So how happy do you really need to be?

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.

11 responses to “So how happy do you really need to be?

  1. Hi Sasha,
    I love this post! I heard a great quote the other day, which was attributed to Opera Winfrey at the time but I’ve just googled it and most sites say it belongs to A.N.Onymous 😉
    “The best way to have what you want, is to want what you have”
    I’m thinking about this more and more and it really helps focus me on all the great things in my life.

  2. Hey Sasha,
    Have you read The Age of Absurdity, Why Modern Life Makes it Hard to be Happy by Michael Foley? Sounds depressing but is far from it… I found it to be a very inspiring read and highly recommend to everyone.

  3. Dear Sasha, inspiring post – I will bookmark it and re-read when I do all the things that one shouldn’t do… and I will think about the lamb shades 🙂
    are you still on for the yoga on Tue?

    • Thanks Ute – what a nice comment 🙂

      The “lamb shades” confused me a little at first but then figured it out! Yes I need to heed my own advice too at times tho, these things are easy to say but I’m a bad “grass is greener” person too!

      And yes def up for yoga as need to start my voucher soon. But here comes the excuses…:) I think I may do this Sunday morning and I’m not 100% sure I can do Tues but may well be able to. Do you want to DM me on twitter and we can arrange? Sasha x

  4. So true! Thanks for sharing 🙂 x

  5. Agree about phoning Mum!

  6. Aha, I’ve found it – you HAVE been inspired by The Happiness Project (Gretchen Rubin’s one). I love what you are doing here (and am curious now as to what job you have, by the sounds of it after a wee search, found – am none-too-enamoured with my 9-5) and I’ll be dropping in again! Have mostly found this sort of blog resides in the states, so it’s nice to see that London is getting some action!

    Whilst I’m East End based these days, the last year has been spent exploring Brixton with (now as of recently ex) boyfriend, and I am still wanting to explore more, so thank goodness the best friend has moved there! I’ll look forward to perusing your sight for more Brixton recommendations: on my hitlist: the Eritrean on Coldharbour Lane, a review of Bamboula Jamaican, Federation coffee, and a good ol’ rummage through the market.

    PS agree with HAV above that phoning mum is good, and I can also happily vouch for the fact that new, brightly coloured lampshades (cheap ones in BHS, very cheap ones in John Lewis believe it or not) have recently made my home life distinctly more colourful – hurrah for coloured lampshades! Whoop whoop! Thinking about it, more light/lamps in general can never be a bad thing….

    Thanks Sasha!

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