Oliver Burkeman writes a weekly column in the Guardian called “This Column Will Change Your Life” in which he casts a wry look at self help guides, management techniques and productivity guides from a social psychology point of view. The column has very much wormed it’s way into my weekend reading and it now becomes the first thing I turn to in the Saturday papers, well that’s not strictly true but it’s the first thing after the sports pages anyway. His viewpoint always a) makes me smile and b) makes me think and any writer or commentator who can do that is OK in my book. What I particularly like is the way he wields his lance of logic and common sense to lance the boil of the modern day snake oil salesmen – the self help and management gurus. While he does this he will always leave a kernel of truth and clarity of thought that will linger long after you have read the column. One such column that stuck with me was this one that looked at happiness (very much a recurring theme in his column). Among many interesting ideas within it is to write down/ keep track of a few things each day that you are thankful for or things that make you happy. This could be something as simple as enjoying the coffee you are drinking prior to a meeting instead of thinking too far ahead about the meeting itself for example. I think that this is linked to the Buddhist ideal of mindfulness and is something that I am trying to reflect in my posts on this blog – i.e. things that nourish or make me happy, take the time to reflect on them and write them down. I’m not really one for New Years resolutions but the column referenced finished thus:
happiness has a mixture of causes; that it involves trial and error, and broadly chimes with common sense; that there isn’t a single secret or quick fix, waiting to be uncovered, and that looking for one might make you miserable. The advice is straightforward. Remember to be grateful. Spend your money on experiences, not objects. Volunteer. Nurture your relationships. Spend time in nature. Make sure you encounter new people and places. And never assume that you know what will make you happy.
Some of this sounds like familiar folk wisdom, and some of it like a string of corny clichés. But it’s worth considering, surely, that this might be because it is true.
Now that’s not a bad approach to take into the New Year is it ?