Hunt for happiness all in the mind

Steve Perkin

If somebody told you to, ‘Be happy’, where would you start?

It’s a bit like the shop assistant who says, ‘Have a nice day’. Is that a request or an order? Are you going to make me have a nice day? What are you going to do if I don’t? I’ve got work to do, groceries to buy, dinners to cook … How do I start having a nice day? Give me this for nothing and I might have a nice day.

No, that’s the grumpy approach. It is quite easy to be happy, or, at the very least, give yourself the best chance possible to be happy, and on International Day of Happiness, it will make me happy to offer some tips.

For a start, try writing down 10 things that make you happy. The American Psychological Association found that a group which wrote such a list, then read their lists daily for 10 weeks, displayed higher levels of satisfaction in life than a similar group which was asked to list things that bugged them.

If you’re not into lists, try this. First thing tomorrow morning, stick your finger in a jar of peanut butter and eat it – unless you have a nut allergy of course. Bet you haven’t done that since you were a kid.

Then, instead of listening to depressing talk-back radio in the car, put on your favourite CD. How about Don’t Worry, Be Happy by Bobby McFerrin or Beautiful Day by U2.

Whistle while you walk. Smell the flowers. Yes, actually smell the flowers. Walk a little further to buy the best coffee you possibly can. Smile when the barista hands it to you. And when they say, ‘Have a nice day’, reply, ‘I will’.

You see, happiness can be a mindset. You can’t guarantee it, and things will happen to make it impossible to attain every day, but you can improve your chances of getting there. 

An online chatroom posed the question: what makes you happy? Reading the replies (below) made me happy.

“I think the happiest I am is when I wake up without an alarm clock fairly early in the morning while camping. That smell of the dew, the noise of all the various animals and insects buzzing about. Throwing on a sweatshirt and popping myself down into a foldable chair and just taking everything in.”

“Once a month, our children and their spouses and their children come home for dinner. We crowd the place up, with tables in at least three different rooms, especially now that the grandchildren have started bringing their boyfriends and girlfriends. There is almost always singing – almost always a birthday to celebrate. Even after they all leave, the house has the feel of their presence, and I am happy.”

Coming home to a clean kitchen, cleaning the kitchen for your partner, talking to the dog, reading a good book, exercising, going a night without turning on the television. All these things can generate happiness.

Personally, I have a lot of things that make me happy. Some are already listed above, but there was one that recently gave me an inner glow and still does weeks later. I told my oldest son that I thought he was a fantastic husband, a great father to his two daughters and that I was very proud of him.

I’m really happy I said it, and I think he’ll remember it. I hope he does.

I’ve never forgotten my father once telling me that he admired me. He didn’t elaborate, but he didn’t need to, and it makes me happy whenever I think about that moment.

So there you are. You can introduce happiness into your life. Don’t do it every day. That will only dilute the impact, and perhaps we need to be grumpy occasionally to help put happy days into perspective.

According to a British survey, we have 10 grumpy days a year, so count them. If you have more than 10, stand in front of a mirror and take a long, hard look at yourself. If you’re doing that, you’re alive, and that’s one good reason to be happy.

 Are you happy 355 days of the year? How do you get out of a bad mood?


Related articles:
Little acts of kindness
Old-style happiness
Can money buy happiness?

YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices Writers
YourLifeChoices' team of writers specialise in content that helps Australian over-50s make better decisions about wealth, health, travel and life. It's all in the name. For 22 years, we've been helping older Australians live their best lives.
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