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How to walk back into happiness

Happiness is elusive, mercurial, difficult to define. It doesn’t last – well, nothing does - and its opposite does not have to be abject misery. Most of us are fortunate to get our daily dose of happiness. But we can be content with a less regular supply.

To keep in frequent touch with happiness, we try to maintain a nice home, a good job, have enough money to survive without too much of a struggle. But ultimately the thing that counts most is good health. Regular check-ups are essential, but so is the occasional treat. Everything doesn’t have to be hard, and of course, if you are happy, it will spread to those around you. Happiness is infectious.

But sometimes it requires a little more than this day-to-day maintenance. Great adversity can prompt us to confront the fundamental questions in life. In wresting meaning from a trauma, our perspective on life widens and deepens. Our preoccupation with the details of our own crisis diminishes. We realise that the great paradox of life is that suffering, bravely confronted, relieves us of the most painful part of being human – the sense of being locked inside our own skins. We feel part of the common lot of humanity, an indivisible part of something much older and bigger than ourselves. Great adversity and trauma make us aware of both the great abundance of life and its fragility. That awareness is the essence of wisdom. And wisdom is the path to true happiness.

In this week’s Sunday independent, psychologist Maureen Gaffney gives the definite guide to overcoming the depression caused by financial Depression. Julia Moloney points out the best ways to meet a mate. Ciara Dwyer tells how she found happiness. Barry Egan celebrates the people who add to the gaiety of the nation. We talk to the people who found happiness against all the odds. And we show you how to take your own happiness temperature. Is it a gift or a skill?

Read our ‘Happy Living’ special, only in this week’s Sunday Independent.