In recent years I've asked hundreds of parents what they want above all for their children. Although their answers vary, nearly all of them say something like "I really just want them to be happy". Happiness is the thing we want the most for the people we love the most.
But the problem is that our happiness has been hijacked.
We're bombarded with false and misleading images of happiness. Advertisers tell us it comes from buying their products. Celebrities and the media pretend it comes with beauty or fame. And politicians claim that nothing matters more than growing the economy.
Everywhere we look the story is the same: buy and achieve these things and then you'll be happy. But remember, you'll then need to keep getting more in order to stay happy and keep up with your peers. And if they start to get ahead then just keep consuming!
On and on we go in a mindless and seemingly endless cycle.
I could of course point to many studies confirming how wrong this all is - lasting happiness does not come from what we consume, how we look or how much we earn. But, let's be honest, you probably knew that already!
So how can we put this right? Firstly we can each try to live more mindfully and avoid getting caught in the "I'll be happy when..." trap.
But we can also reclaim happiness, by sharing a more authentic view of what really makes us happy. And this week is the perfect opportunity to start this together.
This coming Thursday (20 March) is the United Nations International Day of Happiness. To celebrate this special day, Action for Happiness is running a global campaign, with support from over 40 organisations and many thousands of people around the world.
Their shared mission is to show the world what happiness really looks like - and in doing so, to reclaim happiness back from the advertisers, celebrities, media and others who try to manipulate us. Here's how you can get involved...
- Step 1: Find. Look through your photos right now for a picture of something that really made you happy.
- Step 2: Capture. When something makes you happy today or in the coming days, remember to take a moment and capture it on camera.
- Step 3: Share. Share your images of happiness with others using the #happinessday hashtag (e.g. via Twitter, Instagram, Facebook etc)
There are already lots of inspiring examples of people sharing #happinessday images: children playing in a garden, flowers outside an office, friends celebrating a birthday, a family walk on the hills, outdoor fun in the sun and many more.
Unlike the fake images in adverts and magazines, these authentic photos help to remind us of what really matters. We may not be able to change the world overnight, but together we can share a vision of happiness which is far more inspiring that the one we're sold.
So why not take a moment to find (or take) a picture of something that makes you happy and share it right now. It might be profound, or perhaps profoundly silly. But however small and personal, the fact that you have noticed it makes it quite important enough.
Action for Happiness will be building a huge collection of these #happinessday images from around the world and, as well as taking social media by storm, the hope is to present a selection of these images at the United Nations later this year.
Let's focus on the things that really matter. Let's reclaim happiness together.
Follow Dr Mark Williamson on Twitter: www.twitter.com/markwilliamson