I saw this post on Facebook the other day. It was a cartoon of two people. One of them was stood empty-handed; the other had a massive jar in his hands labelled ‘Happiness’. 'Hey' said the empty-handed cartoon, 'where did you get that? I’ve been looking for it everywhere.' The man with the happiness jar said 'I made it myself'. It made me think. Can happiness ever be bought, or can it only come when we make it for ourselves?
I have believed I will be happy once “I’ve lost 5lbs” or “bought those trainers”. I’ve believed happiness comes with life getting easier “When the kids are a bit older things will calm down and I will be happier” or “when the warm weather comes” or “when I’ve had some work done on the house”.
I’ve planned happiness on personal achievements “If I run 10k in 50 minutes,” “If I get my book published” or “If I get 3,000 followers on Twitter” then I will be good, and successful and therefore I will be happy.
I have looked at old photos and thought that I used to be happy, and no longer am. I see smiling versions of myself looking younger and assume that life used to be hunky-dory.
I am normally so caught up in the moment that has not yet happened, that it’s impossible to be happy in the moment I am in. I could set myself a reminder on my phone to ‘be happy in the present’ but I’d probably just set it to ‘snooze’.
Quite frankly, I’m worried. I have never wanted to clap along like a room without a roof. I can’t stand half-finished DIY projects. I don’t even know why Pharrell Williams is singing about a roof in ‘Happy’.
Am I the only one who struggles to understand these cryptic lyrics?
There is an actual World Happiness Report. It claims that ‘keeping the brain happy relies on four main factors: Staying positive, recovering from negative feelings, caring about spending time with family and friends and finally, being mindful and allowing ourselves to be captured by emotions, such as awe, and joy.'
The report goes on to suggest some countries that are better doing at these things than others. I know what you are thinking, somewhere hot and sunny right? Wrong. The six top-ranked ‘happy’ countries are Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway, Canada and Finland, all of whom have excellent records in the winter Olympics. Coincidental? I don’t think so.
Shorter working hours, high quality chocolate, lack of inclusion in world conflict, Roger Federer, and the flag having a plus sign on it have all been cited as reasons why they are happier folk, and all no doubt walk round talking like the snowman from Frozen. “Hi, I’m Olaf and I like warm hugs.’
Some of these would be hard for us to obtain here in our homestead. We have to make do with mindfulness colouring books for adults, sage quotes on Facebook and Andy Murray.
But I’ve learned, after 34 years, many of them spent in counselling and on tablets that happiness is a fleeting thing.
It cannot be pinned down, saved up for or borrowed from someone else. It is a dandelion clock on the wind, better to stand and admire than chase after.
Happiness is not grinning like a silly hen. It’s a quiet fulfillment that needs no boasting face. It is one strand of a spider’s web caught in the right light.
And you have to be looking in the first place. Happiness is a choice you have to make.
Since doing my research however, I’ve added some Lindt balls into my weekly shopping, bid for a second-hand Rolex on eBay, and made the children watch Heidi on Netflix, just in case.