Chief Article Writer Brittany Sutcliffe shares her thoughts on the art of being happy.

Those clever clogs over at the London School of Economics published something I feel is rather important. According to them, the art of being happy is all about mental health and relationship status. The same team of researchers also discovered that money and material wealth have very little impact on our overall happiness levels.

Now, very recently I was assessed for a presentation on the anxiety-inducing effects of capitalism. It inspired an article for BUMF which was posted before Christmas that you can have a look at here. It was all about how we’re encouraged to stay indoors on our devices and to swallow the everyday pressures of life as though they’re normal. We often feel at fault for not handling them when in reality, those responsible for creating the systems that upset us are at fault. Our assessments and academic success, our job performance reviews, our financial worries. These are just some of the big things that loom over our heads for extended periods of time.

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LSC researchers found that mental health was by the far the largest influence on life satisfaction, with depression and anxiety accounting for approximately twenty percent. Last week, I made a plea for us artists to respond to our shared stresses, to create work about it, to reveal the public secret that we’ve all felt but not spoken about. I’m turning that plea into a formal request. I don’t think it takes a genius to point out a link between mental health and art (but in case you need more proof, you can have a lookie here). With that in mind, what are you waiting for?

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We’ve got all the communication skills you could ever need. Paint, word, video, photo, performance, clothing, sound. Everything that catches your eyes and ears every day and we’re here being taught how to manipulate it. We’ve got the tools, all we need now is the means. The researchers responsible for this information asked for “a new focus for public policy: not ‘wealth creation’ but ‘wellbeing creation’.”

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This isn’t some “Illuminati” rubbish, this is real life. This is what we’re all going through on the daily and there’s something we at AUB can do about it. In their report, the authors note that life satisfaction among the general population has been the single biggest predictor of the outcome of European elections since the 1970s. When we feel helpless or down, we’ll either act in protest or follow the crowd under the notion that we “have no choice so we might as well”. I’m not going to state my own political opinions but I think Brexit is a good metaphor for this. How can we as a country be as divided as 48% and 52%? At least a landslide either side would have proved me wrong, or that there was some evidence that we as a country knew where we were going. It’s time to get out of the fog. What do you want from life? LSC has just narrowed down that list for you, your iPhone and your Topshop jeans are only going to keep you happy for so long. We know our virtual selves on Instagram and Facebook are neither accurate or healthy for us. So what are you going to do about it?

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I’m often described as optimistic. I’ll say “why can’t they just do this?” and my mum will say something like “only in an ideal world Britt”. It’s annoying. She’s right, we aren’t in an ideal world but we could be. Tell me I’m not being ridiculous. I reckon we all just need a big kick up the bum to get started. Okay, this is it, this is your kick up the bum. The researchers calculated that abolishing depression and anxiety would be four times more effective at ending misery than raising all incomes. Yay! We don’t need to live that big baller lifestyle that only the top one percent can afford to be happy. Now, eliminating these disorders isn’t possible right now. Boo! Although…the authors found that treating anxiety and depression costs 18 times less than raising people above the poverty line. We may have found a cost-effective way of reducing misery and with research like this being published, the word is getting out. We’re waking up. How’s that for a light at the end of the tunnel.

Words by Brittany Sutcliffe, Illustrations by Laura Franx