This blog starts with a simple premise. That we have all chosen to live in London because London is a bloody great place to live. I sometimes get annoyed at the little things – getting squashed in the tube, the fact that everyone’s so busy, the level of organisation needed to get a group of friends together. But I want to appreciate the great stuff - the bars, restaurants, plays, exhibitions, galleries, parks, that make London the exciting, liberating, open-minded place that it is.
But then a visit to Turkey during Ramadan last year made me realise that in a largely atheist society, many Londoners don’t do much for other people. I started thinking that life in London can be pretty selfish – we earn money and then go out and spend it doing nice things – and I wasn’t sure how fulfilling this life can be. So the second premise takes from it some rules that I have pinched from clever scientists who have devised ways to be happy, ways that bring something a little more spiritual and selfless into our everyday existence.
So my rules are this:
- BE ACTIVE - Makes you feel good and gets you fit. I’m going to do 1/2 hour exercise 3 times a week (swimming, yoga, gym and cycling) and try at least 1 new class a month (sadly lacking of late – but planning to do some dance classes soon).
- CONNECT - Developing relationships with friends, family, colleagues and neighbours will enrich your life and bring you support. I try to spend at least 1 hour a week in conversation with someone I love – either in a nice bar or restaurant, over lunch of coffee, or by turning the TV off and eating dinner at the table. I’m also going to try at least 1 new restaurant or bar a month.
- GIVE - Helping friends and strangers links your happiness to the wider world and is very rewarding. I’m trying to do at least 1 small act of kindness per day and 1 act of charity/volunteering per month. It doesn’t have to be time-consuming – bake a cake for a friend, help someone move house, smile at a stranger.
- NURTURE – Help something to grow. I’ve planted herbs in my little garden which I’ll watch grow and I’m re-decorating my little flat. Or you could teach someone how to play chess or guitar.
- LEARN - The challenge and satisfaction brings you confidence. I’m planning to go to at least 1 class, talk, gig, gallery or exhibition that teaches me something new every month. I recently did a Spanish course at International House and attended a lecture at the School of Life, but I’d like to do ad hoc courses and talks and exhibitions as well.
- BE CURIOUS - Noting the beauty of our everyday life as well as the unusual, and reflecting on them, helps you appreciate your world and makes you realise what matters to you. We all know money can’t buy happiness, right? But savouring time, cherishing what we love, can – reading books in a dusty bookshop and buying your favourite, wandering round a market and buying something delicious for dinner. I’m going to make myself look around and appreciate the small things. Pretty hard at rush hour on the Northen Line but I can always try. I’m finding carrying a notebook and a camera, and writing this blog, really helps.
So, I will report back on what I find out – about London, thing to do, places to go. But maybe more importantly I want to find out whether in this hedonistic society I can become more happy just by sticking to these rules.
And I challenge you to do the same!
UPDATE: Find out about how I’m getting on following the rules here.
UPDATE: Having rediscovered the Making Slough Happy rules, I’m trying to remember these additional things too:
- Count at least 5 blessings per day
- Phone a long-lost friend and arrange to meet up
- Give yourself one treat a day and really enjoy it
- Have a good laugh at least once a day
- Smile/say hello to a stranger once a day
- Cut TV viewing in half
UPDATE 8.02.11 – Having been to a brilliant talk at the School of Life, I realise that my happiness rules are missing something fundamental – the rules of the inner mind. You can read my post on this here.