you see him, please stop and chat as he would love to have a natter.
  3. It’s in our nature to dwell on the negative so at the end of every day jot down 3 good things that happened to you.  Could be the smallest things such as noticing the cloud shapes in the sky or singing along to your favourite song but it will help change your mindset.
  4. The importance of communities in supporting and bringing people together.  One thing we discussed is the decline of intergenerational families and communities and how important they are in society. What can we do to address this?
  5. How we treat and perceive others – we’ve all been there.  You take umbrage about somebody’s behaviour.  But take a moment and think what might have gone on with that person moments before.  Are they having a particularly bad day; is there something not quite right at home etc etc.
  6. Reflect what things make you happy and take some time for yourself to do those things.  My 2 loves before children were tennis and film neither of which I do enough of.  So I’m going to try and go to the cinema once a month (matinee please as it’s so indulgent) and play tennis once a week.  For one of the other participants in our group it is having fresh flowers in the house. The simple pleasures…
  7. Let’s start small.  The conversations with my Action for Happiness group are continuing as we all want to contribute to our local communities and spread the word.  But it doesn’t have to be anything radical….watch this space!

Finally, I wanted to share a three videos and a podcast with you which are worth watching/ listening to if you’ve got the time.

Before I go I want to share this little poem (Anon) which a dear friend at school taught me and rings so true:
Laugh and the world laughs with you
Weep and you weep alone
For the world has need of your mirth
But has sorrow enough of its own.