Do you want to be happy? Of course you do, but according to new research, resting and relaxation are no way to go about it.

You're better off going to the theatre or exercising; even a visit to the library beats lounging around on the sofa.

Such were the findings of a joint study by the University of Sussex and the London School of Economics, which has come up with a list of 33 activities that make us happy.

One thing's for certain, texting and social media come at the bottom of the list, only increasing our happiness by a puny 0.45 per cent.

But happiness doesn't have to come from other people. It can come from within - and connecting with the world around you.



By Sally Brampton

A few years ago I went through a period of such severe depression that life didn't seem worth living. It was like permanent winter, so bleak and cold that the sun would never shine.

Then I saw snowdrops pushing through the freezing, iron-hard ground. I looked at them every day until I felt that if they could come back to life, then so could I.

Those green shoots gave me hope in a way that nothing else had.

As spring came, I started to put in more and more plants, until the garden was ablaze with colour. Life was growing through my hands; gentle, peaceful, but, above all, optimistic. If I gave love, it was returned, a hundredfold.

I could spend hours lost in gardening. The form of depressive illness I have is biological. It has affected generations of my family and follows no rhyme, reason nor circumstance. I can be depressed when the sun is shining or I am surrounded by a group of loving friends.

Of course, fresh air and exercise help to alleviate depression, but for me gardening is more than that. It represents endurance as well as hope.

At the end of the first garden I made stood a tree, huge and magnificent. It withstood freezing temperatures and gale-force winds. It bent but never broke.

The leaves dropped until it looked no more than a stark skeleton, but it always, always came back to life. And so I learned that we may be battled and bruised, but hope is a living thing.