In praise of happiness

Acres of newsprint has been devoted to the rise of the ‘happiness movement’. Governments have embraced this new movement in the age of austerity, looking for new ways to monitor progress as the economic figures flatline.

There has always been a sea of cynicism when it comes to the apparent subjective nature of measuring what makes us happy. The debate has become a bit polarised like that around the definitions and measurement of relative and absolute poverty.

We are told by the happiness experts that once you earn over a certain amount of money adding to your wage packet doesn’t lead to greater amounts of happiness. The contentment threshold is refreshingly low though that doesn’t stop us wanting to keep up with the Jones’; buying the latest gadget or holidaying in an exotic location.

To my mind happiness is all about the simple things. The chance to stroll through a cool wood on a hot summer day. Watching a butterfly flutter through a meadow. Hearing a child laugh. Seeing the sun set and on a clear night the stars light up the sky. Hearing a bird sing it’s sweet tune. Spending time with friends.

Yes they are all subjective and personal to me. But I think that we can all agree on the basic terms of what makes us feel happy. We should all try and create our own mini happiness manifestos: where we strive to make ourselves happy, those close to us and people in our local communities.

Happiness shouldn’t be about measuring the unmeasurable. It should be about giving people the opportunity of seeing the stars or feeling the sand between their toes. And yes this is about greater access for all. Nature is a great leveller. You don’t need a degree in zoology to appreciate the refreshing qualities of the natural world.

Spending a bit more time connected to the rhythms of the seasons is a great way to be happy. Switch off and tune out of the daily noise. And switch on and tune in to the world around you.

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