Everyone’s talking about happiness

I get sent a lot of articles on happiness nowadays – from friends and family and lovely readers. And it seems more and more people are interested in what makes them happy. Maybe the recession has made us question what is really important? Maybe in the absence of religion we are looking for something more spiritual in our lives? Maybe we’re just all too busy and need to work harder at spending “quality time” with those we love? Maybe we don’t know our neighbours like we used to, and need to get  that feeling of “community” back?

Anyway here’s some of the recent things you’ve sent me which I thought I’d share and please keep the tips and articles coming – I love them.

El madre sent me an article from the Sunday Times called How To Be Happy which refers to a book called Wellbeing: The Five Essential Elements by Tom Rath and Jim Harter. They reckon you need five things:

  1. Career wellbeing – buddies at work are very important
  2. Social wellbeing – Spend more time socialising (sound familiar?!), make happy friends
  3. Financial wellbeing – focus on career and social wellbeing not money, don’t get into debt, make “experiential” purchases rather than material purchases, i.e. spend money wisely and enjoy what you do choose to buy
  4. Physical wellbeing – I told you so
  5. Community wellbeing – giving is really good for you. 

My mum pointed out how similar these are to the rules of the HPL, and I love how we’re all thinking along the same lines. However, the financial and career side I’ve not included in my rules, but I realise they are really important which is why I did this post on curbing your consumerism. I definitely think life is way too short to stay in a job you hate or where you don’t feel like you fit in. And the pursuit of the bigger house, better clothes, nicer car, certainly doesn’t make you happy. The purchase of other things do though – like buying lovely food from a local deli or a book from a dusty bookshop or tickets to a play or a holiday or a dress that you’ve wanted for ages and saved for. I like how the Slow Guide to London encourages us to shop – take your time, savour the experience, cherish things.

Alex M, wonderful reader and of Rosa’s yummy Thai restaurants, sent me this article from the New York Times which is specifically on the issue of consumption (again – maybe I should re-visit the rules, money might have a bigger link to happiness than I first thought?). It refers to a couple who downsized, giving their possessions to charity, working less hours, volunteering. They were happier as a result and truly believe that material things do not equate to happiness. Again the article refers to the fact that spending money for an experience (buying opera tickets or a holiday) produces much more satisfaction than “plain old stuff“.

Finally, Maximilian told me about the mappiness application for itunes (its free) which is part of an LSE research project which aims to map happiness per area. I downloaded it to my iPhone and I think it beeps me twice a day to find out how I’m feeling and where I am, and they’ll put all this research together to find out how our surroundings affect how we feel. Interesting stuff – being beeped when I’m being crushed along Oxford Street compared to when I’m in sitting in a park or coffee shop will have very different results!

Oh and I loved reading the interview with Steve Slack on happiness in London on the Little London Observationist blog this morning. And not just because I get a mention :) !

Note I have filled this post with some lovely photos from a holiday in Zanzibar I had in 2006, for no other reason that they make me happy, especially in this weird autumn-like weather…

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