Can we afford the luxury of happiness in a recession?

Times are hard. Can we really afford to focus on happiness during a recession? Shouldn’t we be knuckling down and tightening our belts, putting on a brave face until things get better?

To think this way is to equate happiness with comfort and prosperity, a common mistake in our capitalist culture. For decades advertisements have bombarded us with images of smiling, popular people whose happiness was associated with commercial products.

Now that we can’t afford to buy so much, it’s time to look for fulfilment in other areas. Noticing the beauty in nature; appreciating the goodness in one another; enjoying helping and being helped by others.

As an affluent society, we became increasingly individualistic. We could pay strangers to take care of a multitude of tasks for us, giving the illusion that we were independent – that we didn’t need each other. In poorer societies, people have to rely on their families and communities to get things done. You’re less likely to ignore your neighbours if you never know when you might need their help.

It feels good to be independent and for many of us it brings a sense of achievement. Having to turn to turn to friends or family for help can feel demeaning and shameful. But the downside of independence is isolation; and the upside of asking for help is a stronger sense of connection and belonging.

I believe one of the benefits of the recession will be that communities, families and friendships will be strengthened through doing things for one another. Life may be less comfortable, but it’s a chance to strengthen social bonds, value more important things and become happier at a more meaningful level.

Tips to cheer yourself up

Today I’m going to share 15 tips for cheering yourself up when you’re feeling down. But first, a word of caution. They can only work if you truly want to be cheered up, and believe you deserve it.

Often we harbour secret beliefs that prevent us from allowing happiness into our lives. Beliefs like: I don’t deserve happiness; I shouldn’t be happy because so-and-so isn’t ; or even: It’s so-and-so’s fault I’m unhappy and I want to show just how miserable they’ve made me. (If you’re struggling with beliefs like these, please contact me for suggestions.)

Cheering yourself up is taking responsibility for your own wellbeing. It means that however difficult your circumstances right now, you know you will cope better by being kind to yourself.

With that mindset, you’ll no doubt think up many ideas of your own, but here are some starters:

1) Music that expresses how you feel – sad, angry or loud.
2) Peaceful or cheerful music to lift your mood.
3) An absorbing book or movie to take your mind off things.
4) A funny movie to make you laugh.
5) Look up jokes on the net.
6) Go for a ‘mindful walk’, noticing your surroundings.
7) Try a new recipe – something exotic and spicy.
8) Contact an old friend.
9) Get some exercise – especially if you don’t feel like it!
10) Write a thank you card to someone who’s helped you in the past.
11) Draw or paint, experiment with colour.
12) Make the most of the sun whenever it shines on these winter days.
13) Bring nature indoors – rocks, leaves, wildflowers – and enjoy the beauty.
14) Go to the beach, even if it’s cold.
15) Spend time with children and let them decide on the activity.