Last year, when I had time to kill on long bus rides and solitary walks through large cities, I did a lot of thinking. One of the topics that came to my mind often was the subject of happiness. I wondered, “What things really make us happy?”
Naturally happiness is a combination of many factors including emotional and physical health, socialising and our relationships with others, our perceived value in our professional lives as well as in society and where we’re at against our personal goals and expectations. However, it is often the little things that brighten our day and boost our ego. Those little things that make us smile, make us feel content and satisfied. Often they may be trivial but send us into a whirlwind of joy as they accumulate and breed more happy situations.
I decided to make a list of 13 things that bring me happiness and figure out ways to make them more prominent every day, week, month, year:
1) Sunshine: It’s simple….grey skies get most of us down! And Vitamin D does us a whole lot of good. So, it’s good to get 15 minutes of sunlight a day, and if you’re not, then invest in some Vitamin D capsules.
2) Health & fitness: Feeling and looking good is instrumental to happiness, so in 2011 I’ve set myself the goal of increased fitness. I’m good at bouts of exercise but consistency is my downfall so I’ve set myself the obligation of walking at least 30 minutes a day, as a bare minimum.
3) Music: Whether it be rock, disco, 80’s power ballads, jazz, drum n bass or (some) pop, there’s always the right tune for every situation. I jog to music, travel with music, dance to music and socialise to music. I love hearing new sounds so one of the sites I joined this year is noisetrade.com, which regularly sends out free samples from emerging artists for downloading.
4) Learning about the world: I like reading the news, learning about history and discovering the meaning of things. Books, people and the Internet make this possible. Some of the sites I check often are smh.com.au, nzherald.co.nz, stuff.co.nz and bbc.co.uk.
5) Good food and wine: Healthy(ish), tasty treats* washed down with a glass of Barossa Valley Shiraz or Malbec from Mendoza make me very happy. I’ve savoured black pudding in Ireland, deep-dish pizza in Chicago, sashimi in Japan and deep-fried scorpion in China. Probably won’t repeat the last one, but it was still fun to try. *And dark chocolate.
6) Being connected: Twitter became a big part of my life while I was travelling last year. I shared tips, received tips, and even met several of my Twitter friends in person. I enjoy communicating with my tweeps and sharing thoughts and learning new things. I also like to maintain my friendships with people around the world that I care about, so I dedicate time to write emails and stay in touch.
7) Flowers: I’ve never been big on these but last year I noticed how I’d slow down to look at pretty flowers, or bend down to smell the roses. I still don’t know if it’s the colours or the scents, but I know that they brighten my day. Buying myself flowers to put in a vase every few weeks doesn’t have to be expensive.
8) Expanding my skills: In the past I’ve dabbled in painting, travel-writing, photography, singing and dance classes. This year I want to do a graphic design course and get back into playing music. Learning new practical skills is important because it gives the grey matter a workout, and also keeps me in the loop with skills that might be useful in the future.
9) Art: I love my small art “collection”. It may not be worth much because most of it was created by unknown artists but I didn’t buy them as investment items. I enjoy looking at the different pieces and remembering the places where I bought them. A handy tip is to buy a set of similar-looking arty postcards and mounting them in the same frame.
10) Things that smell nice: It makes every difference in the world to have your morning shower with something vibrant and quality rather than whatever’s on special at the supermarket. It’s not the most economical choice but one that I’m prepared to compromise on. This also goes for perfumes, candles, room sprays and body lotions. I love anything vanilla and just discovered that at work, they clean the fridge out with vanilla essence once a week. Yum!
11) Markets: The sounds, sights and smells that markets bring are unique. I like the early morning freshness, the home-baked goods and original crafts, not to mention the people-watching. My favourite Auckland markets are La Cigalle in Parnell and my favourite in the world are the Pike Place markets in Seattle. I look forward to hunting down lots of weekend markets in Sydney, too!
12) Photography: Capturing an image something I really enjoy – there’s an immense amount of satisfaction when you look at an image that captures a certain expression and evokes an emotional response. I have an SLR for travel and special events, and a compact that I carry everywhere in case of a good photo opportunity.
13) Travel: Pretty much the culmination of all the other points. I’ve moved to a new country and city so plenty of new places to explore!
Honourable mention: Sleep. Love it, need more of it, but more often than not I’d rather sacrifice a few hours of sleep in order to enjoy one of the above.
What are the top things on your happiness list, and how can you make them more prominent in your everyday life?