I have argued for many years that happiness is a choice. This is borne out by a) the large number of people who ‘have everything’ and are still dissatisfied, miserable, suicidal or just plain grumpy and b) the seemingly even larger number of people who have nothing and yet find cause to smile. I am especially struck by repeated reports from highly impoverished regions that mention the locals as ‘having nothing’ yet insist on sharing with visitors their meagre food and other resources without thought of recompense. Invariably these reports also comment on the smiles, the laughter, singing and so on.

It also surprises me to learn that the poorer among our own society are more generous in responding to charity requests than are the ‘rich’.

So what’s it all about?

I can only guess but I know from personal experience that fancy cars, exotic holidays, expensive clothes bring only transient pleasure just as the discontent engendered by broken limbs, sickness, loss bring but temporary discontent.

So it seems obvious that we can only have happiness as a norm of our life if we decide to be happy. Conversely, unhappiness can only be continual if we choose to have it so.

No-one is happy (or sad) 100% of the time, of course. But you may have noticed that some people seem happy (or sad) more often, or more continually, than others. I assert that this is because they incline to their normal , their chosen, state.

How about you? Is life generally okay for you, or are you generally weighed down by problems, fears, worries?

If you are generally happy, great; if not, what can you do about it? Tricky question. When we are down, we can always point to the reason(s). and they will be good reasons. We have a right to be down; just look at all the problems we have! Any reasonable person would be close to despair if faced by what we have to deal with. And that is the problem; we feel righteous about our unhappiness and wrap it around us like a comfort blanket. But it does not bring comfort! It just makes us feel bad. And then we make others feel bad too; by complaining about the tough breaks life has saddled us with.

But none of us has to look far to find others in even worse situations. Refugees come to mind obviously but there will be many people right next to you now who have more cause to complain than you.

When you feel down, when things look black, count your blessings. A cliché, I know, but enumerating what you have should make you feel grateful and gratitude can lead directly to happiness. Be grateful you have a place to stay or, if you are homeless, that you have a blanket and a doorway – many do not. Whatever your problems you will be able to say, “It could be worse.”