THE International Day of Happiness, celebrated throughout the world on March 20, is a UN-established awareness day.
It focuses on stripping away all the silly stuff we associate with happiness.
According to a spokesman for the Action for Happiness non-profit organisation, our happiness has been “hijacked” by commercial concerns.
The old adage money doesn't make you happy is at the heart of it, but quality of life – as evidenced by the recession – certainly does affect how you feel.
The spokesman said: “A profound shift in attitudes is under way all over the world.
People are now recognising ‘progress’ should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy at all costs.”
The authorities in the UK are also catching on. For the last two years, the Office of National Statistics has been running a happiness index.
From 2012 to 2013, 71.6 per cent of those asked rated their happiness as “medium or high” the day before answering the question.
Happiness, or at least contentment, is important to human health.
No one can be happy all the time, but sustained mental distress will take its toll.
We are sold happiness in the same way we are sold ‘coolness’ and sexiness, it is something attainable, if only we buy this bar of chocolate, that outfit or this holiday.
But for Leader readers, some of the things that make them happy can’t be found in any shop.
James Oliver, 28, originally of Mold, said: “Ducks. You can’t be angry or sad after seeing a duck.”
Dan Williams, 33, of Wrexham, said: “My kids make me happy.”
Rhian Williams, 33, of Llangollen, said: “Generally as long as people are polite, honest and considerate; treat others the way you like to be treated as life is precious and let’s not forget a little empathy goes along way – that’s what makes me happy.”
Geraint Lloyd, 36, of Wrexham, said: “I’m happy when Wrexham win and Chester lose.”
Beth Lewis, 39, of Buckley, said: “My kids most of the time, and music. Loud rock music.”
Derek Williams, 37, a DJ who performs in Chester, said: “Cats. Cats make me happy.”
Nick Crump, of Wrexham, said: “Tonight a women in Morrisons made my year. She asked me for ID for the beer and wine I was buying. I was slightly embarrassed and so was she when I told her I was 36.”
There are, of course, exceptions.
Richard Cameron, 32, of Chester, proved a man of simple tastes. He said: “Cheesecake makes me happy.”
Linnie Williams, 32, of Wrexham, said: “I am happy because my kitchen and bathroom should all be finished by next week.”
Kevin Jones, 32 of Wrexham, said: “I’m happy on payday.”
Sometimes, what starts off as a commercial venture can take on a life of its own.
Helen Perry, 61, of Mold, who is on the Mold Carnival committee and has a long association with The Party Shop, set up a Pass on a Smile Day several years ago.
She said: “It started about seven years back. I was watching The Apprentice when the contestants were challenged to come up with a new celebration day for a greetings card.
“I just sat there and thought ‘pass on a smile’. That would be nice.
“The idea was to get all the shops in Mold involved putting up posters. It was originally for the retailers.
“Then we started giving out stickers and balloons and got the schools involved. Then there were concerts where the children would sing.
“It got adopted elsewhere. As far as I know, it went as far as Holland.
“Cittaslow (a movement designed to improve community life) got a hold of it as Mold is a Cittaslow town. Now towns all over the UK have a Pass on a Smile Day.”
She described herself as a happy person.
“I chose a smile because when you smile at someone, they’ll smile back,” she said.
“I like seeing people happy and like seeing them enjoy themselves. That’s why I’m involved in Mold Carnival.”
Annika Howells, 28, of Mold, has made studying happiness her career.
She said: “When I was 16, I decided to study A-level psychology at Mold Alun and I really enjoyed the course.
“I went on to study BSc psychology at Cardiff University, and then went on to gain a Masters.
“I volunteered with some great community projects including KIM (Kindness in Mind) in Mold.
“We delivered an inreach program to ladies at the Wrexham Hospital acute inpatient unit and it was great to make a real difference.
“Soon after, I moved to Australia and started a career as a mental health professional.
“In 2009, I discovered a new branch of psychology called positive psychology – all about the science of wellbeing. I knew this was exactly what I wanted to specialise in.”
Instead of looking at what is wrong, she concentrates on studying what is working for people.
“Happiness is linked to lots of great stuff – happy people are successful across many life domains, including relationships, income, work performance, and also health.
“They have stronger immune systems and better heart health, the science linking happiness and health is fascinating stuff.”
But she was quick to emphasise that happiness is a long-term goal.
“Happiness to me isn’t about a quick ‘feel good’ fix.
“A lot of people look for happiness in the wrong place and think they need more money or a better car or nicer clothes to be happier.
“These things will only bring you fleeting happiness (if at all), then you will adapt (yes, even if you win the lottery) and as the shine wears off you will return to how you were before.
“lnstead, appreciate who and what you have, do something kind for someone else. Say thank you, smile at a stranger, offer to help a person in need, call up a friend and arrange a visit, go for a walk, be mindful as you experience your day. Research shows happiness is contagious, so as you get happier, your positivity creates a ripple effect and will spread to those around you too.”