Reflections from my Happiness For Life Course.

What makes you happy? I guess that’s a good question to start thinking about happiness. [Actually, we began by thinking how happy we’d feel if we were given £50,000 – but I’m not going to tell you why that’s an interesting question.]

I thought about lots of things: Honey Roast Ham, Joni Mitchell, Sunsets, Whiskers on Kittens and Warm Woolen Mittens . . . But then a subsidiary question entered my mind: Do such things make me happy, or do they just bring me pleasure, and how is this all tied up? Bothered by this (and wanting not to appear too superficial in the face of strangers), I decided a more appropriate answer would be, My Daughter; My Wife; My Friends, (and rather paradoxically perhaps) Time to Myself.

Of course, 50% of what makes me happy, according to the latest research, is my genes. And while I’ve clearly inherited the dry sense of humour that northerners adopt to get them through life’s ups and downs, my genes are all too obviously laced with a pessimism that can be as grey as an overcast weekend in Grimsby. So, discovering that my genes, combined with other factors, leaves me with only 40% of life that I can work with to make me happy, didn’t make me so.

We’ll be working on the 40% as the course progresses, starting this week by keeping a Thankfulness Diary and discovering our signature strengths: www.authentichappiness.com.

But I guess progress for me is wrapped up in a more fundamental issue: What is Happiness?

As I glanced over the some of the definitions of happiness in the material, none of which particularly resonated with me (profound as many were), I caught a quote in the margin that anchored me:

Every person wants to be happy, so we need first to understand what happiness is – Jean Jacques Rousseau.

I’m sure my journey to the happy life starts here.