Smile While You Swim, How to be Happy and the Art of Gratitude


The latest research shows that due to pollution and human activity only 13 per cent of the world’s seas can be called ‘the wilderness’. There is almost no marine wilderness because of fishing, a huge amount of plastic waste, the expansion of commercial shipping, and fertiliser run-off from the land. The lead author of the University of Queensland study, Kendall Jones, wrote: “We were astonished by just how little marine wilderness remains. The ocean is immense, covering over 70% of our planet, but we’ve managed to significantly impact almost all of this vast ecosystem.” There is also another problem emerging – the massive use of medically-prescribed drugs that are finding their way into the environment as they pass through humans. Just in this country, 64.7 million prescriptions for antidepressants were handed out in 2018. I won’t even chance a guess as to the global combined total of these prescriptions. These drugs stay in soil for many months, contaminating worms, flies and other food resources of birds, and seep into our water supplies. Apart from antidepressants, there is a rise in self-help books. Some advocate to become more selfish, teaching how to say NO, others advise to plead with the universe for help. There is an epidemic of people complaining of loneliness. This is quite extraordinary in the twenty-first century. Philosophers across the millenia have been pondering what happiness is and how to be happy. One could think that by now it should be obvious to everybody, but as we don’t teach primary school children about this, the results are dire; a rise in the suicide rate, self-harming of children, and a rise in violent crime. Yet, it would be helpful to teach children that the only way to find true happiness is by doing something for others, a good deed every day. I have never heard anyone who is involved in any voluntary work complaining of being bored, lonely or depressed.  A recent book, ‘A boy in the water’ by  Tom Gregory shows what can be achieved by one man. It is an account of ‘a remarkable bond between a coach and a boy, and an act of endurance that will shape and mark that boy for the rest of his life.’ In the next post I will write about other people who found fulfilment and happiness through their dedication to help those in need. As I write this, one extraordinary man is highlighting  the need to save the oceans. It is Lewis Pugh who is swimming the full length of the English Channel, from Land’s End to Dover. Although he is an experienced endurance swimmer, this is an outstanding achievement. He copes with challenging conditions and jellyfish attacks by admiring the English coast: ‘one of the most beautiful in the world.’ He also smiles while he swims. How inspirational is this….

Counting your blessings each and every day also averts feelings of loneliness and being dissatisfied with life. Dwelling on any real or perceived problems often leads to the worst thing happening, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

I have to come back to land pollution which affects the ocean too. In the USA, hundreds of people with cancer are pursuing a legal claim against Monsanto, the makers of the world’s most popular weedkiller, Roundup. It is alleged that this weedkiller used in gardens, parks and on food crops farms is potentially a cause of the cancer, non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma. Yet, it was proclaimed to be safe in the USA and EU. After it was found that its ingredient glyphosate can cause cancer in humans, the claims snowballed. I already wrote a few times that my garden is organic, and that I only buy organic products, but like-minded people cannot stop poisoning of the rivers and the oceans if the practice of spraying crops is not removed.  Rachel Carson warned about the dangers of pesticides decades ago and yet we are still using chemical contaminants to our peril. Here we have some visionary people who turn their land into natural meadows and make their, good by all accounts, living by providing very much in demand organic produce.

I can only conclude that happiness is easily found by simply not gazing at our navel, nor over-analysing our feelings, nor obsessing about our social media profiles, but by doing something, however small, for somebody else. In my next post I am going to write about one of many ways of achieving life-long fulfilment and happiness, without ever having to take any stimulants or antidepressants, the poison of our time.


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