Willing To Be

Can You Simply Choose to be Happy? RTE’s New Show Thinks it Has the Recipe for Happiness ¶ March 19

Can You Simply Choose to be Happy? RTE’s New Show Thinks it Has the Recipe for Happiness

Forget all those cookery shows with Rachel Allen telling us to set our ahvens to 120 degrees, because last night RTE gave us a TV show, ‘How to be Happy’, that promised to give us the recipe for happiness. As a nation, our collective ahven timers went ‘ping!’ at the thought of such a ready meal of joy.

As presenter and psychologist Dr Maureen Gaffney will tell you, it’s hard work being happy. And as a race we do seem to distrust anyone who is overtly happy the majority of the time, so that will make their happy lives even harder.

See, Dr Gaffney believes that people can build a better sense of well-being and meaning to their lives by consciously working and spending time on it. She even explained her nifty little mathematical formula that adds up to happiness – 50% DNA, 10% life circumstance and that leaves 40% that falls within our control.

She reckons that there is little we can do about the first 50%, it’s all in the genes and changing those in-built dispositions is a big task. If  both your parents see the  glass of Club Orange as being half-empty, then you are up against it. And surprisingly life circumstances only accounted for 10% of our happiness, and that includes all the big hitters like job, marriage, career, house etc.

So this show believes that 40% is in our hands, and the bottom line is all about increasing positivity.

‘How to be Happy’ involved holding a series of workshops to demonstrate practical skills to increase happiness. And while some of the tasks completed by the happy guinea-humans had my toes curling up in a rigor mortis of cringe (the fella floating down the river whooping and hollering for one), others seemed like damn good ideas.

We know that mindfulness is the new buzz word and it’s all about just being aware of what you are paying attention to. Negative observations get first call on our attention so we need to focus the mind on good, nourishing-for-the-soul things – it’s a beautiful day, everyone is healthy, I have an ice cream as big as my head, I am not the England physio who fell over a bottle and dislocated my ankle and now look like a bit of an idiot. She suggests making a gratitude list once a week, thinking of five good things in your life (she also suggested writing a letter of gratitude to someone but this is a step too far along the zen path for me).

And there was more maths – a ratio of three positive things to one negative in your life will keep you on an even keel but a ratio of five to one will help you, as she says, ‘flourish’. For many of us. that’s not an easy balance to achieve. Other tips included being close to nature, spending ‘treat’ money on friends instead of yourself, appreciating the little things that your other half does, practising meditation – all things that go into your positive bucket.

I am a fan of yoga (particularly restorative which I refer to as blanket yoga – it involves napping, and that’s what I call exercise) and that is certainly my weekly balancing act for both mind and body. Exercise, spending time with friends and family, and getting enough sleep are my holy happiness trinity.

RTÉ Television - Programmes - Factual - How To Be Happy
Well-known psychologist Dr. Maureen Gaffney enjoyed great success with her ...
For How To Be Happy Maureen invited people from across the country to join ...

And one other thing made me joyful - Pharrell Williams’ ‘Happy’ did not feature once in the show. (And if anyone would like me to help them by being the friend on which they spend their ‘treat’ money, I’d be more than, eh, happy to help out.)

So I’m interested to know what you think, did you see the show last night? Do you think that you can you simply choose to be happy? As a society, do we undervalue the concept of happiness? And what keeps you positive and balanced? To the comments!


15 Replies to "Can You Simply Choose to be Happy? RTE’s New Show Thinks it Has the Recipe for Happiness"

  • I have to say I have very mixed feelings about the programme last night. I think there is a lot of value in what Dr. Gaffney is saying, yes it can be worth it to take some time to think about things in your life that you are grateful for, and meditation has been shown to affect brain structure.

    However, I think that the over-emphasis on happiness and obtaining happiness can be quite dangerous, especially in the way it was presented in the programme which was more in a sense of pleasurable emotions. I think we have a range of emotions for a reason; often people develop so much more as a result of difficulties, failure and emotions that are basically unpleasant. I think the ability to reflect on difficult times and learn from them is far more important that trying to obtain happiness.

    Having said that, when feeling a bit down develops into a serious depression then I think there is great value in positive psychology. I just don’t agree with the messages we are receiving; you can always be happy, you should be happy. Sometime’s we’re not, and that’s ok too. It’s all about trying to reach a balance. That’s just my two cents! There’s no one fits all solution to trying to get by in life as best you can.

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