Thursday, 3 November 2016

On happiness and where to find it

A few weeks back, I came off the phone to an old friend. Something she said really stuck with me. She said she was worried I didn't sound happy. Was I happy? Am I?

My first response was defensive. Of course I'm happy! Why wouldn't I be? But that led me to really question the notion of happiness as, without being sure of what it really is, how can you know?

I downloaded an app – – which is designed to 'help you to be mindful of how you feel about various aspects of your life, to analyze them and to understand your happiness'.

Each day, I rated my happiness based on five metrics (General Mood, Nutrition, Sleep, Kindness and Work), giving each a rating from terrible (sad face emoji) to great (happy face emoji). Once you've filled in enough days, the app then gives you insights, telling you whether today is a happier day than yesterday.

After a few days of dutiful rating, I began to find the whole thing absurd. Was yesterday really 'better' than today because of a few quick scores on an app? More perniciously, it made me confused about what the app is trying to achieve. If everyday was scored as a great, smiley face day, wouldn't that be like having Christmas every day? Isn't the point that mood is like the weather, that you can't know the highs without the lows?

As my friend Ian wisely told me once, 'Le bonheur n'existe pas. Il n'existe que des instants de bonheur'. It's a Voltaire quote, roughly translating as Happiness does not exist. There are only moments of happiness.

Which leads me on to this three second brain exercise for finding joy. In short, it describes 'slices of joy', the knack of spotting when little moments bring you joy each day. The cumulative effect of this noticing is an increased perception of happiness.

And do you know? It works. I've tried it. In the past week, I've found joy in the following moments:

Sitting quietly with a cat on my lap, sun streaming through the window on an unseasonably warm November morning

Taking a scaldingly hot shower and getting out bright pink

The moment the train pulls into a station and you hear the whistle, knowing exciting adventures are to come

Watching leaves fall and swirl around me on the cycle path, pondering the idea of an autumn snow globe with leaves instead of snowflakes

Witnessing the huge amount of joy this year's Halloween Trick or Treat brought to my kids as we prowled the dark streets with our oldest, dearest friends

All of which just couldn't be captured on an app. (Unless you count Instagram!)

And all of which makes me think, yes, I am happy. But I'm also melancholy and cross and excited and maudlin too. The whole package. And I'm happy with that.

What about you? Do you find happiness in small everyday moments? What brings you joy?

Feel I should say this is not a sponsored post and I'm not working with!

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