All week, I’ve been feeling gloomy. Down, dark, depressed, despairing, disappointed, dismal, despondent, dour, dejected. (I had no idea there were so many ‘d’ words for feeling gloomy. Isn’t English the most thrilling language?)
Then a woman stops in front of my house and takes a photograph of my tree. My tree? All autumn it’s been growing in my garden and I’m ashamed to say it’s the first time I’ve noticed its glorious golden leaves, its fiery canopy.
That woman inspires me to follow her lead: I will walk the dog and take photographs of little things along the way.
First my Strelitzia. The sun is in the wrong place which means my shadow is photographing me. Then Barney pokes his nose in where it’s not wanted and won’t go away: I decide this can be an arty photograph whose meaning I can’t yet interpret.
On the beach, I meet Cody the Kelpie pup. He likes to round up Barney which is probably the closest thing to a sheep he’s going to meet in his city life. I hope he grows up to be half as smart as Cousin Frank’s kelpies on the farm. Just once in his life, I hope he gets to nip at the heels of proper sheep and watch them wheel away like a cloud when he runs close by their flank. Just once, I hope he gets to leap about on their backs in the stockyard as if he’s bouncing on a woolly trampoline. Go Cody!
I have no idea what this yellow post is doing on our beach. Who put it there? How long ago? Why yellow? I decide it should remain a mystery. Lusting after meaning is probably a perfect recipe for feeling gloomy. I need to remember that.
This rusty lock on a purple bathing box is another little thing without meaning. If I was homeless, I would break into this box, spend the night close to the sea and disappear in the morning before the dogs come.
I let Barney chase the seagulls off the rocks: I figure it adds some excitement to their seagull lives. It might even stop them getting gloomy. And if anything is gloomy, it’s probably the life of a seagull with all that scavenging and squawking. (Jonathon Livingstone excepted, of course.)
While I’m looking at little things, the beach-cleaning man is using his grader-blade to pattern the sand in lovely arty sweeps. Then he slows his tractor, opens his cabin door and hands Barney a tennis ball. Barney is ecstatic. I am too. I am overcome with gratitude for such a thoughtful gesture while I am feeling wretched.
I walk home thinking of seagulls and Strelitzias, of Barney and his new tennis ball, of Cody Kelpie without a sheep. Thinking of all the little things that make up a little life.
Then I remember the Principles of Happiness that I found in a magazine many years ago, and which I have temporarily forgotten.
(To be honest, it was called an Anti-Depression Diet but who cares, they are different sides of the same coin.)
But who am I, in all my gloominess, to be giving anyone advice about finding happiness? I decide that question needs no answer. We are all in the same boat.
So for what it’s worth, these are the six Principles of Happiness which I will try to remember from now on.
DIET: Each day we need a healthy, well-balanced diet. No sugar or junk. Good food makes us feel good.
EXERCISE: Each day a walk, a run, a workout. Whatever appeals to get the blood pumping through our bodies.
WORK: A worthwhile task each day—writing a page, cleaning out a drawer, washing the kitchen floor, running the world’s biggest company—whatever makes us feel valued.
QUIET: At least fifteen minutes each day. To look at little things. To have a rest from busy-ness. Meditation is good. So is walking on the beach.
SOCIAL: For writer-introverts like me, the idea of a day alone might seem like bliss. It isn’t. We are social animals. We need contact with other people every day, especially if we live alone.
FUN: Each day we need to do one little thing for fun, pure fun.
Fun? See how I put FUN last? What an ask! Fun is my Achilles heel! I am such a Protestant-work-ethic-type-of-person. It comes from my mother who worked to escape life.
(What would we do without mothers to blame for everything?)
All at once I realise the reason for my gloominess. Just like my Mum, I have been working too much which always makes me dull and boring! I need to have some FUN!
I decide to follow the Principles of Happiness for one week. I will make sure I do one FUN thing every day. How difficult can that be?
I will report back next week. Join me if you can. It will be our scientific study into eradicating gloominess by pursuing little things.
Have a very happy week!