Another way to happiness that I have recently read about is giving thanks. For Christians this usually means thanking God. Not a bad idea. But I am talking about thanking people.
Isn’t it just good manners?
I am not talking about saying ‘thankyou’ every day, whenever someone does something helpful. Of course, I hope you do. What I am talking about is making an effort to thank people who have helped you in the past.
Someone who gave you confidence
Someone who gave you useful advice
Do you remember them? Are you in touch? Could you write to them, letting them know how helpful they have been? It may be worth a little effort.
Do I thank people in this way?
This is something I have never thought about until recently. I have read that remembering to thank people in this way can add to your happiness as well as theirs. How does that work? I don’t know but I think I might try it. What have I got to lose? What about you?
Would a catastrophe destroy your happiness forever?
I have written several blogs about happiness. Such as How much happiness can money buy. Some people want to know if anything I have said would be any use in the face of a catastrophe. I am not thinking of the everyday sort of thing that makes some people overreact (especially journalists in a quiet month) such as:
A festival being cancelled
A wet bank holiday
An increase in VAT
Losing the car keys
I mean the big stuff like the Grenfell fire, the Manchester bomb, floods in Africa. At a personal level too, a serious accident or illness, or the loss of someone you love, can be very hard to deal with. Such things make most of my previous suggestions seem trite. Remember?
‘Count your blessings’
‘Do good to someone’
‘Enjoy the good things around you’
Does this make these things wrong? Part of the problem is that almost anything you say to someone at a time like that is going to sound trite. It is unlikely that it will be original. An expression becomes a cliche through being used a lot. It is used a lot because so many people find it helpful.
However useless so much advice may be, it can not be right for anyone to just give in and be bitter for the rest of his or her life.
How have I coped with catastrophes?
I have so far been relatively fortunate and am in no position to advise others from my own experience. Fortunately, I don’t have to. I can draw on the experience of lots of people. There is no simple answer that works every time. Different people find different ways of coping.
Does religion help deal with a catastrophe?
Research does show that for many religion is a help. Prayer, meditation, or the love that comes from other members of your church, mosque, synagogue or whatever. But let us be honest. It is not always so. Some people give up their faith when bad things happen, blaming God. Similarly, some people are glad of their friends in times of trouble, but others turn against their friends.
For those for whom no religion seems to be the answer, the ones who cope best with catastrophe are often the ones with some sort of philosophy to fall back on. This may be an organised philosophy or just a way of looking at life. A simple maxim to call on. ‘Keep calm and carry on’ or ‘things are never as bad as they look’, for instance. It is good to have one ready in case you need it.
How one man coped with a real catastrophe
I have been reading the letters and diaries of my father-in-law, including those written when he was a prisoner of war after being wounded at Monte Cassino. His resilience and optimism, his ability to make light of his troubles, his sympathy for those worse off than himself (!) make me feel ashamed. What kept him going? I have not found any mentio of prayer of faith, although I need to study his writings a bit more, but I think it was the hope that our side would win in the end. When I have finished studying these documents, I intend to turn them into a book. There is a story that needs to be told.
What about you?
To all the factors making for happiness, add something you can call upon in the event of a catastrophe. Most of us have to face one sometime.
The Prime Minister and other politicians have been the targets for a lot of hate recently. Partly due to the election result, partly to the London fire.
Let’s be fair.
They may well be due for some criticism. We all have to live with that. We writers have to subject ourselves to professional critics, not to mention lots of amateur ones. Some of the criticism is probably unfair. The flats were not built in the last year, and the regulations were not made by the current government. A lot of people have for a long time accepted the fact that councils had to control their expenditure on housing. What would you have cut to fund a higher standard of building? The NHS? Education? Benefits? That does not mean the government should not be held to account. Some criticism is probably justified towards many people and organisations. But be fair.
Hate is something else. It may make us feel good for a moment, but it harms us all in the long run.
There was not much hate after recent terrorist incidents
I have been moved by the response to the Manchester bomb and the Borough Market attack. Londoners and Mancunians showed solidarity and love. They did not look for scapegoats. Especially not local Moslems. There was criticism of the Police and MI5. Fair enough. But not hate.
Can we not love our Prime Minister, and all those in government and local government? Pray for the victims and all who have been affected by these events, including members of the emergency services, who have suffered a lot. Can you not also pray for the Prime Minister and her colleagues?
Let love defeat hate.
St Paul wrote, at the end of Chapter 12 of his letter to the Romans, in the Bible, Be not overcome by evil, but take the initiative and overcome evil with good.