We are all in hot pursuit of happiness.
As I mentioned earlier, I've been doing some editing work for a psychology centre. It's not your standard type of shrink's office. It's a positive psychology centre and it's devoted to "the science of happiness", which sounded a bit new-agey to me when I heard it, but the ideas at its heart are deeply important.
As a depression sufferer, I know what it's like to feel as though happiness is unattainable. As though my life is without purpose. As though I'm wasting my time by simply getting up in the mornings. And, as an atheist, I don't have the comfort of "God will provide" or the threat of "suicides will burn". So I know how easy it is just to forget how to smile.
It's been a while since I've written properly about mental health. Last year I focused on treatments for depression for a while, but naturally as I've recovered I haven't wanted to dwell on it. (Yeah, shush, this is me in non-depressive mode. I will never be a kiddy show host, but at least now I don't cry every day.)
So, reading about the psychology of happiness has inspired me to take a new look at mental health. There are lots of things that are believed to improve our happiness, but it's worth taking a closer look. If you trust your intuition to guide you to happy, you may find yourself shockingly wrong. In a 2004 TED talk, Dan Gilbert asked his audience which situation would make them happier: winning the national lottery or becoming a paraplegic. I mean, which would you pick? He then showed them the real data. One year after winning the lottery or one year after becoming paraplegic, people's reported happiness is exactly the same.
Click through to watch the whole talk if you've got a spare twenty minutes, but otherwise simply know this: happiness is not about luck. Happiness is the best way to feel about what life presents to us. And if we don't have to live charmed lives to be happy, then surely we can create our own happiness, no matter what our circumstances.
I'm gonna write more, but it's crazy late now. Watch this space, my darlings.