Monday, 3 June 2013

Happiness is easy...

There are some things in my life that make me happy, indeed some are a source of such joy as I never imagined possible. Equally, there are some aspects of my life that depress me beyond words, taking me to dark places that leave me clinging desperately to the good things as motivation for... well, everything.

I don't propose to list the things that fall into these categories, the causes of my joy and misery - this is just a blog, after all, not therapy (although some might argue it's both). And of course, like most introspective fools I'm prone to mulling over the latter rather than celebrating the former. After all, who doesn't like to scratch a bothersome itch or, more fittingly, pick at a scab?

Also like most introspective fools, at least those that do their introspection properly, by which I mean "like me", I'm quite cynical when it comes to self-help books, CBT and all the rest. If I get to the point of needing help, I'll talk to my mates, thanks. But even so, when I saw a copy of Alex Quick's 102 Free Things To Do - inspiring ideas for a better life in my local library I was intrigued enough to get it out on loan and have a read. Thankfully, it doesn't set out to be a self-help book, or to rid the reader of misery and depression. It simply lists some things the reader can do for free (mostly) that might improve his or her quality of life.

In summary, these are the 102 things:

  1. Go out and look at the stars
  2. Keep a diary - but only one sentence a day
  3. Meter your energy use with a smart meter
  4. Give up your car
  5. Get up earlier
  6. Sketch your relatives - it's better than photos
  7. Treasure your precious human body
  8. Go on an archeological dig
  9. Write a letter to your future self
  10. Don't confuse affluence with well-being
  11. Memorise a poem
  12. Ask a child for advice
  13. Take part in a police line-up
  14. Give up craving for recognition (and be admired for it)
  15. Notice when things have improved
  16. Go on holiday without leaving your bedroom
  17. Practice random acts of kindness (and, if time permits, senseless acts of beauty)
  18. Climb a mountain
  19. Turn your house into a restaurant
  20. Start a film society
  21. Remember that making mistakes is part of being human
  22. See the sun rise and set on a single summer's day
  23. Get fit without joining a gym
  24. Sit still until you see wildlife emerge
  25. Contact a friend you haven't spoken to for years
  26. Go cloud-spotting
  27. Learn to meditate
  28. Volunteer for something
  29. Spend a day and night in a forest
  30. Cherish older people
  31. Reconsider your career
  32. Enlarge your comfort zone
  33. Achieve your ideal weight
  34. Learn how to talk to strangers in public
  35. Visit Project Gutenberg
  36. Gather a meal from the wild
  37. Learn another language
  38. Invent a language
  39. Pretend you are a valet for humanity
  40. Go busking
  41. Start a book in which to record things that have really, really made you laugh
  42. Go somewhere outdoors that is very silent
  43. Make Christmas presents for your whole family one year
  44. Give something up
  45. Cheer up lonely men in public places
  46. Swap your CDs
  47. Adopt or invent a personal motto
  48. Support your local eccentric
  49. Become a freegan
  50. Swim in the sea
  51. Get to know your neighbours
  52. Act without expecting anything back
  53. Deliver meals on wheels
  54. Look for glue
  55. Send a message in a bottle
  56. Have an eco-friendly bonfire
  57. Attempt a world record
  58. Walk in the rain
  59. Give away free trees
  60. Do a sponsored parachute/bungee jump
  61. Perform
  62. Cycle 100 miles in a day
  63. Serenade someone
  64. Reflect on something you're grateful for
  65. Cook and eat a nine-course meal
  66. Write a love letter
  67. Create a lair
  68. Notice beauty
  69. Let go of emotional pain
  70. Write down your parents' or grandparents' stories
  71. Look at your day-to-day concerns from the point of view of five years from now
  72. Fan the flames of desire
  73. Contemplate imperfection and impermanence as forms of beauty
  74. Join a gardening scheme where only your labour is required
  75. Laugh in the face of death
  76. Train your memory
  77. Accept the full catastrophe
  78. Write the first sentence of a novel
  79. Cherish solitude (Sister Wendy does)
  80. Get your friends to sponsor you to go to Spain and celebrate La Tomatina
  81. Embarrass your children/teenagers
  82. Work a room
  83. Confront people politely
  84. Learn a trick
  85. Be a representative of your country, in your country
  86. Try lucid dreaming
  87. Come to terms with ageing
  88. Be a bookcrosser
  89. Teach a child something fun
  90. Make your gratitude less perfunctory
  91. Give away your superfluous possessions
  92. Grow huge sunflowers
  93. Smile
  94. Go bell-ringing
  95. Form a debating club
  96. Take your shoes off and walk in the dew on a sunny morning
  97. Dress up
  98. Give up your TV
  99. Be 'Lord' for a day
  100. Write fewer emails and more letters
  101. Don't expect that things will be different in Tenerife
  102. Find out what's happening near you and join in

Yes, I know. In places this is a bullshit list. It's just the chapter headings, after all. Some things, like "smile" - well clearly you need to read the book to understand what Quick is getting at. But, in general, these are things that sound... fun. Life-enhancing and, who knows, maybe even life-affirming, don't you think?

Some of the 102 I've already done (they're green). Others, I can't imagine I'll ever do - they're red. But the rest are up for grabs. Don't worry, I'm not going to turn this into a blog theme where I religiously post about every task as I tick them off, to the eventual boredom of everyone concerned, no no no. But I might blog about the odd one or two, if any turn out to be stupendous. Bottom line, though, is this - I haven't been that cheerful lately, sorry, but I wanted you to know I'm trying to do something about that.

Now, Constant Reader, if you could add a 103rd task to the list of inspiring ideas for a better life, what would it be?

P.S. +1 kudos points to any readers ID'ing the song from which this blog post takes it title (only 1 for this, as it's easy...)


  1. Talk Talk. I think I might particularly struggle at #14, though there's no doubt my life would be happier if I could achieve it. I'm also dubious about #45 - I'd either get arrested or punched. I'd be interested in reading your attempts at some of these. #103 Write a music blog. I find that an excellent way to de-stress.

    1. Cheers Rol - yes, a point for Talk Talk. I'm with you on #14, though I'm not proud to admit it. As for #45, it isn't the kind of George Michael pleasing of old men in public places, I promise! I did think about making a blog series out of this but the simple fact is I struggle to maintain my current low level of blog and writing activity, without adding more. For the same reason, I mothballed the new blog I had planned focusing on live music recordings from the old Radio 1 annual Sound City shindig - I was going to do this because my adopted home town was the first Sound City, in 1992, and I have some great recordings of an acoustic session by The Frank and Walters in Sheffield the following year that I wanted to showcase, and there's loads more good stuff out there that I was going to feature too. But again I realised I just don't have the time to do it properly, on top of this, the writing blog, Deep End, and more. So as far as music blogging goes, I'll have to make to with the Clandestine Classics series here, and the occasional gig or album review...