Nicola Mostyn finds happiness in unusual places

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Dear reader,

When life gives you lemons, do you suck them? Is the glass not merely half empty but lying in shards under your bare feet? Do you believe that life is nasty, brutish and short? (And are you sure you’re not getting life confused with your ex -husband?) What I’m trying to say is – are you a bit miserable?

Yes? Good. This month’s column will be very useful, as it contains five pathways to happiness, brought to you by the wisdom of ages aka a quick squiz on the internet.

It is frequently claimed that a person is a reflection of their five closest friends, which might explain why on an average day you feel like a functioning alcoholic, a vegan health warrior, a modern day Pollyanna, a real life Malcolm Tucker and an entire season of The Wire. This is no good. For greater joie de vivre, weed out any negative influences until your quintet is a jolly, plucky bunch of optimistic go-getters. You know, like the Famous Five (except not racist).

If you dislike confrontation it might just be easier to move to Switzerland, which, according to the 2015 World Happiness Report, is the happiest place in the world. And why wouldn’t it be? They’re rich, their average lifespan is 82 years, and they have all that chocolate. Let’s move there immediately! If you fear the benefits of relocating to the world’s happiest country might be negated by the stressful act of moving house, then simply recreate the experience of Swiss life by building a nuclear bunker, never mowing your lawn on a Sunday, only buying guinea pigs in pairs and refusing point blank to take either side in an argument.

Alternatively, imagine it’s your last day on earth. There’s really nothing like the thought of one’s imminent demise to really bring into focus what really matters, and reports from the frontline suggest that it’s not that new tasselly suede jacket you’ve got your eye on. Rather, among other regrets, dying people often wish they’d worked less and been more true to themselves. Achieve both of these aspirations in one stroke by telling your boss that you’ve always felt, from the very bottom of your heart, that he’s a gigantic berk.

You should also laugh more. Babies laugh far more than adults, and look how happy they are. Though of course, they don’t have mortgages and jobs to worry about, the jammy little beggars. Still, studies have proven that laughter helps you relax, improves sleep, reduces stress levels and strengthens relationships with friends (provided you’re not laughing at their new haircut). If you struggle to get your daily allotment of chuckles, just start laughing apropos of nothing. Do it while reading this column. Go on. I won’t mind.

And if none of the above work? Then just accept that you’re unhappy. We Brits used to pride ourselves on being consummate moaners, and it’s only an influx of Americanism that has caused us to believe that we’re failures if we’re not bursting with positivity at all times. So forget “fake it to make it” and, instead, embrace your inner Grinch. Get under the duvet, watch a Lars von Trier film, eat your own bodyweight in Jaffa Cakes and wallow in an almighty sulk. You might find that, before long, you’re actually rather enjoying yourself.


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