What does happiness mean to you?

by Susan Leigh

Happiness often comes from being grateful for what we have, appreciating the value of both the good and the lessons learned from the bad experiences in life. Simple things are often the happiest. Being given a free leaflet for a show or talk that we're interested in proves that someone was thinking of us when they picked it up, and that in itself can make us smile.

Someone presenting us with the champagne cork from a special evening we shared, a shell or pressed flower from a lovely walk, a compilation of 'our' special songs; these are things that can make us happy, far better than an expensive gift quickly purchased on the way home.

What are some things that make you happy?

- Thoughtful gestures are often important. When someone waves and lets us out in traffic, holds the door open for us, makes us a coffee as they prepare one for themselves or delivers an unexpected kindness, these gestures often brighten our day.

- Unconditional praise and compliments can make us happy. When we're rewarded with a, 'good job', or 'you look nice', it brings a glow of positivity with it. But if they add a comment like 'why don't you always do that!' it becomes a much less rewarding experience.

- External things often make us happy. Hearing children's laughter, the smell of coffee or freshly baked bread, a cheesy song, a beautiful garden can make us pause for a moment and smile. Many of us will feel excited at hearing the chimes of an ice cream van. We wouldn't dream of buying one, but the music triggers childhood memories of fun and sunny days.

- What about finding an unexpected fiver in your pocket? How rich do you feel, how fortunate! Or an old lottery ticket and you fantasise momentarily about it being the lucky million pound win!

- Your pet's welcome as you walk through the door can make all the day's stresses evaporate. Any concerns are forgotten as you're smothered under masses of love and affection.

- Unexpectedly finding a laundered shirt when you're late can make you happy. You've gained 10 minutes before you've even started the day! Or catching a bus you thought you'd missed, buying the last of your favourite bread or not putting on weight over the holidays.

Notice the things that make you happy and add yours to the list.

Susan Leigh, Altrincham, Cheshire, South Manchester counsellor