Three steps to happiness - but who needs them?

Hunter Davies
Sunday 23 October 2011 01:03

I AM deeply unhappy today - not to say disgusted - because of Scotland's defeat. England were so jammy. Two chances; two goals. Just not fair. I am also unhappy about the cracks in the ceiling and the state of the brickwork at the back of the house. I am unhappy with Deutsch, the publisher, which has been late bringing out a book of mine.

But I was dead happy last week when I won pounds 1,000 on the Premium Bonds.

Are you happy? Clap your hands. There, that's simple enough. Happiness for a baby is a warm bum. Happiness for a starving man is a warm tum. Happiness for a hunter, with a small "h", is a warm gun. All very straightforward. But do you always recognise it at the time? Or is it only when you look back and recollect it in tranquillity, as Wordsworth should have said?

Happiness and unhappiness come short term and long term. I will get over Scotland's defeat, especially if they do well on Wednesday. By not looking up at the ceiling I will go on, happily. Till it falls down. But, hey! I've already got pounds 1,000 towards its repair.

It's in the long, or longish term, that we all hope for happiness. Alexander Pope said it was "virtue alone" that brings happiness on Earth, which many agreed with back in the 18th century, but most of us today would consider cobblers. We all hate virtuous people. Such as Kevin Keegan. If he chunters on any more about his brilliant lads, I'll scream.

Epicurus listed several things needed for happiness, such as friends and economic self-sufficiency, both still pretty desirable today. He didn't mean money, not as such. More the ability to do without money, by living in a commune, or off the land. Not many of us want to do that.

Among my top three requirements for a reasonably happy life today I would definitely put money, real money. It's five years this weekend since the National Lottery began and we now have 850 millionaires - 95 per cent of them very happy indeed. It's a myth that money leads to unhappiness, but the tabloids subscribe to it, featuring only lottery-winners who have come to grief. In a way, that is meant to make the rest of us feel a bit happier - as compensation for not winning.

Dr Johnson knew the value of money, as he knew the value of most things. "Resolve not to be poor. Poverty is a great enemy to human happiness." Too true, squire. Money won't make you happy, but it does decrease the ways in which you can be unhappy.

Second, I would put work. I do find that I grow miserable when I have no work. I don't have to be actually doing it - I may be putting it off, moaning about it - but I love having work I'm supposed to do. I feel awfully happy when I get to the end of a day having done a bit of work, however small, however crap I may decide it is. Otherwise I feel I don't deserve a drink, or a flop.

Not everyone would put work among their top three requirements, but I think most people would put activity. Which is roughly, but not quite, the same thing.

"To fill the hour, that's happiness," wrote Ralph Waldo Emerson. I wouldn't quite go along with that. It depends what you fill it with. For many, they are filling their time, and their life, as a form of escape, to avoid other things - which would suggest unhappiness, rather than happiness.

Third, and probably number one - wait for it - is love. By love I mean a happy marriage, a happy family, good friends, being loved in some sort of happy relationship. All the soppy stuff.

These three things won't guarantee happiness. The personality you are lumbered with will see to that. And you'll always have periods of unhappiness. Which is how it should be.

"A lifetime of happiness, no man could bear it," said GB Shaw. And, Kevin, you'll find out how unhappiness feels on Wednesday. When Scotland come back from the dead. Oh yes!

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