…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?
Image – Willow Tree figurine ‘happiness’ – photographer unknown