There has been a lot of fuss about the economy lately, you might have noticed. There’s fuss about how we are all in debt to each other to the tune of billions. For example, I’m in debt to the corner shop for about 2 trillion Euros, which is around 37p in old money. Our economy is in retreat. Soon we’ll all have to go back to eating spam and eggs, and the new NHS will be some bloke with a sponge and a plaster on Fargate.

But people have been questioning whether forever developing our economy should be the idea. After all, we have one of the biggest economies on the planet. This has raised the living standards of everybody in the past fifty years, but it’s not made us any happier. Once we’re sorted for food, warmth, and a roof over our heads, any more is a bonus we haven’t evolved to cope with. The first chocolate bar might make you feel good, but shoving nineteen more into your gob doesn’t make you happier, just an addict; so it is with fancy foods, bigger TVs, smarter cars and other shiny things that attract our magpie eyes.

So what actually makes us happy? To find out, I asked* the people who have done the research:

Connect – Make friends. Don’t sit in your bedcave playing Zombie Battle Penguins (c). Come into the light. Where the people are. We are nice, and we like you. We will make you happy. If you develop a long-term relationship you will be very happy. If you already tried this and the person in question was a manipulative, life-sucking bastard, then sorry about that. The next bastard will be the one.

Be Active – Jump around. Jump up and get down. Our ancestors walked the globe, hunted, picked berries, danced and sang. I am physically chained to a desk at Now Then HQ for the daylight hours, eyes stuck to a flickering screen, but when the janitors come with their keys and flaming torches, my screaming run into the night makes me feel alive once again.

Take Notice – The world is beautiful and you are beautiful. Feel your breathing. Be mindful of the moment and your time spent with friends. Be curious. Look at the sky, the birds, the clouds. Look, that one is shaped like a baby hedgehog. Think about your place in the universe. Look out for that car. Oh dear. Never mind. Think about how your atoms will merge with the wonder of it all.

Keep Learning – Your mind is an open book. Keep writing on it with interests and hobbies. Play the ukulele to the TV, paint a picture on the bus, juggle in the bath, dance in the dole queue. It’s not about doing your job better; it’s about being you better.

Give – Your time, your smile, your cash, and see the impact it has on the wider community. Share your happiness and have it reflected back at you. If happiness is not reflected back at you, scream and punch them all in the face (the “I’m such a clever academic la la la” stuff didn’t say this, but this is real life, y’know).

So there you have it. The next time the Government knocks on your door asking what they can do, tell them they could make it easier to do the sort of stuff that makes you happy – making it easier to connect by strengthening communities, helping people see beyond wealth as a measure of life, valuing mindfulness and learning at all ages. The side effect is that we would need to consume much less and so have much less impact on the planet. We would be happier with less, and happier to share what we have. Never mind the economy – that would be real development.

*alright, I looked on the internet:
neweconomics.org/projects/five-ways-well-being
happyplanetindex.org
ted.com/talks/dan_gilbert_asks_why_are_we_happy.html

Jason Leman.