Since 2012, the UN’s Sustainable Development Solutions Network has been publishing a World Happiness Report (no, seriously, even we can’t make this up). In 2015, Switzerland came in as number 1 – although we call unfair advantage with all that chocolate. Australia came in at number 10, ahead of the United States at 15 and France at 29 (which was a surprise given, well… you know… the champagne). Tajikistan came in at the bottom… which when you’re sitting in peak hour traffic in Sydney helps puts things into perspective.
But if despite being ranked number 10, you still find yourself feeling a little blue, don’t worry… there’s an App for that. In fact there’s more than just one. Whether you’re taking the path of meditation, gratitude or exercise, all Apps point to happiness these days. A quick search on itunes and within seconds you can download a plethora of appropriately named Apps onto your device of choice, making carrying around the key to happiness never more accessible. You can track it, record it, practise it. Whatever makes you ‘appy… sorry.
So far be it from me to deliberately burst your bubble of bliss, but you might be shocked to hear that it’s all a huge lie. That Happiness App you just downloaded is nothing more than a cleverly crafted marketing strategy. And while it definitely has the power to make someone happy… i.e. the App developer, the truth is, there is no App for (real) Happiness.
Every time I read about a new Happiness App I am remind of the Tamagotchi craze (yes, way back in 1996). That small virtual pet you carried around on a key ring (i.e. the non-cuddly version) and tended to throughout the day – even at the risk of getting detention. For weeks school children around the world (and more than a few adults) fed, watered, cleaned (which was gross even virtually) and disciplined their little Tamagotchi as it morphed from egg into creature. And your commitment to caring for that little digital image was the single determining factor in how well it grew. Untended it became a representation of neglect – unkempt and naughty, hastening towards death.
Your happiness is actually a lot like that Tamagotchi, with one key difference – you don’t need an App to remind you to feed it, nurture it, care for it… Indeed, with so many studies pointing to the negative impacts over-use of technology is having on our relationships, our concentration, our sense of self and worth, and even our waistline, it is somewhat counter-intuitive to turn to an App. What we need is real connection, with loved ones, with friends, with ourselves.
I’m a huge fan of Apps that make life easier, but you don’t need an App to help you find the happy, you just need a dose of good old common-sense. Simply put… be kind to yourself; do all things in moderation; exercise and eat well; stretch; move; breathe deeply; be kind. And, as I have previously said, find the calm. Not with external stimuli, but by slowing down, going inside and listening to that part of yourself that already has the answers.
And know this, happiness is neither an entitlement nor a constant.
Accept that there will be days when you wake up feeling low, bluesy or irritable. And when that happens, resist the urge to turn to your phone for the answer. That App is like a sugar hit – you’ll feel good for a while and then slide ungracefully into the dreaded sugar coma. Craving hit after hit to keep you in that sweet place. The point is, that App will not sustain you.
Instead allow yourself to breathe, to experience what it is you are feeling without sensory deprivation or trying to muffle it with technology, and then acknowledge that it’s ok not to be happy all the time. In fact expecting to be happy all the time is unrealistic and somewhat ridiculous. It denies the complexity of the human spirit, of our characters, personalities and experiences that have shaped us.
So before you press download, take a moment to challenge their talk of groundbreaking algorithms and scientific research. Remember that you are unique, wondrous and your Happiness has the potential to be larger than anything than can ever be contained in an App.
Your Happiness… there’s no App for that.