Wednesday, 28 March 2012

Ticket giveaway - True Peace and Happiness in the Here and Now

Hello lovely readers, I have a bit of a special treat for you today

I have two tickets to a wonderful talk tomorrow night at the Royal Festival Hall with Thich Nhat Hanh, which is now sold out.

Thich Nhat Hanh teaches that the conditions we need to be peaceful and happy are already present - in the here and now - and we can connect with these conditions through the practice of mindfulness.  For more info on him and the talk tomorrow (Thursday 29th) please click here

As a big fan of happiness and mindfulness I bought the tickets as a bit of a birthday present to myself (as that is also tomorrow) but am actually not able to use them myself now after all.

So, since one of the fundamental facets of happiness is to give to others, rather than let the tickets go to waste I would like to give them away to somebody else to enjoy.

I don't want any payment in return, but it would be nice if you could instead donate to Action for Happiness.  Here is some info from them:

"Action for Happiness is a movement for positive social change. We're bringing together people from all walks of life who want to play a part in creating a happier society for everyone.
For fifty years we've aimed relentlessly at higher incomes. But despite being much wealthier, we're no happier than we were five decades ago. At the same time we've seen an increase in wider social issues, including a worrying rise in anxiety and depression in young people. It's time for a positive change in what we mean by progress"

here's a video too

Please visit their website for more info or click here to donate.

Now I must confess I don't have the tickets on me today, they are at home so I can't confirm exact seat numbers or anything but they were around the £25 mark each...I can confirm specific details either this evening or tomorrow morning.

Since I physically have the tickets we'll need to arrange either a pick up from my office behind Selfridges/ somewhere nearby or I can courrier them to somewhere...we can sort that later!

So, please let me know either via facebook or the comments bit of this post if you would be interested and I will be happy to let you have them.

Sunday, 25 March 2012

too much of a good thing?

I've just read an article on Psychology today as part of the Happiness Chronicles entitled "is there a dark side to happiness?"

The article looks at recent psychological enquiry into whether or not happiness is always a good thing or are there times when actually being happy is more of a negative.

Now, firstly I guess we have to remember that psychology is a science and therefore it is only right and proper that they examine every concept from every possible angle and that they also try to disprove their original theories...that being the point of most scientific research and advancement.

Secondly, and following on from the first point, most facts and theories and statistics can be used to make pretty much any point you want depending on how you use (or twist) them.  I read an article in the papers a few weeks back that had managed to find reasons why things we know to be massively unhealthy are actually good for us. They found positives in smoking, drinking, eating lard etc. They weren't advocating we take up all of these things, merely pointing out that those alternative facts and view points also existed.

So I sprinkled a liberal dose of salt over the article before continuing.

Their main points are as follows:

1. Being too cheery can make us take more risks, which is dangerous
2. Being in happy mode can dampen our flight or fight mechanisms, so I guess we end up grinning manically at the bear instead of running away from it, or skipping gaily into oncoming traffic, for example?
3. Constantly being happy has diminishing returns so after a while the high just wears off
4. Constantly striving for happiness can just lead to more disappointment

So there we go.

I don't disagree with any of these points (and who am I to disagree with eminent psychologists anyway!?). But I don't necessarily agree whole heartedly either...surprise!

Here's what I think.

Being 'happy' can never be bad for you.

But being manic, or over-excited, or over stimulated can be. Being manic can lead you to take silly risks, being over excited can be exhausting and being over stimulated can cause you to withdraw, for example. Being any of these things could blind you to any potential imminent danger. Having your head in cloud cuckoo land is not particularly practical.

So yes, having too much positive stimuli can very quickly turn bad...even if it doesn't feel that way at the time. Bit like vodka really.

But none of these states are the same as being 'happy' and that's what annoys me a bit about these things.

There is a scale. If you have depressed at one end, and manic at the other, happy comes in between. Over stimulation causes you to slip out of happy into manic, or the opposite back down towards depression.  Or a balance. Happy is right in the middle...a happy medium, when everything is in balance. Slip either side, the balance is lost, and you've moved out of the happy zone. To use the vodka thing again. No vodka = sober. Shit loads of vodka = blind drunk. a bit of vodka = a bit tiddly (and probably rather happy!). Vodka is the thing we can have too much of, not the states we pass through as we move along the scale.

If what they are saying is what we already know and what applies to just about everything in life, which is that everything is fine in moderation but too much good stuff eventually leads to bad stuff, then fine. That makes sense.

But I repeat, you can't have too much happiness.

And I don't agree with their last two points either.  I think it's semantics again but I love picking on those so here I go again.

Constantly being happy has diminishing returns so the high eventually just wears off. Really? Do they really mean happiness here or are they referring to euphoric highs? I would have thought it was pretty much impossible without the aid of some sort of illegal drug to be in a permanent state of euphoria!? I don't believe that the comfy warm glow of being happy (as in content) wears off. I do believe moods change and you won't always feel that glow, but I don't believe that being happy a lot means you stop actually feeling it.

And the final point, about always chasing happiness just leading to disappointment? Major fail in understanding the true underlying root and meaning of happiness.  You can't pursue it, you can't chase it. It doesn't work like that. There are bits and bobs you can do to improve your overall state of wellbeing so that in the long run you are more open to happiness more often, but going after it for its own sake is just a mega fail waiting to happen. So maybe I do agree with them then...I just don't agree with their wording, as usual. I agree that chasing happiness for its own sake is not likely to actually bring about happiness. What I don't agree with is that this is evidence to support the theory that too much happiness is bad for you since in that instance happiness isn't actually achieved in the first place!

To be fair, I'm commenting on an article written about the original research so who knows what words were used in the first place.

But either way, its all daft. There is no such thing as too much happiness and that's just the end of that!

Saturday, 24 March 2012

whether the weather...

Isn't it a beautiful day!

I know the theory is that external circumstances don't really have too much to do with our happiness levels, but come on, surely this weather helps?

I had to be up and out of the house early this morning for physio and it was glorious already at 10am. Then I walked back via the park and just moseyed around with my sunnies and just a t-shirt on (well, I had jeans on too!). Lovely. I enjoyed shopping in Sainsburys (unheard of) picking out all sorts of nice healthy things to make and I even enjoyed lugging it all back home again through town, smiling at everybody I passed. (They'll probably come to collect me later to cart me off to the home). As soon as I got in I flung open all the windows and doors to let the lovely little birdy chirruping and the spring breeze drift through the house, and I've decided to spring clean the entire kitchen with some nice music on. Which I will also enjoy.

I know I wouldn't be relishing half of those things half as much had it been pissing it down.

However, I also know that I was already in a good mood and high of spirits. I know this because I do a daily mood test thingy and the last time I did it I was at 87% which is pretty high.  So, has the jolly weather made me jolly or has my already being jolly made me jolly well appreciate the jolly weather even more?

I'm going for the latter. I'm pretty sure that if I was in a bad, sad, or disgruntled mood today, the weather would have just annoyed me. I'd have been too hot. Or there'd have been too many people in town. I'd have snarled at the 'idiots in shorts'. Or I'd have wailed at the sun who'd surely come out only to mock me in my despair.

And actually, had it been raining, in my happy mood I'd have probably just splashed through the puddles in glee and laughed at my ratty hair slapped across my face. Or so I'd like to think anyway.

Which led me to think of the children's song:

Whether the weather be fine,
Or whether the weather be not,
whether the weather be cold
or whether the weather be hot
We'll weather the weather
whatever the weather
Whether we like it or not!

Well I definitely like it today. And I say balls to bad moods when it's like this outside! I shall be singing a different song instead:

The sun has got his hat on
Hip hip hip hooray
The sun has got his hat on and he's coming out to play!


Friday, 23 March 2012


I have just discovered something that satisfies many of my geekinesseses...which isn't a word.

Ironic really, since words and language and the origins of such are the subject of this here post.

I've been so concerned here with the meaning of happiness, and the science of it and the bits and bobs that help you get it that I've not once considered the origins of the word itself. Which is totally bonkers as I am a bit of a geek when it comes to language and etymology.

So, imagine my delight when  I stumbled upon a blog this evening that talks of this very thing!

Seems there's a bit of a debate as to when it first appeared in the wonderfully eccentric language that is English with some sources saying it wasn't until the 16th Century but others finding evidence of 'happy' appearing earlier in the 14th Century.

Regardless of when it came into being, it seems we're all agreed that it originates from the stem 'hap'. Which if you think about it crops up quite a lot, in words like 'happenstance', 'mishap', 'haphazard', 'perhaps' and 'hapless'. Where 'hap' means 'chance' or 'good luck'.  I actually can't believe I hadn't spotted this before.

In fact, it turns out a lot of the earlier European words for happy originally meant "lucky" apart from the Welsh word which when first used actually meant "wise".

Seems the Welsh were onto something here! I'm with them on this one. There's really nothing lucky about it.

Happiness has little to do with chance and good fortune but much to do with the choices you make, the opportunities you grab, the view you choose to take.   Being unlucky simply means not being open to the opportunities life presents, being closed to possibility.

Wisdom is in fact key, as the Welsh suggested all along. Even the serenity prayer says so:

"God grant me the serenity 
to accept the things I cannot change; 
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference."

But, you could say that this post has fortuitously come as a result of my  accidentally 'happening' upon some other article, which in turn made me happy. But did I really 'happen' upon it? Or did I choose the path myself by setting out on this happiness journey in the first place, and signing up to the blogs and newsletters I thought would most enrich and entertain me along the way? And then dedicating time every day to reading them?

Some people have all the luck. But only because they set out to have it.


Friday, 16 March 2012


Every bit of science, and every bit of non-science I have read about happiness lists friends as a key ingredient.  Surrounding ourselves with close friends makes us more happy. Fact.

In fact I would say that you don't even have to 'surround' yourself with them. Neither in number nor in proximity. But having a handful of really good friends, you know the sort, you know the old analogy about radiators and drains? We're talking radiators here. Just having these friends in your life,  and knowing that they are there, and they you.That's all it takes.

And I can prove it.

I can prove it with two little things that have happened to me this week.

I had a best friend at primary school. As we all did. But we grew up and life happened and we lost touch. But then through the wonder of facebook we found each other again a few years ago. And I delight in every status update, revelation of shared passion, and 'like' we share as I realise more and more that despite not having seen each other for more years than I care to count, we are still what I would consider 'friends'. And even better? Having recently moved to the States she will soon be back home visiting the town we both grew up in, and we're going to meet for a cup of tea. And I can't wait. Ok, a teeny weeny part of me is a bit nervous or something, but the other 99.999% is just really excited! I just think it's really nice.  So, our relationship has been neither close in terms of actual geography, nor in terms of frequency of meeting, but it makes me smile and it makes me happy nonetheless.

Lovely Lucy with lovely Leo
And then today I met a friend for lunch. A friend I haven't seen for about 7 months while she's been off to have a baby, but we slotted back in as if we'd seen each other every single day of those 7 months. We had both been really looking forward to meeting and were both genuinely delighted to see each other. And truly interested in each other, to hear each others news and views. We nattered and chatted about this and that, about big things and little things and about nothing in particular. It really was truly lovely to see her, to spend time together and to watch her being so relaxed and happy and joyful with her baby, and it's so nice to be able to just relax and be 'me' too.

These little things are really important, and I'm truly grateful for them.

And in pondering this post I'm also reminded of all the little things my close girl friends have done for me over the years, whether it be sending me flowers when I'm poorly, or clubbing together to whisk me off to a spa to when I'm down, or give me a cuddle when they know I'm trying to be brave about saying goodbye to my mum in Dubai...not to mention being in Dubai with me for my hen do in the first place.

And I'm grateful for all of these things too, and more besides.

So you see, it is true. Friends make you happy, fact. But I think that realising this, really being aware of it, not taking them for granted but instead being truly thankful not just for every little thing they do, but also for just being there at all, makes you even happier. Thank you.

Saturday, 10 March 2012

me and my shadow

I haven't written for a while. Probably a combination of reasons from being very busy at work after our week up North, to not really having anything very much to say. But I think there are two main reasons. One because I've been feeling a bit flat and two because I suddenly felt a bit uncomfortable about the whole blog thing, and I think the two are linked.

Here's why.

This is a blog called 'chattinghappy'. It is, generally speaking, about the pursuit of happiness. But there's a lot more to it than that.

Happiness is a sliding scale, or in fact a slippery slope, in that whilst it's possible to progress up it, it's all very easy to slip back down it again too. Obviously over time, with hard work and the right equipment it becomes easier to get to and then stay at the top. But like any other climb, you only really have any sense of where the top is if you start from somewhere near the bottom.

And that's also a big part of where this blog is coming from.

The blog is really about me and my climb up said slope. Not necessarily from the very bottom, but maybe from somewhere around a sort of happiness base camp. Maybe from a place just below the happiness base camp actually. A place where I'd pitched my own tent and made myself quite comfortable until, over time it felt like home. And then one day the wind blew away both my cosy tent but also the swirling clouds and I spotted the real base camp up ahead and realised I'd been in the wrong place for far too long.

This realisation is both uncomfortable and exciting. Full of both uncertainty and opportunity.

So far I've focused my posts on the exciting and the opportunity.  But it isn't all like that.

There is a flip side. The unnerving, uncomfortable, uncertainty bit is hard work. And scary.

As I push further and further up the slope, back towards base camp and then beyond, I'm getting a new perspective on things. I'm seeing things I hadn't seen before. Mostly this is great. But there are also things I'm discovering about myself that aren't so shadow side you could say. Every step of the way is a fantastic opportunity to find new ways, thoughts, behaviours and patterns. But only by challenging and breaking down the old ones. And you can only challenge the old habits by first discovering what they are, and examining them. This is the unraveling I have referred to on occasion, and it's actually a tricky and at times painful process to put everything about yourself under the microscope like this. You're bound to find things you don't like. And I have, plenty of them. I am clingy and needy, for example. I have low self esteem, I don't trust my own decisions and I find it hard to shake this underlying feeling of unidentified anxiety, to name a few. I've also worked out that in the past I've used things like food and shopping to numb these feelings rather than acknowledging them. But the point of this process is that now having realised what these feelings are I'm supposed to allow myself to really fully experience them, face them head on as opposed to drown them in pizza, really own and accept them, take back control of them and move a sort of "feel the fear and do it anyway" type way. It's a fine line though,  it's hard to resist slipping into old habits and obsessing over these bits, as if in peeling back the layers like this, newly formed scabs have appeared and now I just can't resist picking them! Plus there are also days when the cloud swirls back in and I wander off path a bit, there are days when I cant be bothered to try and purposefully let myself slip back a bit.

But mostly, I'm getting there, and even when I'm not, I know it's just part of the journey. And anyway, nobody said it would be easy.

There are 3 things that keep me vaguely heading in the right direction, and I can now recognise when I've gone off course because at least one of these things goes out the window:

1. Don't waste energy on things I cant change. That doesn't mean giving up, that just means accepting and letting go where relevant...accepting both that things are the way they are and that I feel the way I feel and not trying to change anything about what is, but instead taking control and choosing what to do next.

2. Keep going. Be determined. Persevere. Trust the process. The crappy bits are part of it. They're there for a reason. They're really just opportunities to put in place and practice new habits, as long as I can stay strong enough to see them as such.

3. Be honest, especially with myself. Don't bottle things up or put on a brave face. Don't ignore feelings. Speak up, even when it's uncomfortable to do so....this post being a good example.

This last one is the most important for me and has also been (nay still is) the hardest work. It's also the reason I think the blog had started to make me feel uncomfortable, because so far it wasn't necessarily wholly honest. It wasn't dishonest as such either though, it just wasn't necessarily the whole picture. I was speaking up, but only selectively. It was the smooth without the rough, the slope without the slippery bit. It was me but with no real mention of my shadow. Ok, so there's been the odd mention of a gremlin or moaning or whatever, but really, were it not for all the crappy bits, the downs and my shadow revealing all the bits that need work, none of this would be happening. There would be no need to steadily find my way back up the slope in the first place, and there would be no blog. So I think it's about time I let my shadow in on the act a little bit more.

So here's to the next chapter of 'chattinghappy', with a dash of 'chattingcrappy' thrown in for good measure!

Friday, 2 March 2012

A walk in the park

This morning we had a 2 hr company meeting in Leicester Square. When I woke up this morning I was a bit irritated by this.  Firstly because it's in Leicester Square and I don't have a travelcard and anyway I hate the tube. Secondly because it was for two hours on a busy day , and as it doesn't start until 9.30 I actually lose about 3.5 hours of my day given I normally get to work at 8.15 and blah blah blah blah.

Then I decided to try and find positives. Aside from the obvious work related ones like actually knowing what's going on from a company wide perspective.  And I realised it being in Leicester Square gave me a fantastic opportunity to go for a nice long walk. That thought alone had me out of bed in a shot. In fact I was out of bed, showered, dressed and downstairs in 15 minutes (I later discovered I had forgotten the whole makeup application thing in my haste which may in some way account for this fast turnaround!).

Why was the idea of a giant schlepp through London such a motivating factor for me? Probably sounds awful for some.

Firstly because I try to walk at least 10,000 steps a day...for health and weight reasons (and walking is proven to be one of, if not the best way of keeping both of those in check) but also cos, as previously mentioned I am not the world's greatest fan of public transport. Or any transport for that matter. It has an unfortunate habit of making me feel sick.

Secondly, because I just enjoy walking.

Thirdly because I like the space it gives me. To do whatever I want to do with that space. Think, not think, listen to music/podcasts, get away from it all. Whatever.

And finally because I love to take in my surroundings and looking at new things. I'm like a small child seeing things with glee for the first time, every time I see them, and I find mooching around on foot is a much better way of doing this than crammed up against somebody's armpit whilst whizzing about underground, or desperately trying not to vomit in a packed steamy windowed bus. It doesn't even really matter what sort of thing it  is I'm looking at, but two in particular are anything to do with 1. nature and 2. buildings, cute side streets, shops etc...both of which were going to feature heavily on my walk.

When I say nature I literally mean any nature. We can be on a train and go past a field and I will see a rabbit in the distance and yell "ooh, bunnies, look!". When we lived in London our train went past Battersea Dogs Home and I would insist on sitting on the right side of the train to look out to see if there were any dogs out playing. Every single time we went past. And it delighted me every single time I did see some. And I love anything to do with flowers. I am choosing to see this as a positive aspect of my character and not a very clear signal that I am in fact alarmingly simple.

So, off I went, feeling like I was going on a school trip, with my little rucksack on my back, and headed for Hyde Park.

I love Hyde Park. You can totally forget the choked up, frantic noisy nonsense of London is a few feet away when you're in there. I saw bluetits and parokeets, people walking their dogs ( a cute spaniel puppy followed me by accident for a bit which was extra cute), all manner of swans and ducks floating serenely on the Serpentine, people riding horses, joggers, cyclists, squirrels...I love a squirrel.  All of this made me smile until I was skipping along (not literally, although I could happily have done so at the time) with the goofiest of grins slapped all over my face.  Then a great song came on my iphone which lifted my spirits even higher. As an experiment I wanted to see if I could lift them even higher than that so tried some NLP anchoring too ...and it worked! I did have a bit of a moment when I realised I'd been so busy drifting around delighting in it all that I may not actually get to the meeting in time, but it soon passed.
other people enjoying the view too

Once out of Hyde Park the fun continued as I meandered through little side streets spotting all sorts of coffee bars and things I'd never seen before. I also stumbled upon some giant painted eggs in Green Park and discovered they were part of a big London wide treasure hunt so I started looking out for them too...I'd spotted 17 by the time I got back to the office later!

And I made it to Leicester Square in time to get my favourite skinny sugar free vanilla latte as well.

I think this demonstrates several things about happiness..for me at least:

Finding the positives did alter my mood and the way I viewed the situation, as well as giving me the motivation to get on with it

Walking is good for emotional as well as physical health (and of course the two are so linked they may as well be the same thing anyway)

Nature and outsidey type things are like a giant happy pill for me

Doing new and differernt things is good

Being more mindful and aware of our surroundings rather than just rushing through them with our heads down is so much more rewarding and sort of nourishing. London has so much stuff to look at & appreciate, if we're looking, & feeling appreciative

Egg shaped treasure hunts are fun

Coffee served by jolly people is still a winner :)

and all this before 9.30 in the morning!