Happy, Happier, Happiest – an impossible quest?

First published Thursday, January 9, 2014

We hear a great deal about the seemingly endless quest for happiness, there are regular reports and surveys that will invariably conflict with a previous statement on the happiness state of the nation, and of course there a whole host of websites, books, apps, courses and more that promise to help one achieve that blissful state of happiness.

There are a couple of things to consider in a little more detail here. Firstly happiness is a personal thing – what makes one person happy, may not work for someone else. There isn’t necessarily a ‘one size’ fits all solution. Secondly, even the happiest and most serene person on the planet will admit to not being permanently happy, every now and then there will be an occasional down day, or something that happens to impact on that happy state. As such, trying to be permanently happy is an instant recipe for failure.

All that said, it is possible to be happy, and in the face of sometimes seemingly impossible odds. There is also a ‘social stigma’ of sorts to break down here too. For me, I sometimes feel that when one starts talking about how happy they are, and how they achieve that (assuming of course they are being genuine in their discussion and not just saying it) and how this practice or that practice contributes to that state, there is still an element of society that views that person with slight distrust, or labels them as a bit ‘woo woo’ or ‘hippy’.

For me, and many others, happiness increasingly comes not from solely material things, but from an awareness of what is going on around you. There is much said about how maintaining a ‘gratitude journal’ or similar can make a positive impact on how happy a person is. I will confess to having been somewhat cynical about this in the past, and probably fairly closed minded too. But, and call me ‘woo woo’ if you wish, I now realise that it really is the little things that make a huge difference.

I’m not going to say that I am happy all the time, there are times when quite honestly curling up under the duvet in a state of hibernation and hoping that the world will just go away and leave me in peace sit top of the list of things I would want to do. That said, those moments are decreasing, and I know why they are too.

Last year, I came across an app and website simply called Happier. I think I’d seen it through Facebook, and for whatever reason, decided to take a look. I downloaded the app, had a bit of a mooch about the place and decided that I liked it. I’d post the occasional ‘happy moment’ now and then, some days more than others, some days not at all. There was a brief spell where I didn’t use it for a few weeks, but then went back to it.

Over the Christmas break, I found I was sharing far more ‘happy moments’ than I had done before, and that I was using Facebook less and less. Happier has some great little animations in it that shower your screen with confetti when you share a happy moment, and when you share three or more moments in a day, you get bigger animations with all kinds of things from brightly coloured fish, to beach balls, to chocolate biscuits floating down attached to parachutes (I assure you that I have not lost the plot – these little things make me smile!). The community of users can ‘smile’ at the moments you’ve shared, and comment on them too, similar to likes and comments on Facebook, and they can also share your moments if they wish. Every time you reach a significant posting milestone e.g. 50 moments shared, 100 moments shared and so on you get another image with a congratulatory message.

I’ll get back to why this makes a difference to me. The app encourages users to occasionally take a pause every now and then, and think about the things that make them happy. The key point here is that you are encouraged to consider the little things, and the things that are around you and happening NOW, not the “I’ll be happy when…….”. Something as simple as getting to sit down with a hot cup of tea, or hearing the birds sing, or the kids playing together nicely for more than 10 seconds are all the kinds of things that people share. It is a multinational community, from the USA, to the UK, Australia and Singapore, there are people all over the world adding their little bit to say I’m here, and I’m happy because……

The quest for happiness is in reality quite simple. We make it difficult. Society encourages us to strive to be better, buy bigger, buy more, earn more etc etc as when we get there that will make us happy. Well it may do for some, but if all you ever seem to be doing is trying to reach out for that and not allowing yourself to see the here and now, and appreciate it, then I’d guess you’re probably not that happy really.

Take a moment today, start right now, and have a think about just 3 things that make you happy, that you are grateful for. It might be the sleepy but cute smile from your mischievous daughter, the energising effect of a hot shower, the fact that the car started ok despite the cold…… whatever it is, and however small (maybe even the smaller the better), make a note of it, share it with someone perhaps. Try doing this every day, but if you don’t manage it, don’t worry, just try again tomorrow. It can, and will, make a difference over time, and you’ll come to realise that being ‘present’ and not rushing through life at a million miles an hour is actually what it’s all about.

Be Happy!!

To learn more about Happier, have a look at their blog too.

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