I am the sort of person who will open any Christmas or birthday presents early, just in case I get more and can prolong the excitement and enjoyment. More frustratingly for my husband, I'm also the type of person who will tell friends that we've "Had an offer accepted on our dream home" (yes, I know nothing's binding until exchange, and perhaps some familiarity with the property process (including experience of being gazundered and gazumped amongst other issues) has helped), but in this case, I was determined that as it absolutely IS our "dream home", if that dream is to reach a rude awakening, I'm going to squeeze every last drop of happiness out of it that I can...and just maybe, there will actually be even more when it all does work out!
However, this got me thinking about why some of us fear happiness.
One key message of my talks is "Happiness is a state not a goal". In other words, while achievement can contribute to being happy, why should we sacrifice it "until then". I can be happy right now if I want to be! ...a bit like my dog - who always seems happy!
Even more in our favour, the brain struggles to distinguish when we pull a "fake smile" or when we give a real one (of course, others can often tell, but they're looking at other cues). Researchers found that if a group of participants simply held a pencil horizontally between their teeth, they reported more feelings of happiness that those who did not. This could be due to looking a little silly and laughing anyway, but an interesting finding nonetheless.
If ever a time happiness and positivity is needed, it's now.
I don't mean a "mindless Pollyanna" quality (and I add "mindless" because if you read the story of Pollyanna, she's a positive girl who then becomes in need of positivity herself, and because she spread happiness, she received it in abundance in her moment of darkness, so I think it's a shame to trivialise the name); I instead refer to a genuine attempt to allow ourselves the pleasure of happiness when we can and as much as we can.
In my mindfulness classes, I suggest little things such as:
- really focusing on enjoying the tastes and textures of the food you eat
- noticing the warmth on your skin as you walk in the sun
- appreciating the sweet scent of the flowers or freshly cut grass (knowing you've already taken your hayfever tablet!)...oh yes, happiness can be "wise" too!
In encouraging small moments of happiness, we also begin to build up resilience in case of future disaster.
I was asked to comment on the pressure that UK Prime Minister, Theresa May, must be under with the divisive and exasperated stance of the nation on Brexit and one of the comments which struck me following this was "We forget she's human." Placed with many articles about the frustration of the UK voters, the "People's March" today (23rd March, 2019), and a parliament who is also containing hugely hurtful comments from their constituents - although this does not mean to say they are unwarrented(!); again, if ever there was a time to recognise the power of the pure simplicity of happiness at least in our own corner of the world, it's now.
I speak often on the unnecessary competition that social media instills as we compare our 24/7 life to someone else's "highlights reel" - which in turn may be further streamed if, like me, it's part of a public brand; I am saddened when I think about the lack of consistency that a move from "job for life" to "project base" has caused with families sometimes having to uproot every two years; and the fast-paced swipe culture, coupled with election manifestos (or other "promises") being meaningful until they can be buried under newer, flashier posts, I truly fear we're losing touch with what truly matters.
Values, integrity, compassion - what happened to "my word is my bond" or the "Gentleman's agreement"?
I have sadly fewer friends now than I started the year with because I removed a few from my life. They were not toxic in themselves, but their effect on me, their impressed competition, a lack of loyalty and sometimes even being downright mean (which may all absolutely be due to other causes they are just not willing to face as yet) for me meant I had to know when to stop trying to rescue. But the friends I have, and the new ones that come along whom I recognise easily now I know what I'm looking for, I treasure. They are the ones who keep me strong, who celebrate my wins, commiserate my near misses, and make me smile just by being there. In return, I always try to do the same for them in profusion.
But those moments I stand alone in a world that I'm beginning to find both frightens and dispirits me, I know that if misery awaits, I'm going to celebrate every second of happiness I am lucky enough to have...and if it doesn't - well isn't that just glorious?
Audrey is a Chartered Psychologist (CPsychol), and the author of "The Leader's Guide to Mindfulness" (Pearson & FT series) and "Be A Great Manager - Now" (Pub Pearson, 2016 and Book of the Month in WH Smith Travel Stores). She is a CPD Accredited speaker, trainer, and qualified FIRO-B, DBT and NLP Practitioner. She is the founding Development Coach and Training Consultant with her training consultancy CLICK Training, and the resident psychologist on The Chrissy B Show (Sky191), the UK's only TV programme dedicated to mental health and wellbeing. She often presents at National and International conferences in the fields of leadership and team cohesion, and is part of the Amity University conference panel.