Wednesday, 26 February 2014


It goes without saying, doesn't it?  Everybody wants to be happy.  

But maybe not grinning like a loon happy, at least not all the time.  We want some kind of balance, right?

So what is happy?  Is it feeling like a room without a roof?  Hmm, maybe not, but great song.

Happy seems to have been coming up a lot in the podcasts I listen to lately, and it's on my Facebook feed.  Once upon a time, when I was a professional researcher, I was looking into the usefulness of studying 'happy'.  Well, I stepped out of that arena, and other people are taking it forward.  One of those people is Matt Killingsworth.  As part of his PhD, Matt designed an iPhone app called 'Track my Happiness'.  If you have an iPhone, you can get it here.  If you don't have an iPhone you can get it by email, here.  Matt has finished his PhD now, writing a paper on how focusing on what you're doing makes you happier.  He's done a TED talk on it too, it's below, if you're interested.

Matt has finished his PhD now, but the app is still available.  Why?  Because he's still researching happiness.  It is well worth taking part in his research, because it's not hard work, and it is beneficial.

I'm half way through being a participant in Matt's research (your involvement is over a month), and it hasn't actually made me more happy, but, it has made me notice things.  Firstly, it's made me notice that I'm more happy than not most of the time.  This helps me get things in perspective when I'm sad, or even despairing.  Secondly, it makes me notice things about my behaviour that aren't making me happy.  In particular, I have noticed that I'm not getting enough sleep (I've not done anything about it, but I'm aware).  Thirdly, taking part in this makes me take a moment (each survey takes about a minute to complete - three times a day), to think about what I'm doing, and how I'm feeling every day.  That gives me a chance to be mindful, and to count my blessings.

We're all aware of the idea of counting our blessings, but David Steindl-Rast, a Benedictine monk, talks about how doing this, focusing on the things we are grateful for in our lives, can bring us happiness whatever our situation.  It's another TED talk, and it's below.

There's a lot of talk about mindfulness at the moment.  This simple meditation technique which encourages us to take a few moments to stop, and bring the focus inward, seems to be helping people to avoid depression, to notice their happiness, and to feel generally better.  There's a good article on it (including instructions on how to do a 3 minute version) in The Guardian.  You'll find it here.  I haven't done regular meditation for years, I think I'm going to give it a go (like I'm going to get enough sleep!).

I am going to miss taking part in the Happiness Study when I'm done.  I've really appreciated it for making me notice the happy in my life.  I've decided that I'm going to replace it with taking part in #100HappyDays - this is a challenge to take a photo every day for 100 days, of something that's made you happy.  You then share your photo (or don't if you don't want to).  Would anyone care to join me?

To finish on another happy note, I'm going to share the song that's been going around my head since halfway through writing this.  I hope you enjoy.

So what's helping you notice your happy?  How do you accentuate the positive?

Other posts you might like:

The book challenge

Words at 25/2/14 - 57,853 (up 5,200 since challenge began)
Where I'm at in First Draft - beginning of Chapter 11.
What I did last - named Chapter 11.