A while ago I was talking with my grandmother, who recently celebrated her 90th birthday. She has lived all her life in County Durham in the north east of England, an area which until the 1980s had a large concentration of coal mines which provided employment for a large percentage of the local workforce. My grandmother came from an extra-ordinary family. She had no less than 18 brothers and sisters, some of whom were not far apart in age from her daughter (my mother). It must have been strange having uncles the same age as you!
During our conversation, my grandmother told me that she often did not go to school because her mother (my great gran) needed her to stay at home to help with the washing. Imagine a dozen brothers coming home from the coal mine every day, black with coal dust. Their clothes had to be washed. Washing machines did not exist. Everything had to be done by hand. It was a job that took up a large part of the day, every day, and this was just one of the household chores.
I have a washer-drier in my home. I put my clothes in it. I put in some washing liquid. I turn it on. I go to bed. When I wake up, the washing is done, ready to put on the next day (occasionally I might think about ironing, only to dismiss the practice as vain decadence).
My grandmother is the greatest living individual I have ever met. The epitome of unconditional love. Almost always seemingly infectiously happy. Still working hard to support many generations of her family at 90 years old.
I, on the other hand, quite often get in a bit of a grump and have a good old moan. Why is this? What is going on here? We all have such an incredibly easy lifestyle compared to her generation, and yet depression and other forms of mental illness are apparently widespread. What does this tell us?
For one thing, it clearly indicates that circumstances really have nothing to do with happiness. We have pursued technological progress headlong. We have built up great wealth in the Western world which has undoubtedly made our lives so much more comfortable, and yet it appears that we are generally less happy. But still we have not grasped this. Still when we do not feel happy, we think about what it is we need to 'get', 'have' or 'become' in order to 'make us happy'. My grandmother is not well educated, has little wealth and few possessions, and yet she is the happiest, most loving individual I have ever encountered.
It also points to the fact that we have far too much time on our hands. Many of us spend that time in our minds, the place where all problems are invented. My grandmother and her generation (except perhaps for the elite few) did not have time to even consider what such a thing as depression might be.
Lastly, it shows that our generation has become incredibly ungrateful. We take for granted incredible wonders that were beyond anyone's imagination a hundred years ago.
For some very amusing commentary on this subject, watch the short video by clicking on the link below!
Everything's Amazing and Nobody's Happy
If that has inspired you to perhaps take things a little less for granted, then you might like to take a look at the Gratitude Log website. This is a free online journal where you are encouraged to make a daily habit of recording the things in your life that you are grateful for and you can also share it with your friends.
Recent research by two psychology professors McCullough and Emmons revealed that only a small daily dose of gratitude can make people more alert, enthusiastic, determined, optimistic and energetic. Do you need any more reasons?
You heard it right at the beginning there. EIGHTEEN brothers and sisters!!
So long for now, you lucky people!
Related article: Gratitude Dance
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