7 Ways to inject more happiness into your life

Happiness is a state of mind almost totally unrelated to money, says our blogging partner Stuart Pearcey. The only reason money comes into the equation is when you’ve spent too much, and the resulting cashless worry sucks the joy out of everything else in your life. Here are the seven ingredients in his recipe for happiness. Who knows, being happy might lead to greater success in business…

I remember having lunch with Ken Dodd. We were the only two people late for a meal arranged in his honour, and as such ate together, picking over the remains of a buffet, making a meal from cress-strewn platters once laden with sandwiches and savouries.

In other circumstances, it might have been a dismal meal. With Dodd, pictured, it was a delight. I was reminded of it when I sat down to write this blog, and thought of his signature song ‘Happiness’, and its assertion that it is the greatest gift we possess. I agree with most of that – but what is happiness, this concept that can’t be seen or touched; that makes no sound, and has no smell?

The part I don’t agree with is the assertion that it’s a gift. Certainly ‘being happy’ is, but don’t expect anyone to give you happiness; it’s something that comes from within.

It would be too easy to say that happiness was about a world cruise, a new car or a big lottery win. All too often our aspirations are related to money, which blurs the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’, and don’t deliver happiness, in just the same way that a chocolate bar doesn’t stave off hunger when the sugar rush fades.

Take money out of the equation, and it’s easier to focus on what does make us happy; things that deliver emotional health and wellness. The common thread running through all of things that have the potential to make us truly happy is their simplicity. The list will be different for all of us, but these are the seven things that do it for me. By all means think of your own, but if these ideas are helpful, then I’m pleased to share.

1. Phone a friend: For a great many people, the phone doesn’t ring unless it’s someone wanting something. Maybe it’s work, or maybe it’s a favour, but whatever it is, it’s adding to your ‘to do’ list. Do you ever ring anyone just for a chat? Oops. If not, then you’re part of the problem. Make a point of ringing someone every week simply to ask how they are, or even talk about the weather. It makes a refreshing change. And if you’re ringing someone who doesn’t get phoned very often, your call might be the highlight of their week. You could even let this idea spill over into the next three to make the most of it.

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2. Share a meal: If you’ve taken the time to give someone a call, you’re only a sentence away from inviting them out for lunch, carrying on the conversation in a more convivial setting. Does there have to be a reason?

3. Laugh: Even if it‘s at yourself. Laughter releases all sorts of feel good chemicals into the brain. Taking yourself too seriously squashes opportunities to laugh, so we should stop doing that too much. What makes me laugh? I’d be the first to admit I have a strange sense of humour, but listening to children laughing never fails to make me smile. If you can’t manage a laugh, then try smiling. Alongside politeness, you’d be surprised at the doors it can open.

4. Feed the birds: Goodness knows, they’re having a hard time, and with winter coming it’s going to get harder still.  The price of a sack of seed is little enough, and you’ll be rewarded with the sound of birdsong. Come to that, set the alarm for crazy o’clock when the sun’s coming up on a spring morning, and lay in bed listening to the dawn chorus. Free entertainment! I also like to hear seagulls; the sound of their calls always makes me think of the sea and the coast, which revives memories of very many happy times.

5. Make ‘me’ time: I painted the garage floor over the weekend. I’d been promising myself I’d do it for ages, but something else had got in the way every time. But on Saturday I got up early, moved the garage contents, and got the floor painted. I felt elated, and the garage floor looks fantastic. OK, I understand painting the floor might not do it for you, but the principle is the same no matter what you do – that’s why it’s called ‘me’ time.

6. Be optimistic: Goodness knows Nelson Mandela had enough reasons to be miserable; he spent almost 30 years in prison for his beliefs. But he was always an optimist, and his advice was always to keep your head pointed to the sun and your feet moving forwards.

7. Spend less than you earn: I’m back on the difference between ‘want’ and ‘need’ again. It’s fine to be surrounded by the latest tech gadgets, shoes and handbags – but if that leaves you short of money for the essentials, the pleasure soon pales. Being free from debt delivers enormous peace of mind. The first step towards that is monitoring your spend, which you can do with a money management app like Solo Expenses. Not owing money is a great weight off your mind, and you can make it happen.

Picture of Ken Dodd: pixieclaire001 via Flickr Creative Commons