18 ways to get your happy fix (and not be a prick)

Today, according to the calendar of made up events that have no cultural or historical relevance is International Day of Happiness. But unlike all the ‘Grab a Dirty Burger’ or ‘Give Your Dog a Hug’ type days that seem to be sprouting from the earth at an increasing rate, this one has the Dalai Lama as patron, which gives it extra whack and boom in my book. You can bet your last copper Pharell Williams and his little dungaree-wearing chums are behind it too. 

So assuming you’re one of those can’t-get-enough-of-that-joy-malarkey types (because, let’s face it: WHO’S ISN’T?), I’m going to suggest we all embrace the concept because, as I’ve said before, I’m a massive advocate of doing what you love. So after you’ve treated yourself to that large 99, a second third glass of rosé, a shag, maybe a few YouTube clips of ‘foxes doing the funniest things’, I want you to consider giving back. Because, and I’m sure the Main Guy would back me up on this, doing nice things for others makes YOU happy by default.

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Human compassion is so now. Last week, I shared a story on the Facebook page about a regular woman who quietly bought a fellow traveller a plane ticket for his toddler when he hadn’t realised he’d needed one and couldn’t afford the inflated cost at the gate. How bloody lovely. I got something in my eye when I read it, and I wasn’t the only one to be moved judging by the number of ‘shares’ and ‘likes’ it got thereafter. Equally, last week’s Case File featuring Syreeta Challenger (amazing woman who put her career on hold to become her partner’s carer after he’d had a stroke) got an wonderful response too. Doing good shit for others: we can’t get enough of it. Probably because we’re all such givers ourselves, right?

Well. Hmm… When subsequent internet faffing lead me to a study based on how kind we rank ourselves (conducted by Goldsmiths University) it was a sobering moment. Unsurprisingly perhaps, it found that most people (98%, in fact) pitted themselves in the ‘nicest’ 50 percent of the population. As I would, truth be told: Thoughtful Theodora, that’s me. But when the volunteers were then asked follow-up questions, such as: ‘did you willingly let a car merge into your lane during your last journey?’ or ‘do you give blood?’ a chilling draft filled the room. Recalling how I’d earlier got right up to the bumper of a learner driver (what a cow) rushing Little B to her dance class, and doing mental sums of how many years (17) I’ve been MEANING to give blood, I climbed down from my ivory tower and had a word with myself. I had excuses – but so did the people in the test when confronted with the bitter reality that they weren’t quite as nice as they thought they were. ‘Too busy’ was cited in the defence of many, but really? Surely there’s no excuse for being a dick. ‘Manners don’t cost anything’ as the universally practiced primary school mantra goes.

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‘Could do better’ is what I came away thinking after that. I can and I will. But how about you? I’m not going to ask about your place on the scale, but do take a look at the list below (a list that takes inspiration from the Goldsmith’s study) and consider how many of the random acts of thoughtfulness you can implement today because, I promise, someone somewhere will benefit even if you don’t see the result. Like me, you’re probably nice enough; but could you be a teeny-weeny bit blinded by your own wonder? Look at it this way: is making a monthly payment to the NSPCC, or routinely giving your seat to a pregnant lady sufficient if you can’t be arsed to put your trolley back properly or pick up the empty crisp packet blowing around your street?

It’s easy to coo over stories about other people who put warm, fuzzy stuff through our pulmonary arteries, so why not BE that person? Giving and receiving: it all tickles the same pleasure receptors. So spread a little happiness today and, when doing so, think of it like Nutella rather than Marmite: lay it on thick. Even if you’re in a rush. Especially if you’re in a rush. Getting where you need to be a fraction quicker by making everyone else’s life a misery in the process is not a win to salute.

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Going back to Pharell for a second, when he addressed the UN in 2015 he said ‘happiness should be a birthright’. Who wouldn’t agree with that? But, as he was speaking on behalf of those not afforded the ‘luxury’, it’s even more of a reminder to put in what you take out. So do it today. Sprinkle a bit of extra glitter on someone else’s patch; you don’t need an army of goggle-eyed, dungaree-wearing creatures to contribute, it really is easier than you think.

I know you’re an extremely nice person and all, but could you just, um, maybe…

1. Leave a couple of tins of tuna in the food bank at your local supermarket (instead of meaning to, forgetting, ‘planning to do it next time’ and forgetting again?)

2. Give the homeless bloke outside Greggs a sausage roll (better still, a gift-card and some gloves)

3. Let someone with less items in there trolley jump the queue…

4. …then bump your trolley back in the chain at the depot, not just left scrappily

5. Offer help to someone clearly struggling with directions

6. Give blood

7. Let not just one but two cars out of a gridlocked junction

8. Say ‘Happy Birthday’ to someone you’d normally only say it to on Facebook with a card

9. Mentor someone with less experience – in life or professionally

10. Put your phone away when you’ve got company

11. Always call back. Even if you no longer need the dinner reservation/dental appointment/carpet quote

12. Not interrupt someone when you’re desperate to make your much more important point

13. Talk to the shy person

14. Call in to check on an elderly neighbour

15. Sponsor someone’s 5K race (when they aren’t you’re immediate friend) and you haven’t spoken to them in years

16. Leave a positive comment on a blog post or a news story you’ve enjoyed

17. Take back your tray, wipe up your spills and dispose of your rubbish at your local coffee shop/food court

18. Always say ‘thank you’. For Everything. Even if there’s nobody around to thank.

#Happinessday #InternationalDayOfHappiness #ChooseHappiness #MakeItHappy

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Lyndsey Gilmour

Lyndsey Gilmour is an entertainment and lifestyle journalist. She's also a wife, mother, daughter, sister, friend, feminist and ex-procrastinator.

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