Many of us I'm sure would be thrilled at receiving an expensive gift, thinking, 'how lucky am I!' It would make our day and contribute to our feeling happy. But what if that gift was a substitute for time, love, attention and was being given in a placatory, keep-em-quiet way. Would we still be feeling happy, cared for, special?
Happiness often comes from being grateful for what we have, appreciating the value of what comes our way - good or bad, the simple things in life. Being given a free leaflet about a show or talk that we're interested in demonstrates that someone was thinking of us when they picked it up. The champagne cork from a special meal together, a pressed flower or lovely shell from a walk we enjoyed, a compilation of 'our' special songs; these are things that can make us happy, rather than an expensive gift quickly purchased on the way home.
What are some things that make you happy?
- Thoughtful gestures are important. When someone smiles and lets us out in traffic, holds the door open, gets us a coffee as they make one for themselves or an unexpected kindness, any of these are things that can really brighten our day.
- Unconditional praise and compliments can make us happy. When someone rewards us with a, 'good job', or 'you look nice', it brings a glow of positivity to the day. But if they add a comment like 'why don't you do that more often!' it becomes much less pleasant.
- External things can make us happy. Children's laughter, the smell of coffee or freshly baked bread, a cheesy song, a beautiful garden can make us pause for a moment and smile. Many of us will feel excited at hearing the chimes of an ice cream van. We don't want an ice cream, but the music triggers childhood memories.
- What about finding an unexpected fiver in your pocket? How rich do you feel, how fortunate! Or an old lottery ticket and you fantasise momentarily about it being the lucky million pound ticket!
- Your pet's welcome as you walk through the door can make all the day's stresses evaporate. Any concerns are forgotten as you're smothered under lots of love and affection.
- Unexpectedly finding a laundered shirt when you're late can make you happy. You've gained 10 minutes before you've even started the day! Or catching a bus you thought you'd missed, buying the last of your favourite bread or not putting on weight over the holidays.
Some tips to enhance your happiness levels;
- Clean sheets are number one on many people's list. Why not add a few drops of lavender to the final rinse cycle? Ensure your bedroom is your retreat, where you relax, destress and perhaps enjoy some intimate time with your partner. Alternatively, have an early night with a good book and dedicate time to yourself.
- Close the curtains, turn off the lights and relax in the dark revisiting your favourite music. Get out your photograph albums and reminisce over the stories they tell, the memories they evoke, or spend an afternoon catching up on those films you've been wanting to watch.
- Indulge in a bubble bath. Light your scented candles, warm the towels and allow yourself half an hour 'me' time. Buy a bunch of flowers and put them somewhere unexpected like the hallway or bathroom, then smile as you take your morning shower.
- Plan some family time over a lovely meal and catch-up on everyone's news.Arrange something fun with your partner or friends; a walk, some sports, an evening out, or allow time to dress up and enjoy a special event.
- Enjoy some quiet time by sitting and eating lunch. Eating on the run can become a habit, but give yourself a break and destress. Buy a bar of quality chocolate and savour every mouthful.
- Settle down with a drink and phone a friend for a leisurely chat. Invite people round for coffee. It doesn't take much; a jar of coffee, a few biscuits and you have a pleasant get-together with friends.
- Do good works. Give to your favourite charity and feel happy that you're able to help others less fortunate. Volunteer and dedicate time to a local charity or amateur group. They often rely on volunteers to survive.
- Rise early and take a walk while the air is still fresh and it's quiet. Or enjoy an afternoon in the park watching the deer, swans and ducks. Maybe borrow a friend's dog and have a good walk. Marvel at the power of nature as you watch the sunset, sunrise or a thunderstorm from the comfort of your home.
- The beach is often a happy place. Walk barefoot on the sand, collect a few shells and practice skimming pebbles on the sea.
- Smiles are contagious. Brighten someone's day by giving a compliment, a smile, saying 'please' and 'thank you'. Yours might be the only kindness they receive that day.
So many of the things I've included are free or cost very little, once again reinforcing how money doesn't buy you happiness. It might help, but it's not the only factor!