Happiness is all about the lens. Not happy? Maybe it’s time for a new prescription…

By RedBallooner and world traveller James Gilbert

The new RedBalloon purpose really resonated with me, and inspired me to write this blog. It reads:

RedBalloon has started a happiness revolution. We believe everyone deserves to have fun, feel good and be happy. We believe happiness starts with a drop, becomes a ripple and creates a wave. And we believe happiness is amplified when shared. Put simply, we are in the business of fun and are passionate about giving people more good times.

The secret to happiness is apparently very easy. In the western world we have been told over and over again; look like Brad Pitt, have the IQ of Stephen Hawking, be as funny as Chris Rock, have a career and bank account as significant as Richard Branson’s – all while remaining as down to earth as Nelson Mandela.

This is not some internal objective of happiness. It is the prescription that has been provided by mass media, and in turn, society. The unfortunate result of this objective is that it has fuelled ambitions of living the Ralph Lauren life (often on a Target budget), and is preventing people from enjoying the life they have. Everyone is keeping busy in an attempt to reach a place of happiness, overlooking those simple things that would deliver it. Here at RedBalloon we’re all about delivering experiences that make people happy. We don’t create “stuff”, we help create memories that can be shared, relived and re-told for years. It is experiences that enrich our lives and ultimately create happiness. You can see some examples of my own experiences below…

A reality check if often a good way to make you feel grateful and happy with your lot in life. I think people in the first world are having trouble appreciating what the rest of the world is going through. Many of us will fall asleep tonight watching the Kardashians on a huge flat screen TV. Meanwhile, nearly 1 billion in other parts of the world will go to bed hungry. That’s 50 times the population of Australia, and just a little less than the population of Europe and the US combined. More than double that number won’t have access to a sanitary facility, and around 800 million will be forced to drink from unsafe drinking water sources.

Even people at the bottom of our socioeconomic pyramid still have access to drinking water, sanitation, education and healthcare. We are extremely lucky that in our society the real barriers to a happy life are often the ones we create in our minds.

I have always considered myself pretty lucky. I have lived a truly amazing life so far and I have big plans for the future.  I am not saying I’m walking around with an ear to ear grin 24/7. I have definitely had my moments where things have caused me great irritation. My family is always quick to remind me about throwing a tantrum at my sister’s birthday because my parents would not allow me to have a pet snake. Good move by them in hindsight.

For the last few years I have had an increasing awareness and appreciation of just how blessed my life has been. I didn’t think I could be much more appreciative – but as someone always happy to try something new (in itself a massive source of happiness for me) I thought I would try something that promised to make me even happier. No, it was not scientology, and no, it was not asking for an upfront payment to be made to a prince in Nigeria. It came about after I listened to a Ted talk called the Happiness advantage.

Now let me make it very clear, I did not think I could get much more appreciative of the life I live. I have experienced a significant happiness buzz simply from having easy access to clean drinking water; I must have called my local beach “God’s country” a million times; and I can get very excited over a toasted ham and cheese sandwich. Like I said – the simple things.

I am into day four of the happiness advantage 21 day program. As a part of the program you write down three things you were thankful for in a day. It is a similar concept to the Five Thanks A Day program created by RedBalloon founder Naomi Simson. I used to think this was a bit kooky but I figured I would try the process before passing judgement. To my surprise it is already starting to pay dividends. Some simple things I ordinarily wouldn’t have given a second thought to include:

  1. Having a comfortable bed
  2. Discovering a new salad at a friend’s house – Lychees in a salad, who knew?
  3. Discovering the Google zeitgeist videos online.

So what is the secret?  For me the gist seems simple. Try noticing the small things. Try to think like a traveller! We won the ovarian lottery, we should be smiling!!

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One Comment

  1. Posted November 23, 2012 at 10:05 am | Permalink

    A sensational post James and very wise words.The things that make us happy are the first things we lose sight of when striving to do and be what we ‘think’ will make us so. We “work” on our career, relationships, fitness etc, but rarely put direct effort into our happiness.
    Great TED talk.
    Good call on the snake.

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