Happiness – The Key to Life?

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As every new year rolls in with a bang (aka NYE), thereby begins the lists of things you want to achieve, things you want to change and the inventible list of things that you want to forget. Life isn’t perfect, you’re not perfect, nor am I for that matter. With December in full swing, these lists from the previous January get the cobwebs blown off and a sense of urgency attached to them. What have you managed to achieve, to change and to forget?

What is it about the classic New Year’s Resolution List? According to a YouGov survey the top 3 New Year’s Resolutions are to lose weight, get fitter and eat more healthily. These are all pretty common things, that indicate a lot of us have issues with how we look. But, why do we feel the need to categorise our aspirations for the new year into a generic list (as let’s be honest, we’ve all said the ‘new year, new me’ phrase one too many times). I wonder whether the habitual process of creating a New Year’s Resolution list allows us to try to put the chaoticness and unpredictability of life into something concrete, in the sense of ‘this is what will happen next year’. This begs the question of – why aren’t we satisfied with our current lives or selves? Why do we have this itching need to improve?

Many years ago, it was a hot summer’s evening in the South of France. I was sitting round a table filled with close family and friends. We had just finished a delicious meal, the wine was flowing and lit by the candle light one of my parent’s friend’s through this question out to the group – “Where do you want to be in 10 years time”. Silence.

This was one of those impossible questions that took the wind out of everyone. It forced us all to examine our lives, our values and what was important to us. It forced us to think of that one this we wanted in our lives. It forced us to predict the future; which no one can do.

I can’t for the life of me remember what I said. But, I do remember what one of my friends said. He said five simple words, that have stayed with me ever since – “I want to be happy”. It summed up exactly what everyone yearns for and aims for (the ultimate New Year’s Resolution in my mind). Yet, many don’t actually cherish this simple thing.

So, stop for a second and answer this simple question – ‘Are you happy?’.

I asked myself this question and truly didn’t know how to answer. ‘Happy’ is one of those words that is nearly impossible to quantify. The word is thrown around in everyday language, whether it be in greetings or songs. The synonyms of the word ‘happy’ are content or cherished and again these are hard to quantify, just like any emotion. But, I did know that it was impossible to be happy 24/7; as you need to experience the other emotions to be able to realise and cherish when a moment of happiness comes along.

The physical emotion of happiness is expressed physically through smiling. On average we smile 400 times a day. Seeing as a smile could last from a second to a couple a minutes – so that’s a lot of happiness in one day. Given that, I can safely say that the happiness in my life outweighed the other emotions. So, yes (in short) I am happy.

Reflecting on this anecdote, I feel the ultimate aim is to be happy in life. It implies that you are confident in yourself and what you’ve achieved in life. Happiness comes in all shapes and forms; whether it stems from laughing with a friend, eating that chocolate brownie that is calling your name or doing something that makes you smile. It’s easily discovered; but just as easily neglected. So, next time you have a moment that makes you smile, embrace it, hold into the moment that makes you happy and cherish that feeling.

December is the last month of the year. Take this time to reflect on the year and contemplate whether you were actually happy for most of it. Maybe it’s time to stop madly trying to achieve those classic New Years Resolutions from the previous year; but focus on that one simple thing of being ‘happy’. Maybe, spending the remainder of December focussing on being happy, will let you start the new year afresh?

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Deputy Editor 2016 -2017.
I'm a Geography student here at Southampton. Also, an avid adventurer; who is always up for discovering somewhere whether it's new or old.

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