Joie de vivre. The ability to take pleasure from the simple fact of being alive, this being all around you; expressed in a dozen or more small ways. A smile or a thank you, the noisy, good humoured banter in a French market, the air of anticipation of friends waiting for good food in a restaurant. If there’s such a thing as a formula for a long and happy old age, perhaps it’s no more than that-to eat, drink and be merry. Above all, to be merry.
It’s not just the French though. The Danes are ranked high amongst the world’s most contented people, and many believe it’s down to the art of cosiness, simple pleasures and living well, called ‘hygge’; an indefinable quality of place, people and togetherness. I think that an awful lot of unhappiness experienced in modern life is primarily attributable the belief that a stressful life, where everybody is so busy, is an inescapable fact.
And you would be entirely wrong.
De-stress. Treat yourself; it might not be healthy in some ways, but it’s good for you. Our Italian cousins base their whole familial structure around the home, family and especially food; closely entwined with an insistence on informal homeliness.
Recognising the simpler pleasures in life is often the key. How about hunkering down with a lovely Barolo, with candlelight, and a rich casserole infusing the air with wonderful meaty aromas on a cold and rainy evening? Or, the gentle enjoyment of a summer bicycle ride. Kicking the leaves in autumn. Snowmen and snowballs in winter.
At best, just embrace a love of simplicity, and a rejection of expensive brands and conspicuous consumption, with a renewed focus on the social relations that really matter.
So try it. I think you’ll like it a lot.