Sunday 26 June 2011
Twelve Steps to Happiness
The study of happiness -- or "wellbeing" as the politicians insist on calling it -- is one of the more surprising and welcome developments of recent years. Of course cynicism is an inevitable response when prime minsters preach about it. It is a long time since a government of any colour did anything to help the sum of national happiness. However the very act of considering wellbeing is a good move in itself. Taking stock, reflection, planning are all positive moves.
So here are my twelve steps to a happier life. They are deliberately simple and, surprise surprise, draw from what humans have been doing and known about for millenia, the things we forgot over the past generation or so.
1. Do something outdoors every day -- preferably working up a sweat.
2. Exercise your empathy. Empathy is one of our primal human characteristics, we damage ourselves if we deny it.
3. Regularly do things in big groups -- live music, football matches, pub quizzes, festivals or whatever.
4. Appreciate the seasons. Enjoy their natural rhythm through activities, foods, nature whatever takes your fancy.
5. Try to eat at a table with friends and family or even strangers as often as you can.
6. Only watch TV, do Facebook or other screen facing activities when you have nothing real to do.
7. Have a cause.
8. Get drunk occasionally, with others not on your own. But try to avoid drinking alcohol most days.
9. Try to undertake some tasks with a beginning, middle and end. Making things is especially good. So much of modern daily work ignores this basic progression. We all need a complete narrative arc from time to time.
10. Enjoy some fantasy every day. The imagination is one of humanity's finest tools. Don't let it go rusty.
11. Celebrate a mixed group of friends. A false notion of "preference" is in danger of putting us all into sterile silos. The wider your circle the more stimulation, empathy and surprise. Don't be scared of surprise.
12. Sit around a fire outside every so often with a group of friends old or new. Baden Powell may not be trendy but he was right about a couple of things. Guitars and campfire songs are optional.