I WATCHED the music TV channel as my son played beside me.
‘I just want to be happy‘, sang Leona Lewis looking as miserable as sin.
‘I love my mummy’ my son began to sing to the tune of Leona’s song, and I was filled with insane happiness. Since I became a mother I experience great bursts of happiness over the smallest things. My son saying he loves me never fails to send my heart soaring. Listening to his infectious laughter also makes my heart smile. Sometimes just looking at him and seeing him safe and healthy fills me with joy, months ago I was sat by his hospital bed for a week watching him writhe in pain from a serious infection.
Happiness is now a backdrop to my life. For many years I was a carer to both parents suffering dementia, these were my darkest days but now I find joy in the simplest pleasures, boring normality being one of them.
I once read an article about keeping a happiness jar. Each day you write on a scrap of paper something that made you happy or that you’re grateful for, maybe you had a walk while the sun was shining, or a friend gave you a compliment and made you feel good. Put the pieces of paper in your jar and before you know it it’s filled with notes of niceness. I tried it; you can physically see the good things that are happening in your life stored there. I used to find myself mentally going through lists of all the bad things that had happened during the day, now I look for the good and my brain seems to be retraining itself towards positivity rather than negativity.
In his book, ’I Can Make You Happy’, Paul McKenna claims that much misery is caused by people confusing pleasure with happiness. He says if happiness was determined by pleasure then those with the most money would be the happiest, but there are plenty of miserable millionaires! Once people can afford the basics in life then there is almost no correlation between wealth and happiness. One study revealed that the richest people in the US were no happier than the Masai tribesmen in East Africa.
Because there is so much advertising bombarding us with what car we should drive and what clothes we should wear etcetera, we are looking outside ourselves for happiness instead of concentrating on what we already have. McKenna also suggests you try an experiment much like the happiness jar, where you jot down each day things you are grateful for, this exercises your happiness muscle. Practising positive thinking helps change the brain chemistry and reinforces positive patterns of thought.
It appears happiness most definitely comes from the simple pleasures in life. I have recently taken up painting. I’ve never painted before but I find real happiness in getting lost in creating something, my son paints beside me and we listen to happy music as we paint. I am surprised at how much joy I derive from the creative process. According to Dr Carrie Barron, author of The Creativity Cure; A Do-It-Yourself Prescription for Happiness, baking, sewing and painting are key antidotes to our technology-obsessed world. According to research, making, repairing and creating things makes us feel vital and effective; being creative with our hands helps us overcome sadness and low mood.
We can also promote happiness in our homes by using Feng shui ideas such as adding yellow to a room that doesn’t get much natural light. This colour encourages cheerfulness and optimism. Adding a round rug to your living room rather than a rectangular one is another tip, as this encourages unity and promotes peace and happiness. You could also try placing a rose quartz by your bedside table, it’s said this encourages happiness and harmony in partnerships. A front door painted red is also said to help promote good fortune and happiness.
Something I used to do which made me very unhappy was live in the past a lot. I would listen to old songs from years ago lamenting what used to be. Since I got happy all the ‘oldies’ are gone from my ipod and hits of the present have replaced them. I find I like living in the here and now. Having come through a lot of misery I began to see that things are seldom as bad as you imagine and the future will sort itself out perfectly, whether you worry or not. This quote by author Marcel Pagnol resonates with me;
‘I used to think the past was better than it was, the present worse than it is and the future less resolved than it will be’.
The past is gone, we can cope with the present and the future will always take care of itself, that becomes apparent as we mature.
Good news according to scientists is happiness is contagious! Studies show happiness spreads quickly between friends and family. Who hasn’t had days when you’ve been feeling down then had a conversation with family or a friend and their optimism and sense of fun has lifted you up again?
US researchers writing for the British Medical Journal claimed that the closer you are to someone with a sunny disposition the happier you are yourself, they revealed when a cheerful friend lives close-by it lifts your mood. Your health can also improve from being around cheerful people as optimism is linked to a better immune system.
So be careful who you spend your time with, seek out the sunny characters and tactfully avoid those who drain you. As Oscar Wilde wrote, ‘some cause happiness wherever they go, others whenever they go’.
So there you have it, being around sunny people, painting your walls yellow, getting creative and appreciating all those pleasant little things that happen in the course of your day, help you on the road to happiness. As Jessie J sang, ‘it’s not about the money’.
Studies prove you can’t buy happiness, but you can buy ice-cream and that’s kind of the same thing.