Most people in the developed world and most middle class people everywhere are not as happy as they might be. Doing jobs they don’t enjoy, traveling nose to bumper or crushed inside a bus to get to work, the strains of family life, “I want, I want, I want” but never quite enough money to afford everything – all this makes life really stressful.
Despite growing affluence, happiness levels are remaining fairly constant. Once people have enough income for their basic necessities, then money does not make much of a difference. And the people who spend more time pursuing money are often less happy.
Slough, a town near London, started a programme called “Making Slough Happy”. The aim was to raise the level of happiness. They encouraged singing and dancing, communal art projects, visits to lottery winners to see if money made a difference. Even a trip to a graveyard: “Reminding yourself that life is short can really boost your appreciation that it's wonderful just to be alive!".
The Happiness Manifesto
The happiness experts making Slough happy drew up a Happiness Manifesto. They suggest that you do all these things for two months, and see the difference it makes!
1. Get physical. Exercise for half an hour three times a week.
2. Count your blessings. At the end of each day, reflect on at least five things you're grateful for.
3. Make time to talk. An hour of uninterrupted conversation with your partner or closest friend each week.
4. Plant something. Even if it’s a window box or pot plant. Then keep it alive!
5. Cut your TV viewing. By half. More if you can.
6. Smile or say hello to a stranger. At least once each day.
7. Phone a friend. Make contact with at least one friend or relation you have not been in contact for a while, and arrange to meet up.
8. Have a good laugh. At least once a day.
9. Give yourself a daily treat. Take time to really enjoy this.
10. Do a daily kindness. Do an extra good turn for someone each day.
Before you change the world, you need to change your world. So, print out the Happiness Manifesto, and put it somewhere prominent in your home. Pledge to do all 10 things for two months. Then see how you feel.
Spread a little happiness. Circulate the manifesto to your ten best friends. Or if you are so miserable that you have no friends, then to the first ten people you meet. Think about how to make your town happier.
The BBC website for Making Slough Happy: www.bbc.co.uk/lifestyle/tv_and_radio/making_slough_happy
A Slough journalist’s site: www.richardhill.co.uk/makingsloughhappy
The official website for Slough: www.slough.gov.uk