According to Martin Seligman, the renowned American psychologist, there is a simple formula behind happiness where a person’s happiness (H) is the sum of their genetic capacity to be happy (S), their circumstances (C), and factors that are under their voluntary control (V). There is a grand explanation of how this has been worked out from many years of exploration into human happiness.
This is all well and good but I think sometimes happiness boils down to something as simple as a Homemade Lemony Biscuit.
Let Me Explain
A few days ago I was looking at my wife who suffers from arthritis. She was obviously in great discomfort. From experience I knew that she would dismiss any enquiry from me as to her wellbeing with a nonchalant “Yeah, OK”. So I set about thinking of a way to cheer her up.
After a while, I don’t know why, I suddenly thought about the lemon biscuits she used to buy for herself from the supermarket. She would always let out an “Mmmm” and have a little smile on her face when she ate them and I was sometimes offered the privilege of eating one myself. I knew that she had had difficulty finding them of late because the supermarkets didn’t seem to stock them anymore.
“That’s it” I thought “I’ll make some tomorrow and have them ready for when she returns home from work”.
This I did and held my breath in anticipation as she took her first bite out of the one she chose from the tin I presented to her. “Mmmm”, the familiar sound came and a smile spread across her face. “Lovely”, she said, “just as good as the bought ones”. It had worked, in that brief moment I had given her a taste of happiness and over the next couple of days, as she ate each one, I enjoyed watching and listening to her reaction.
Can a Biscuit Really Make You Happy?
It wasn’t only my wife who derived a bit of happiness from those Homemade Lemony Biscuits. I also found my mood was lifted as a result of knowing that I had done something, albeit very simple, to give her pleasure.
I began to think about what had gone into those biscuits that had made them the catalyst for these feelings and not just about the actual ingredients which, after all, were just flour, sugar, butter, egg yolk, lemon rind and juice.
Compassion for my wife in her distress due to ill health, gratitude for her love for me and our family, selflessness in the act of doing something for someone else just because I wanted to, forgiveness for not being honest and letting me know how her illness is affecting her, love for her with every ounce of my being poured in with each ingredient. There was genuine feeling, positive emotion and an altruistic attitude influencing the outcome. Compassion, gratitude, selflessness and love, so I am told, are some of the basic ingredients for achieving happiness.
Having suffered from recurring depression for many years and undergoing talking therapies, stress control exercises, Cognitive Behavioural Therapy and counselling, I suddenly had an understanding of the psychology behind it all and it wasn’t as complicated as I had previously made it. Happiness is not something to be strived for or searched for externally, it is already within us we just need to turn the key and unlock the door it is hiding behind. The key is wanting to.
So you see whether or not we have the capacity to be happy or our circumstances help or hinder us or we are able to voluntarily control certain factors, happiness IS a Homemade Lemony Biscuit.