British Happiness

In search of that elusive elixir: joie de vivre, I stumbled upon this BBC article which unviels the five happiest places in the UK, according to research from the government.

Tellingly all five are in remote regions – far from large, sprawling, commercial hubs; environments offering a simpler way to live, a sense of community, less industry, concrete and wide, open, green spaces.

But, we knew this already didn’t we? Or do we? Happiness seems to be far harder to achieve here in the West, despite the fact that we literally have everything we could ever possibly need, and some; and, in fact, some more – frothy milk anyone?

We strive to look right on the outside, yet can feel utterly desolate and confused on the inside. Living in a materialistic society makes it difficult to understand our role within it. Our choices are constantly motivated by consumerism – products the marketers create to help us establish our, apparent, uniqueness.


As child education expert and author Sue Barker says in her fabulous book, 21st Century Girls; “Visual media demonstrated how products can define identity; they teemed with images of successful new men and women, attractively dressed, carefully coiffed, driving smart cars, eating exotic food, and living in swish designer homes. So we concentrate on earning enough money to pay for the perfect lifestyle, clinging to the belief that this would make everything come right in the end.”

She goes on to describe how family life has turned into family lifestyle…yikes.

However, this is not our faults; this is the product of us all coping in what is an increasingly global, capitalist world.

But we can make choices based on creating a simple family life rather than a family lifestyle. We find it easier to read the marketers message – a message that our children cannot decipher between.

It is easy to fill our children’s lives with gadgets, toys and screens, it is hard to say no. Yet we need to to help our children have lives and not lifestyles, not just now but when they become adults in this progressively faster technology-based world we inhabit.



  1. I might be a bit less relaxed if I had a daughter – how can you teach them that self esteem is more than looks when that is so much of what is around them?

    Children can be surprisingly wise and see they do see through the media ploys. But it is a scary world – and definitely a tough one for girls to negotiate.

    Anyway, where did I put the crisps??

  2. Your right Reb – TV rules – just not ITV…! And everything in moderation, except crisps.

    I do like Barker, I like her scaring tactics, bring out the bloody paperclips and matchboxes!! But maybe thats because I am looking at the world through the eyes of my daughters and worry too much, so its good to know most of the world are actually very normal indeed….thank you.

  3. I have to say I disagree with Sue Barker. I certainly see that the media are heartily focussed on the coiffed lives of the celebs, and there is as much of this toilet paper available as one would choose to read. And women’s mags are indeed poison, pedalling a false perfection and pitting woman against woman.

    But I don’t honestly know ANYONE who lives in that material bubble… for the most part, people are happy to live with what they have – yes, they work to provide a comfortable home and life for their family, but they are not striving for this material lifestyle. They might be looking to create a certain aesthetic in their homes, but they are not Cath Kidston/Heal’s junkies. I’m not saying these people don’t exist – but just that I don’t think most people are like that. The media has held up and then ripped apart the lifestyles of the rich/famous ever since it came in to being and will do so until it dies. And now, it likes to dictate to us about our lifestyles in terms of shock/horror.

    There aren’t many mums around who haven’t put the TV on for a moment’s peace, or when their children are so tired and so fratchy that nothing else will do. And it is so important to offer kids choices and to give them a framework for these things, so they don’t expect to rely on a screen for entertainment, and learn that yes – they can create their own lives. Even if they’ve only got a box of matches and a bent paperclip. But everything in moderation. Even moderation. No two people are the same, and we all hold different aspirations and dreams.

  4. Yes. Yes. Yes! Smartphones are killing us. :o)

    If I could go back to the days of rotary phones and four channels of television, when I actually wanted to go play outside…oh, happy day…

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