I've recently gone freelance after 25 years in the Civil Service and I've found that, since I resigned, my mood has got sunnier and sunnier. It's reminded me of how important it is to take stock and reconnect with the little things in life that make us happy. And I reckon, if we all think happy thoughts, we can bring about World Peace... I've been enjoying my own enjoyment of life, and it's got me thinking of how often we rush through life with our heads down, intent on getting through this task so that we can get onto the next one. The heads down thing may be metaphorical, but, particularly at this time of year, it becomes a physical thing as well - as the dark takes over and the weather buffets us, you see people with their shoulders hunched and their heads down against the dark and the cold. Your posture and your mood are very closely linked - if you nail on a smile, stand tall and look the world right in the eye (as Jim Reeves once said) you will start to feel better; if you hunch over, don't make eye contact and act depressed, you can very quickly make yourself feel that way - and I wonder whether the fact that many of us feel down in the winter has as much to do with the way we hold ourselves as it does to a lack of sunlight. During one of my bouts of depression, someone once suggested to me that, at the end of each day, I should try recalling three things that had made me feel happy during that day. They didn't have to be big things and, in the midst of a bout of serious depression, "happy" might have been too strong a word to use, but recalling three good things each day was suggested as a useful tool to help me to start noticing the positives in my life. If I went a stage further and wrote them down, I'd also have something to look back on during the really bad times, to remind me that there were still some lights in the darkness. At first it was almost impossible, but after a while I got into the rhythm and understood what they'd meant by "happy". Some examples from that time (written during a holiday in Finland) include: the utter peacefulness of being in a rowing boat alone in the middle of a lake a picture my son drew for me a phone call from my daughter birthday presents chosen with love and care a deer appearing through the trees and standing very still to observe us, before disappearing again watching the Naked Gun and enjoying my son's enjoyment of it coffee and cake with my husband in a cafe in Helsinki None of these are big things, but they were points of light in a difficult time, and the memory of them still makes me feel warm and happy some years afterwards. As often happens, when the immediate danger passes it can be all too easy to let your guard down, so once I was well again I stopped deliberately taking notice of what was making me happy, and if I did notice I didn't bother to write them down.
But lately a funny thing has happened. I've been feeling SO happy I wanted to record it in some way, and to share it with people because I don't think we do enough of that. Maybe it's something to do with being British - we tend to bond over shared complaints about the weather, or poor service in shops, or how late the bus is, but we don't tend to talk very much about the things we're enjoying - and one of the things I've noticed is that, when I try, people look at me as if I'm a bit odd...maybe I am a bit odd....but wouldn't the world be a nicer place if we were more willing to invite people to share in our everyday happinesses as well as our everyday disappointments? Or even instead of? Which is why I've started Tweeting about my happies and why I'd like people to join in. I'm going to bust a gut to record my 3 happies every day, and to encourage others to do the same - if this takes off, and #happies makes it into the top 10 memes, we'd be in a situation where thousands of people were all thinking happy thoughts every day, sharing them, and enjoying other people's happy thoughts too - and if that's not a recipe for World Peace I don't know what is!