Tuesday, 20 April 2010

Hunting happiness

Millions of gloomy souls follow French psychiatrist François Lelord for his advice on how to be happy. But can you really teach people happiness?

Some lucky people do manage to turn terrible misery into sunny contentment. But it seems to me that in general miserable people stay that way and happy people likewise. It's hard to manufacture happiness when it isn't there to start with.

There are people who find fault with everything and spend the whole day moaning and groaning with a sour face. And there are others who see delights and wonders wherever they go, shrugging off hardships and enthusiastically grabbing at life. That's simply the way people are and trying to "switch on" happiness is unlikely to work.

There just isn't any slick formula. Money doesn't guarantee happiness. Nor does marriage, sex, hard work, physical beauty or lots of friends. Striving and straining won't summon it, it has to bubble up of its own accord.

Miserable people are often so used to being miserable that the prospect of being happy is actually threatening. Their whole familiar view of the world would collapse. So they have a dozen ways of keeping joy safely out of reach.

But happy people somehow attract happiness like a magnet, drawing it out from their unconscious and everything around them so the sheer force of their enjoyment washes away any miserable impulse. Their happiness multiplies and expands like ink on blotting paper. How can you learn a talent like that at an afternoon seminar?

Monsieur Lelord may be a very charming and entertaining man. But I wonder how many of his devoted admirers have magically attained happiness from his copious advice.

PS: And what about me, you may ask? I'd say I'm a pretty happy person, I find it hard to be miserable for long. I soon find something to cheer me up again, however grim the circumstances.
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Yes! Jenny is finally home from York after being stranded for six days and we're catching up on all the gossip....

28 comments:

Hullaballoo said...

I would agree, Nick. Happier people get happier, just as slim people get slimmer. If I had the forumula, I would bottle and give it out to my clients. It doesn't agree with everyone though,

Nick said...

Hulla - In your line of business, you must have every opportunity to check out this opinion! Happiness certainly seems to be a self-accelerating process.

Grannymar said...

When you are in bad form and have a tough day it seems endless, yet when you are happy the time flies.

If I have to live as long as my mother and grandmother before her, I have another quarter of a century to go. That is one hell of a long time to be miserable! I choose happiness!

Nick said...

Grannymar - Good way of looking at it, do I really want to be miserable for the rest of my life? I think the answer has to be, Hey let's party!!

kylie said...

as a self confessed worrier, doesnt that stop you being happy?

Wisewebwoman said...

"Happiness is an inside job", Nick.

No amount of money can buy it and not even the most perfect love/relationship/child/house can supply it.

I think we are born with the capacity.

And I don't think we can be happy all the time.

I'd say I'm happy 95% of the time but when I go down I go pretty far down.

XO
WWW

Quickroute said...

there's big money in quick fixes for 'happiness' - I just wish I could get in on the racket - It's fairly easy to keep me happy - a beer usually helps

Los Angelista said...

I certainly think folks get into a pattern. They get used to complaining, being ungrateful - but the good thing is the happy people are just as "contagious" as folks who are perpetual sulkers.

Nick said...

Kylie - Good question. Funnily enough, the two are compatible. I do worry a lot but at the same time I'm optimistic that everything will work out - and it usually does.

www - I do think we're born with one tendency or the other, much as I would like to say that childhood conditioning is all!

Nick said...

Quicky - You're telling me, there's a plague of happiness gurus out there all with flocks of devotees. But how many of them actually have the desired result?

Liz - Happiness is definitely contagious. The effect of a visibly happy person on their audience is sometimes amazing. The whole room lights up!

Scarlet Blue said...

Yeah... you have to be in the right mood for happiness. Balanced hormones and all that.
Sx

Nick said...

Scarlet - Balanced hormones, that must be it. I think my hormones could still do with a bit of fine tuning, happiness is not yet 24/7.

Rummuser said...

As you probably know, I am an agony uncle for a lot of people. In some cases, I recommend Tal Ben-Shahr's books which, if sincerely studied and impemented change lives. I know of three cases where they did.
http://www.google.com/search?hl=en&safe=off&pwst=1&source=univ&tbs=bks:1&tbo=u&q=inauthor:Tal+inauthor:Ben+inauthor:Shahar&ei=3frOS-rLJMfGrAfb_fhw&sa=X&oi=book_group&ct=title&cad=author-navigational&resnum=6&ved=0CCYQsAMwBQ

Nick said...

Ramana - The link's not working right now. I didn't think his Six Happiness Tips looked very ground-breaking. Still, if you say people have benefitted, who am I to object?

Baino said...

I think happiness is subjective. I'm happy, I just don't go around snifing roses and farting sunbeams .. mind you If money doesn't make you happy, I'd like to volunteer to test that hypothesis .. wouldn't do me any harm I can tell you!

Nick said...

Baino - If you had double your present income, would you really be twice as happy? I doubt it somehow. In fact research shows that beyond a certain level of income, people's degree of happiness doesn't change.

Megan said...

Remember that post a while back about your shut-in neighbor? I wonder if he was happy. He may have been, you know.

I'm happy to be here. I'm happy you are alive in the world and have your Jenny back. I'm happy that the rain is supposed to stop before I have to walk to the train in the morning!

Nick said...

Megan - Unfortunately I think not. He always had a very sad and battered expression.

I'm happy to read your comment. And happy the sun is shining. And happy to have so many blogmates in California!

Brighid said...

Listen up Sunshine, I'm the happiest person even if I haven't perfected the Baino sunbeam fart...
Balance is boring...for the most part. If we had no lows we wouldn't appreciate the highs...

Nick said...

Brighid - Glad to know you're a happy person. And that's true, we could do without misery but it does make us appreciate being happy.

Kate said...

I think I have always believed in the 'Laugh and the world laughs with you' theory..... its better than crying alone!!!

Nick said...

Kate - There's a lot of truth in that. It's hard to be miserable when people around you are visibly enjoying life.

Baino said...

Sorry but yes. Double my current income and I'd have no debt. That my friend would make me positively hilarious. Well that and not being trapped in a house I can't sell. The research is rigged, I'm sure!

Nick said...

Baino - Okay, fair enough. Particularly if it meant you could repay all your debts. I know they're hanging over you like a very large millstone....

Liz said...

I know one lady who always looks on the black side. Trouble is that it, the bad thing, does usually happen to her. I wonder which came first. Did she become gloomy because bad things happened or do more bad things happen to her because she - not wills it or makes it happen but somehow allows it? I don't know. That doesn't seem possible so maybe she's just miserable because life is rubbish to her.

Nick said...

Liz - I firmly believe that if you expect bad things to happen they often will, and vice versa. Though she may have had more than her share of bad luck as well....

secret agent woman said...

I think that people can learn to change their attitude but it takes a LOT of work. But people are temperamentally inclined to be satisfied or dissatisfied, so some of us have a jump start on it. It's funny to read this right now because I just had a relationship implode yesterday in a pretty ugly way and about an hour ago I texted the person to say I was unable to hold a grudge and am rapidly coming to peace with it.

Nick said...

Secret Agent - Your response to the break-up certainly suggests a very positive attitude. Sorry it happened though.