By Victoria Braverman

Happiness. What a wonderful emotion. It can carry you through hard times, through external events over which you have no control, and out the other side. It permeates the darkest times. When it strikes, you can jump out of bed with a smile on your face before remembering the sad/dangerous/frightening situation you’re going to have to face later that day.

I’m speaking from experience. I feel happy. Almost every day, at least for a moment. I also have lows. Those too are usually fleeting, thankfully. I’ve had many things to contend with, including life-threatening illness but my “happy gene”, as I like to think of it, has never let me down. Usually there’s a process: laughter creeps up on me as I spot people or things which amuse me, and happiness follows. Standing with one breast clamped in a mammography machine, as the technician twists my body into improbable positions, for instance, strikes me as incredibly funny as I start to imagine some pervert hiding behind the curtain. Terror turns to laughter, which somehow puts me back in control of my emotions. Not everyone would see the funny side, I grant you.

Standing with one breast clamped in a mammography machine, as the technician twists my body into improbable positions, terror turns to laughter.

I’m well aware that it’s not like that for everyone. I spent 14 years trying to teach my ex, a musician (and the definition of a tortured artist if ever there was one) how to be happy. To be happy for no reason. His happiness was always dependent on external factors – a great gig, or messing around on a tour bus under the influence of goodness knows what. He was the life and soul of the party. But there had to be a party. The closest he got to that primal burst of joy was when we escaped into the world of an HBO box set, snuggled up together after a delicious meal. But then something would always drag him out of the perfect moment. A poorly written line, having to rewind because the sound was bad, a plot containing a reminder of something he had or hadn’t done 20 years ago… and the moment was gone.

I spent 14 years trying to teach my ex, a musician (and the definition of a tortured artist) how… Click To Tweet

I’m not a psychologist and I have absolutely no empirical evidence for my hypothesis, but I do believe that (barring a chemical imbalance in the brain – that thing we call clinical depression) happiness is a choice. Of course, to make that choice, you have to know the feeling in the first place. If you come from a family that doesn’t “do” happiness, live in a country which doesn’t value happiness, and were educated in a system which discourages laughter, you might struggle to work it out. But if you’re reading this, you probably do know the feeling. There will have been at least one occasion you can remember where you felt happy.

continue to part 2