Elle magazine’s August issue had another article on happiness – I hadn’t realised quite how much this blog is part of the zeitgeist until now. The article was called “Is content the new happy?” and questioned why we are less happy nowadays than ever before, referring to a survey which showed people were happier in the 1930s - the days of the great depression. Alice Wignall, the author, thinks it is because we have so many options, we want for so much, that happiness is a continual and unfulfilled search.
She interviews many of the HPL’s favourite happiness people – Robert Holden from the The Happiness Project, Gretchen Rubin from the The Happiness Project (note to self: well done for coming up with an original blog name) and Alain de Botton’s School of Life (I actually hadn’t realised that the School of Life was De Botton’s baby, will definitely have to pop along now). She talks about how the things that we think make us happy – the payrises, the material things – only provide temporary happiness. And she suggests that our constant treadmill pursuit of happiness means we ignore the good things in our lives and are never just content with what we have. She thinks that if you lower your expectations and appreciate what you have, this contentment will make you truly happy. She even says she’s been finding happiness through gardening.
I was reading the whole thing going *jumps up* That’s what I’ve been saying!! Meeee!!!! I could have written this article myself it was so similar to what I’ve been writing about lately. In my guest post on How To Be Happy I said that happiness can’t be achieved by things, or bestowed upon you by other people, because it is a state of mind. You cannot be made happy, you have to become happy in yourself (as she says – buddhist monk style).
I totally appreciate her point about not constantly trying to do or buy things to make you happier – better clothes, losing weight, a different partner, better social life. The problem is the world is our oyster nowadays - Facebook and twitter are full of people trying to show how much more fun they’re having than you are, and the list of what we can do and buy, where we can travel and live, is endless. But rather than constantly pursuing every possible source of happiness, we could all do with appreciating what we have, counting our blessings, being positive.
So here’s what I think. Your life generally splits into 4 categories – job, friends & family, partner, home. Typically, if one’s going well, something else will go tits up, apart from the occasional smug time when you realise that everything is perfect. And then it all goes tits up again. Rather than striving for perfection in everything, we all need to know ourselves enough to understand what we NEED from each. For instance, I know I have to have a job I love to be happy (and am very lucky that I now do). I also know that I am happiest when surrounded by my friends and family and any niggles with any of them will mean I’m not truly happy. I’d like a bigger flat but I’m working on the little one I have to make it even nicer and this makes me appreciate it more. I know I don’t need money or a flash lifestyle, but I do want to be loved for who I am.
So, don’t rely on anyone else’s standards of what makes them happy, don’t seek perfection because you won’t find it, don’t envy thy neighbour’s facebook photos and remember its your own little world that matters. Appreciate what you have. And call your mum more. And new lamp shades really make all the difference in a small flat, as do new pillows.