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Writing about happiness


Acquiring the happiness gene
Scientists are busy isolating a gene for everything right now. There’s a gene for diabetes and a gene for hair loss, so it’s quite possible there’s a ‘happiness gene’ floating around the DNA pool. It seems that some people were born to be happy. Or were they? Maybe they simply have a policy of doing lots of things that make them feel good.
For those of us who sometimes find happiness a struggle, telling everyone that you have a genetic disposition to grumpiness is no excuse. If you didn’t slide onto the delivery table with a grin on your face, you have even more reason to get happy.
A lot of books have been written about the business of finding happiness. Buying them all would put a serious dent in your wardrobe budget, so we’ve been studying the subject to save you the trouble.
Just trust yourself, then you will know how to live. Goethe
The phrase “get a life” has been well used in recent years. On analysis, it really means “get happy”, because it’s generally directed at people who have nothing better to do than worry or moan about trivial things.
Of all the ‘get a life’ advice that exists in the world, some common threads keep appearing. For a start, pursuing your uniqueness seems to be a very viable path to fulfilment. The more you become yourself, and feel comfortable in your own skin, the more you’ll understand what makes you happy. Endeavour to make sure that your appearance, your thoughts, your beliefs and your actions are really you – not someone else. Being yourself is an exercise in honesty, and it can require some navel gazing – spending time alone with your thoughts helps you to define what’s really you. Maybe a week in Fiji on your own?
Another obvious, but often overlooked, fact is that different things make different people happy. There are multi-millionaires who are unhappy, and others that are very happy. There are sick people who are happy, and perfectly healthy people who aren’t. So what makes your best friend happy isn’t necessarily going to work for you.
What is going to work is regularly doing things that give you pleasure. A day without pleasure is a day lost. If there aren’t enough happy-making things, actions, places and people in your life, try to find some more. Experiment with new experiences, travel to new places or put yourself in situations where you’ll meet new people. Once your repertoire of pleasures is large enough, you’ll find it easier to inject happiness into even the most average day. Over the course of a life, enjoying yourself is as important as earning an income.
Question to the Dalai Lama: Is happiness a reasonable goal for most of us? Dalai Lama’s answer: Yes. I believe that happiness can be achieved through training the mind.
When science and religion meet, there’s often a fascinating consequence. The latest story to hit the headlines is that Buddhist monks, who practice meditation on a regular basis, are happier than the rest of us.  During meditation they are able to activate the areas of the brain that are associated with a positive state of mind. They can activate their ‘happy centres’ at other times too.
So it seems that meditation can make you happy. Another study claims that it can also help people to deal with fear and anger. By calming your mind you can free yourself from habitual states of guilt, discontent and irritation. Each of these is ultimately a source of unhappiness.
There is no duty we so much underrate as the duty of being happy. By being happy we sow anonymous benefits upon the world. Robert Louis Stevenson
Discussing happiness with happy people is a head-on way to get a grip on positivity.  One woman known to us prescribes herself a daily dose of pleasure, because she knows that even small amounts of fun every day can have a profound effect.  It might be breakfast with a friend, a perfumed bath with a good book or two hours put aside to watch an excellent movie.
Another happiness practitioner suggests a day off when life is getting out of balance. “Sometimes you just need a day away in a beautiful place. A day to separate the past from the future and make adjustments to your daily philosophy – jobs, lovers, children, husbands, employers and friends can all exist for one day without us”, she says.
For anyone who actively practices being happy, now is always the hour. It’s a danger to fall into the “I will be happy when” game.  When I’m less stressed, when I lose weight, when I get a pay rise, when I feel well, when we move house… If you believe that happiness depends on your circumstances, you’re abdicating the power to control your own state of mind. Life is happening moment by moment, and you can decide to start enjoying right now.
Before enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. After enlightenment: chop wood, carry water. This is it! Zen Proverb
If there’s a single secret to happiness it’s probably the simple action of choosing to be happy. While we might not always understand life, we can always appreciate it.
By choosing to be happy you give something to yourself, your family, your friends and your colleagues. People love to be around a happy person, because happiness is contagious.
There will always be reasons in your life to be either happy or unhappy. If you want to be happy, count your blessings and find reasons to be happy. If you want to be unhappy, there’s always something happening that’s less than perfect. You can choose the condition of your attitude.
Happiness can be practised in the same way that you practice tennis, yoga or tap dancing. Every day is a chance to hone your positivity skills unless the whole business of being happy becomes absolutely effortless.
Happiness is not a station you arrive at, but a manner of travelling. Margaret Lee Runbeck