I’ve got better at spotting little moments of everyday happiness. A nice cup of coffee, a pretty flower. I think of them as being a bit like butterflies fluttering past. I try and catch them in a net and appreciate them.
But is there more to happiness than this? Shouldn’t it be just as much about doing as it is about thinking? After all, when was the last time a cup of coffee made you laugh?
A couple of weeks ago I went to Stylist Live, an annual event packed with workshops and talks led by inspiring women. One session really stood out – the Happiness workshop in the W channel Life Lab. Here’s how it looked in the programme:
It sounded completely perfect. It was led by Rachel Le Feuvre of Reset Button, a former creative director who gave it all up to pursue happiness and contentment. I thought it’d be more of what I’d heard and enjoyed before. Being mindful, appreciative… you know the drill. Useful, worthy stuff.
But Rachel’s advice was actually about so much more than that and really made me sit up and take notice. Rachel opened her workshop with their words, happiness is a verb not a noun. That in order to feel better we need to physically do happiness in the everyday, not just look for it. It wasn’t just about taking a photo of a pretty flower and appreciating its beauty, it was about pulling the bloody thing up by its roots and jumping up and down with joy about it.
What does this mean? Basically, it means smiling and laughing. If I’d read the description of the workshop properly I’d have noticed it said it was about flexing our happiness muscle. Which meant laughing and being silly in front of other people. The workshop wasn’t for the faint hearted. If I’d know what was involved I probably wouldn’t have signed up. But I’m so glad I did.
Rachel put on her happiness cape (yes, really), and we stood as a group and created some happiness. You know how yawning is catching? Well, it turns out smiling is too. We watched our smiles fill the room and played silly, childish games. Even if you didn’t really feel like smiling at first, Rachel’s enthusiasm was infectious. Before long I was grinning like the Cheshire cat. Which is pretty unusual for me. My default expression is definitely a frown.
It felt good. Smiling and laughing creates endorphins. Deep down I already knew this, but it’s funny how often I forget it. Being thankful and mindful can often feel a little worthy and, let’s be honest, requires effort. But how difficult is to to use your muscles to smile? You don’t need to download an app to guide you through it. You just do it. And it feels good.
We pranced about, clapped our hands and created some happiness. It sounds silly, and it was. It was childlike, and not at all cool. But children are usually the happiest people around, so they’re a pretty good model to follow, aren’t they? We ended the workshop with a little light meditation, standing quietly like trees, our roots spreading into the ground.
I walked out of the workshop feeling happy. And the next day I remembered to flex those muscles again. When I looked in the mirror on Monday morning, I clapped my hands together and chanted happiness, happiness, happiness… yeah! Yes, I probably sounded silly. Did I care? No. There wasn’t anyone there to judge, expect myself. Of course, we are our own worst critics. But actually I like seeing myself smiling for a change.
So, that’s what I learnt from Rachel. Not how to smile, we all know how to do that. But to remember that smiling feels good. And it makes others feel good too.
I still want to be mindful, to pause and let my thoughts float away. I also want to carry on appreciating the beauty in the everyday. But from now on I also want to embrace the simple, unadulterated joy of smiling. Smiling leads to laughing… and laughing leads to taking life less seriously. And that has to be a good thing.
So, what do you think? Does a simple smile have the potential to change your day for the better? I’d love to know your thoughts.
Thank you to W, who invited me to Stylist Live and gave me the chance to take part in such a wonderful workshop.