So, I was reading Marie Claire yesterday and there’s an article this month about what makes you happy. It’s all linked in with David Cameron’s stance that the government should know how happy we are (I must admit, I’m not sure why he wants to know. The country seems pretty miserable at the moment.) The three writers offered up the following things that made them happy: one, who had suffered pretty terribly with an eating disorder in the past chose food, another chose relationships with younger men and the last said she had stopped comparing herself to others. While these are all valid ways of creating happiness for each person, they’re also typical of the stuff women’s magazines like to publish. Mimi Spencer wrote a humorous piece in the same magazine where she tried baking, random acts of kindness and yoga as a way to make her happy and she (inevitably) found that some were more helpful than others.
The problem with writing about happiness is that it is so subjective and I think this is why it seems odd that the government wants to get involved. Of course magazines want to get involved; it’s good for revenue. Telling us that by buying items from the Paul and Joe ‘Cat’ makeup line will make us happy is the business they’re in. (By the way, I think that would make me happy because I’m slightly vain and I love cats. Not sure I would ever use them though, they’re so pretty and limited edition.)
We’re also expected to be happy at all times, unhappiness is to be avoided. I guess this is why there are so many people, including myself, who have suffered depression at some point in their lives. At what point does pursuing happiness become ridiculous? Life is not meant to be one long journey of unadulterated bliss- we need the bad bits in order to learn to appreciate the good bits. I have also had to learn to enjoy life when it is good and not to worry too much about when it might all go bad.
We also want to be seen, generally, as altruistic and benevolent human beings. This is why, when children and beauty queens are asked what would make them happy, they answer along the lines of ‘world peace’. And whilst this is a truly admirable thing to want, it is impossible for Miss Arizona create world peace on her own. So our pursuit of happiness needs to be smaller and more easily defined. For example, I sponsor a little girl in Sierra Leone. I am happy knowing that she can go to school because of this.
But it’s important to have frivolous things to make us happy too- I love it when I’ve knitted something. Sometimes my crafting is purely selfish and that’s OK. I enjoy it when I get my steps right in jive or manage to hold a new pose in yoga. I love getting new makeup or a new book. Cafes make me happy. But I also really enjoy buying birthday and Christmas presents or helping a friend out.
I’ve gone more philosophical than I originally intended in this post, which is not a bad thing I suppose. What makes you happy?