Eva Bradley: Trying to be happy best trick

By Eva Bradley

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Happiness is like good health and Marmite, it's something we take for granted till it's suddenly gone.
Happiness is like good health and Marmite, it's something we take for granted till it's suddenly gone.

What is happiness? It's an awfully big question when some of you will still be struggling with "what shall I have for breakfast?", but sometimes it's best to get life's big questions out of the way so you can focus instead on Saturday sport, getting the washing on the line and deciding what movie to watch on Sky.

I don't normally pause long enough to consider things like how to be happy. Like good health and Marmite, it's something we take for granted till it's suddenly gone.

But having just returned from an epic adventure, I've had time to muse on all sorts of deep and meaningfuls, and I've also been in situations that have called into question what it is that makes us happy.

It's a given that travelling to the other side of the world will bring you happiness, right? And yet although I was having an awesome time and enjoying seeing the world and being away from the demands of work, I wasn't getting the sort of happiness hit that feeds the inner child and inspires poetry and all that jazz.

Strangely enough, that sort of happiness hit when I got home (well, maybe not the poetry bit).

As a strain of humanity, first-world peeps are a funny bunch. Never quite satisfied with the here-and-now, we are always looking across the fence at greener grass and believing that if we could only have A, B and C our happiness would be complete.

When I left for my holiday, I was over it. Over work. Over home. Over life.

I had the grungy winter blues and just wanted Europe to sort it for me. But not surprisingly, you can't escape yourself when you escape from home, and changing location doesn't necessarily change your attitude.

But as one week dripped into two, three and finally four, I realised that happiness was at home all along. It was hiding in the small unobserved moments between the things you think matter and the things that don't matter at all.

Happiness (for me) is snoozing the alarm for one more round so I can snuggle up to the warm back of the man I love. It is getting soaked by the dog when she runs out of the ocean and shakes herself dry. It is realising how lucky we are in New Zealand to live in a house with grass out front and be able to get to work without breathing recycled air in a crowded subway.

I've come back with a renewed vigour (happens after every holiday) to look at Facebook less and see my (real) friends more. But this morning I had a wee lapse and stumbled across an increasingly rare thing: something genuinely interesting and inspiring in my newsfeed.

It was an article from the Huffington Post listing the habits of supremely happy people (Google it). In the pursuit of true happiness it never said "go on an expensive holiday" and it certainly didn't say "return with five new pairs of shoes".

Among the line-up of usual suspects like "looking on the bright side" and "surrounding yourself with happy people" there were some surprisingly simple (and scientifically proven) tips on being happy; smile only when you mean it, cultivate resilience, log off, lose track of time, give more than you take and trade chit-chat for meaningful conversations.

But my personal favourite was so simple I suspect most of us would overlook it; try to be happy. Yes, folks, that's all. Studies show that if you are feeling sad, just trying to be happy will most likely do the trick. And just like we all learned at primary school, if at first you don't succeed, simply try again.

It sure is cheaper than a holiday.

- NORTHERN ADVOCATE

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