The recipe for happiness


Happiness. At this time of year, more than ever, we seem to be bombarded with ideas of happiness and told where we need to go and what we need to buy to be happy. As we strive for that elusive happy there are lots of people ready to tell us what’s missing in our lives – the things that will provide that extra bit of happiness we’ve been missing.

The Christmas ads roll out, full of smiling families all laughing merrily over their glasses of champagne and beautifully lit Christmas dinners. Is this what we need to do to be happy? Add some posh candles to the table and – hey presto! – the happiness factor is ramped up by at least ten points, supposedly.

And then there are the adverts for kids’ toys. Every one promises to make that child’s day “extra special”. Our children are told they need all this stuff to be happy. The latest Frozen toy will complete their life. All kids need an iPad or an Elsa costume to be properly fulfilled. You’re a bad parent if you can’t provide this for your kids. Shame on you – don’t you want your child to be happy?

I know as you’re reading this right now you’re probably shaking your head and thinking, “Of COURSE I know money doesn’t buy happiness”. And yes, I know you’re not stupid. But, tell me, when was the last time you saw a picture on Instagram and felt a stab of life envy? Or, if not Instagram, then Facebook, Twitter or your favourite blog or magazine? We’ve all been there. Wanting something we don’t have – whether it’s the holiday, the perfectly co-ordinated toddler outfit, the new shoes or the swanky night out in a trendy bar.

I’m no psychologist, but I watched a documentary last night that really hit home. It basically rubber stamped everything I’ve been thinking recently to do with happiness. Happy is a documentary about the science of being happy. It found, perhaps unsurprisingly, that some of the happiest people in the world are not the ones with the most money or the most stuff. Instead, they’re people who are part of thriving communities, are healthy, giving and have a vibrant network of friends and family.

The happy people in the documentary weren’t stressing about how much money they had or didn’t have. Each happy person interviewed had a different “happiness ingredient” – maybe it was being active and outdoors, or living in a communal environment, or volunteering for charity. In each and every case though, they were genuinely happy – not just putting on a happy face for the sake of a Facebook photo.

When you think about it, this is all pretty obvious stuff I guess. But, for me, it’s something I think I’d kind of lost sight of until recently. Babies can be a great reminder of the important things in life. I’ve been so caught up in looking after my little family and cuddling my new daughter I haven’t had time to fret over the inconsequential stuff.

Not being online as much has meant I’ve not been drawn into the daily blog dash over stats, or followers or work commissions. I know that it feels good to get a new commercial opportunity via my blog, or get commissioned for a new piece of work, but is it the key to happiness? No – not mine, at any rate.

Over the last week, these are the things that have made me happy:

First smiles

  • Seeing my baby smile for the first time.

Super Hero

  • Walking my daughter to school on Super Hero day and seeing how pleased she was with her distinctly home-made, average costume.

Pooh Sticks

  • Playing a family game of Pooh Sticks over a bridge on a muddy woodland walk. (I’ve just realised this photo makes it look like the baby is about to throw a stick – that’s actually her sister’s hand!)
  • Spying my husband having a special moment cuddling and chatting to our 5 week old baby.
  • Chatting to my best friend on the phone for an hour while I have a bath (she knew I was in the bath – it’s OK.)

Nothing on that list has anything to do with money, social status or winning at the internet. It’s all pretty mundane, average stuff. But it’s the stuff I will remember in years to come.

And that, for me, is the recipe for happiness. Remind me of that next time I’m getting bogged down in the inconsequential stuff.

Tell me – what makes you happy?


  1. says

    A great post and reminder. This week the things that have made me happy include lying in bed watching my belly move as pretzel kicks around, going for a walk with my one year old without the buggy, with no concept of time and splashing in every puddle we could find, chocolate cheesecake and a lay in that was actually uninterrupted! The best things in life are free (other than cheesecake)

  2. says

    I love this post Molly! Toby’s increasingly frequent giggles bring me pure joy, as did a date night with my hubby last night where I didn’t care where we were as such, I simply loved talking and talking to the man I love xx

  3. says

    A timely read! I’ve been finding myself greeting over all sorts of inconsequential things lately. I’m wondering whether I need a social media break or something. Also, I used to only look at my blog stats if someone asked for me to supply figures. Now I’m looking at them everyday. If isn’t the stuff of happiness. Thanks for the reminder.

  4. says

    The things that have made me happy this week are, watching my girls make ‘camera’s’ from cardboard boxes and then hand out hand drawn photos after taking picture of us all.

    Evening trips to the park and the climbing tree.

    Happy little faces coming out of school.

    You’re so right, it’s not stuff that makes us happy, but lovely friends and family who can make a normal day shine.

  5. says

    Oh Molly! I needed to read this. It made me happy – so I am adding you to my happy list! I am one of those people who tries desperately hard to see the good in things. I rarely feel jealousy. But one thing I do feel sad about is how bitter people can be about things, causing your happiness to become smaller. You’ve reminded me that it doesn’t really matter! I really want to watch this now. I’ve just sent Mark the link! xx

  6. Emz says

    Hiya !

    I loved this and I completely agree.
    We have honestly never been so skint, even as a student and I am loving the little challenges it brings. I really believe that even though it’s not long term. It has been a learning curve in our marriage and we have never laughed so much …. Even if claim kitchen roll is a luxury item !

    I heard a quote the other day …

    You have to suffer the rain to be able to really appreciate the rainbow !

  7. says

    I think the best things in life are always the intangible things; spending hours watching Elma and Kitty in the playground is definitely up there for me, as well as snuggles with Pip, spending time with H and just those little moments where you look around at your family and think ‘yes, this is awesome’. H and I were talking a while back about how the happiest lottery winners are the ones that give it all away – we thought we’d be happy if we won the lottery, but only because we’re happy now; winning a gazillion pounds wouldn’t change that, it might just mean we can do a few things on the want list not the need list, but that’s all – which may be why we rarely buy tickets!!

  8. says

    Thanks for the happiness reminder, you’re 100% right. Some of the things that have made me happy recently are watching my son develop little relationships with his friends and seeing how happy he is to see them at school. Having random chats and laughs with the man I love about nothing in particular but just enjoying each others company. Also feeling the baby move around in my tummy, I’ll miss that feeling when the baby is born. x

  9. Ghislaine Forbes says

    Remember yours and your sister’s favourite game and over riding childhood memory? Bucking bronco! No cost apart from making the sitting room a mess with cushions galore on the floor to create a soft landing and your ma’s broken back! love ma x

  10. says

    Hard to get out of the obsession with money unless you happen to be lucky enough to not have to worry about it isn’t it? But as long as you pay your bills then creating memories with your kids is much more important.

    • says

      You’re very right. That documentary was an interesting one though – a huge number of the wealthy people surveyed expressed lower levels of happiness compared to the people with very little money. Just shows that in many cases, even if you have lots of money, it’s still not deemed as “enough” because of the our culture of wanting more and more all the time.

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