happiness is a decision

…part of the catchphrase of the movement called Action for Happiness. I caught this on the news yesterday, reporting on the launch event in London.

Happiness is now a science. People are deciding that it’s good to be happy and that – gosh – this is not bound up in material possessions. In the BBC report page it says: ‘On joining the organisation, members pledge to produce more happiness and less misery.’ According to the promotional video below, doing good things for others makes you feel good about yourself. And guess what! Happiness is contagious. One spokesperson said:

“Rejecting a societal focus on materialism and self-obsessed individualism, the movement instead prioritises healthy relationships with others and meaningful activities as a means to happier living.” (from BBC report)

And it’s good for our mental health (which I suppose means it’s nicely economical, too).

They’re saying that happiness is a decision – a skill to be learned. Which puts me in mind of the apostle Paul saying ‘I have learned to be content in all circumstances’ (my emphasis).  I’m not sure that Action for Happiness would mean it quite in the context he says it, however:

I am not saying this because I am in need, for I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances. I know what it is to be in need, and I know what it is to have plenty. I have learned the secret of being content in any and every situation, whether well fed or hungry, whether living in plenty or in want. I can do all this through him who gives me strength. – Philippians 4:11-13

Paul’s framework is that of a person – the one who gives him strength, rather than contentment for the sake of it. Neither does he do good to make himself feel good – it’s about God’s approval, not man’s.  

So, is contentment the same as happiness?  And what about joy – especially when it comes to rejoicing in suffering?

People are trying different things to make them feel happy – be it meditating, writing a thank you note, making someone a cup of tea.  BBC Breakfast have even started a ‘Happiness Challenge’.

This ties in a little with the government’s interest in measuring well-being.

Is this partly in reaction to a time of economic difficulty?  That we need to find something other than the material to define ourselves? I’m certainly not arguing with that, by the way.  I just find it all fascinating, even if I do sound tongue-in-cheek about it.  Although making happiness the saviour of the world is a bit much (join the movement – be the change!).  It hardly addresses the real problems that so many face.  Sticking a ‘happy’ plaster on a gaping wound of despair?  Hmm.

How do you measure well-being?  Or happiness?  And how exactly do you define happiness?

Sitting in the library on Monday morning in a pool of sunlit silence and exercising my brain I felt a rush of pure…happiness, contentment, whatever you want to call it.  So, I guess that’s one of the things that makes me ‘happy’.  But others would be bored out of their brains.

So go on, tell me.  What makes you happy?  And just how important is happiness?

ImageWillow Tree figurine ‘happiness’ – photographer unknown

5 thoughts on “happiness is a decision

  1. Perpetua says:

    Thought-provoking post, Lucy. I think happiness is a by-product rather than an end in itself, or so I find in my own experience. I've just written a post about our knitting group and I know I was very content and even happy as I sat and knitted and chatted for a morning. We were doing something useful and creative which we enjoyed, just as we enjoyed each other's company.


  2. Red says:

    I kind of agree with nancy that you cant just decide to be happt but I do think you can have a positive mental attitude (PMA as my hubbys old hockey coach used to say) to all things. We all have off days but if you can decide to not be pulled down it makes a big difference. Its completely individual how much each person is able to do it though. I think the BBC report and the movement are stating the obvious but hey if it causes people to be happier or to look out for others then it has to be a good thing!redx


  3. Dreaming Beneath the Spires says:

    Happiness is very important to me. I am happiest when I am in harmony with God (i.e. not actively engaged in anything which I know he would require me to stop and repent of–and also doing what is in harmony with his will, insofar as I can discern it) and in harmony with the people who matter to me, family, close friends, people with whom I share affection. Reading, art, nature, prayer intensifies it; noise and conflict detracts from it.I think happiness is a skill one can learn and develop–like gratitude.Speaking of which, thank you for the blog roll add for Dreaming Beneath the Spires. I have changed my URL to match the title. The new URL is dreamingbeneaththespires.blogspot.com. Would it be possible to add the new URL to your blogroll please, as the old URL will no longer work.You are on my blog roll too, of course.Thanks much, Anita


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