The question of happiness has come into sharp focus following the Covid era.
The pandemic, with its losses and lockdowns, forced many of us to re-evaluate our lives, reminding us that living well matters.
It’s customary at this time of year to talk about the 12 Days of Christmas.
Instead, I’m going to identify twelve ways to Happiness.
I’ll take them in six pairs.
The first pair – defined by Sigmund Freud as the two most essential ways to make you happy – is Love and Work
- Love in all its forms of family relationships and friends, and
- Work – where the more control you have over it, the happier you tend to be
Love and work: the two things that can most obviously fulfil you.
The second pair comprises
- a Garden and
The psychotherapist Oliver Sachs said that, ‘In forty years of medical practice, I have found only two types of non-pharmaceutical “therapy” to be vitally important for patients with chronic neurological diseases: music and gardens’.
Music and gardens are therapeutic in that both make you calm – a garden because it puts you in touch with nature, and music because it exposes you to harmonies and rhythm…and sometimes, oddly, the sadder the song, the happier it can make you feel.
My third pair is Food and Exercise – the pleasures of a good meal as well as the hormones released by sport, or even just the simple act of walking each day – and because in combination they are both essential to good health.
For my next pair, I choose Water and Light – again, ideally, the combined effect of both; so, for instance, the image of light rippling under bridges, swimming pools lit at night, and the effect of lamplight on wet leaves.
Pair number five: Living in the Present and New Experiences – in other words not always dwelling in the past or just saving for the future, but living and being present in the moment. And I put that with the experience of meeting new people or encountering new places because such experiences tend to make you happier than just buying or owning things.
And my final pair – a Positive Attitude, including humour, and Transcendence – the act of going outside yourself, even forgetting yourself – which for me mostly involves art and literature, but for others might comprise religion, alcohol or, drugs.
The pursuit of happiness is enshrined famously, alongside life and liberty in the United States constitution.
While of course you can pursue it, happiness is more often a side effect of being actively engaged in our lives.
Happiness tends to come when you’re not looking, in moments of inattention. It’s more likely a by-product of love and work, gardens and music, food and exercise, water and light, living in the present and new experiences, etc. rather than existing as a condition in itself.
Several of these ways to happiness we can find here tonight at our BCCI dinner. And you find almost all of them in the weekly routines of a school.
It’s one of the reasons I’m here tonight. It’s one of the reasons I feel privileged to lead a school.
We take delight in children, and children exude a sense of joy. That is no truer than at Christmas.
If I were to be cheeky and permit myself a thirteenth way to happiness, it would be to spend time in the company of children. Their energy, invention and optimism are generally infectious.
In the meantime, I wish you all happiness.
I wish you a merry Christmas.
And a very happy New Year.
Principal & CEO
- School Values