I’m a bit of a pessimist. A ‘glass half-empty’ kind of girl. I often expect the worst, and am frequently chasing whatever I think will make me happy. For example, “I’ll be really happy when the summer arrives and winter’s over” and then, “I hate the city in the summer, I can’t wait for it to be over so that I can wrap up warm and celebrate Christmas”. Always chasing. Waiting to reach the other side where the grass will undoubtedly be greener.
My colleague Nana has the most beautiful smile. When I arrive at the office in the morning, one look from her can lift my spirits no end. Nana’s an optimist. A ‘glass half-full’ kind of girl. I’ve been trying to reflect more during Lent and when I decided to write a blog on International day of Happiness as part of my Hope Journal, I asked Nana to describe what happiness means to her and how she maintains her sunny disposition.
This is what she told me:
“I was born in June so I’m meant to be a sunshine happy person. It doesn’t mean that I beam my sunny smile 24/7 – there’s much in life that can get me down – but I do look for glimmers of happy light to help me overcome those moments.
“I’m a morning person, I automatically wake at 6am and I love that beautiful morning light and the near silence before the rush hour traffic gets going. I check the sky, but no matter the weather I’m happy. If it’s pouring with rain, it’s good for the garden, flowers will grow and birds will pull up juicy fat worms. If it’s snowing, I’ll be a big kid and have a go at sledging down Hilly Fields, our local park. If it’s a hot summer’s day, I’m in my element, welcoming the warm caress of its rays.
“My spirits feel truly lifted by the very small things that enter my life and disappear just as quickly, like saying good morning to a stranger on my way to work, or stopping to help someone out if they look lost. Receiving a text message from someone I haven’t heard from in a while and making arrangements to meet up.
“Happiness isn’t about thinking yourself ‘happier’ it’s simply about what we do and how we behave”.
Nana’s words encourage me to live in the now, to find happiness in the small magical moments which take place each day and to reflect on the things that have brought me happiness throughout my life.
When I was child I found happiness in most things: spending summer evenings clambering all over our rusty old climbing frame and playing cops and robbers with my brother and our friends; getting lost in the worlds created by my favourite writers; devouring big bowls of buttery pasta – the only food I’d eat. It’s terrible to say, but I even relished the role of annoying little sister and found great joy in winding up my brother.
Today I feel happy that I was able to live out my childhood years in a safe environment and think of all the children across the world who have had to grow up far too quickly. I think of all the children who are unable to play with friends because there is conflict on their doorsteps, who go to bed hungry each night, who would love to read but can’t afford to go to school.
I may not be as carefree as I was when I was a child, but I still have much to be happy for:
1. I have my health and I know that if anything happened I could call an ambulance and be at my local hospital and in the capable hands of a doctor in a matter of minutes. That’s not true for everyone though. I learnt something shocking this week – there are three doctors to every 100,000 people in Sierra Leone, I can barely even comprehend that figure.
2. I live on a beautiful island on an incredible planet. But what felt eternal is changing. Climate Change is threatening our rolling hills and stunning beaches and is already pushing the poorest communities deeper into poverty.
3. I am free. To travel, to vote however I wish in elections, to practice any religion and to speak my mind.
4. I work for an organisation supported by some of the most inspiring and dedicated women, men and children from across England and Wales. The tireless fundraising and campaigning efforts of our young supporters have really brought a smile to my face this Lent.
5. I am surrounded by family and friends: Marcel Proust pretty much summed up perfectly what I’d like to say here: “Let us be grateful to the people who make us happy; they are the charming gardeners who make our souls blossom”.
This International Day of Happiness, why not write out a list of five reasons you can be happy, or make small gestures to make your friends and family happy. As Blessed Mother Teresa said, “Every time you smile at someone, it is an action of love, a gift to that person, a beautiful thing”.