Dr Airdre Grant
Dr Airdre Grant

If you cannot be happy, try playful

THERE was a time in my life when I had a housemate who was relentlessly cheerful, every day, all day and most of all in the morning.

He would bound up the stairs with a wide smile on his face, and enthusiastically greet us, a motley crew, glowering over our Weet-Bix and sullenly eating toast.

He was unfazed by anything.

The world was always brilliant.

His life was brilliant.

Breakfast was brilliant.

Sometimes a flatmate would be heard to mutter 'I am going to strangle him'.

But isn't this ungracious? Isn't cheery better than grumpy?

Which brings me to notions of happiness.

If it is defined as pleasure, positive emotion and feelings of success, then it's all about the context.

Not every place in the world venerates happiness as a life goal.

There are different cultural values that shape how happiness is thought about.

In the US there is a belief that happiness is everyone's right.

This is a society which supports the triumph of the individual.

Other cultures derive a sense of happiness through belief in the importance of social harmony, community and belonging.

A Google engineer, Chade-Meng Tan, wrote a few years ago about the "scientifically proven” secret of happiness and how to gain it in three easy steps.

Here they are:

1. Calm your mind

2. Log moments of joy

3. Wish other people to be happy

So simple.

Thank you Mr Google engineer.

There's another method towards happiness that resonates with me and it is this - Scottish doctors in Shetland have been authorised to prescribe nature to their patients.

Get outside they say, walk, bird watch, be in nature.

This is called ecotherapy.

It's a remedy for

nature deficit disorder, which happens when people and children in particular, are deeply disconnected from the natural world.

In Australia there are programs like Bush Adventure Therapy and programs where wild kids are taken out of the city and put with dogs or horses or around a campfire or all of those things as a strategy to bring them back to their good, happier selves.

In Shetland, doctors distribute a nature prescription calendar that has a list of things to do each month to put you back in touch with the healing power of the natural world.

It includes suggestions such as go outside and feel the wind/rain/sun on your face, borrow a dog and take it for a walk, don't mow the lawn and see what moves in, hunt for treasure, look under a rock, make a daisy chain, follow a bumblebee - you get the gist.

This may seem childlike, but so what?

I can't come at relentless cheerfulness, but I do love playfulness.

So more of that and less of the serious stuff please.

So if anyone wants to know where I am, look outside.

I am likely to be cloud gazing, one of my all-time favourite activities.


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