born 1977

Sasha is a blogger, living in Brixton, south London. The Happiness Project London (HPL) is her online effort aimed at helping people appreciate London as an exciting, liberating, open-minded place. She combats those feelings many of  us have about life in London – like feeling annoyed about cramped and expensive public transport or the fact that everyone is so busy all the time – by blogging about how wonderful life in London can be. HPL features anything in the city that makes her happy – dance, music, food, wine, arts, sports. In addition to signposting these gentle pointers towards happiness, Sasha has contemplated how fulfilling life in London can really be. Consequently she has brought together a list of ‘rules’ about how to be “a little more spiritual and a little less selfless” and ultimately, happy.

‘Sasha’ is her writing name. Like many bloggers she chooses to remain anonymous.

I began by asking Sash how she defines happiness.

Happiness is a state of mind that can be abrupt – like the first time someone says I love you –  or so subtle that you don’t realise you feel it until something reminds you, like the moment you finish a really great book. It can make you feel calm and peaceful, or excited, or powerful. You feel a certain warmth and your heart feels full. It feels like love.

What makes you happy?

Being surrounded by people I love and who love me. Being inspired by art or film or music or beautiful things. Dancing, cycling, stretching, hugs. The kindness of strangers. Gardening, playing piano, speaking French and singing (badly).

Can you think of a time when you remember feeling really happy?

If I have a great meal with a good friend where we talk about everything and nothing, I’ll feel deliciously warm and fuzzy for days afterwards. Recently, certain weddings and hen weekends have made feel happy to be a part of this big bubble of love – it sounds cheesy but it lasted for ages. On my own, I’ve felt happiest when I’ve been to interesting places or met interesting people or accomplished something, but I’m happier when I have someone I can share it with.

I asked Sasha about the HPL project.

HPL is my search for what makes people happy in London. It concentrates on making the most of what’s around us, but also connecting with your loved ones and wider community – I don’t think the cycle of making money and spending it in fun ways can make us truly happy on its own.

I wonder if writing and researching all the fascinating things there are to do in London makes someone happy.

Definitely – it inspires me to try new things, although sometimes I get overwhelmed at how huge my wishlist has become! Through the blog I’ve discovered other blogs and websites which inspire me and I love the camaraderie between bloggers. And the creative process of writing itself has been a revelation – as a shy extrovert (!), expressing myself to a wide, friendly audience has bolstered my confidence.

Thinking about happiness isn’t new to Sasha.

I’m one of those people who loves analysing why we feel how we do, and like many people I’ve had a certain amount of sadness in my life, which has led to much soul-searching. I’ve been aware since school days that some people are naturally happier than others and that for some of us – especially where life has dealt you a few crappy cards – you have to work at it a bit more.

I was interested to find out how important the HPL blog was to Sasha’s personal happiness, and whether she’d have been working on something like this if blogging didn’t exist.

The blog allows me to ask questions and makes me figure out the answers myself – otherwise it wouldn’t be interesting to read. If I didn’t have it to clarify my thoughts, I suspect I’d be paying for expensive therapy and driving my friends crazy (it was a good friend who suggested I start the blog so I could concentrate my thoughts and energy somewhere).

Would you say you were a happy person?

Yes and no. The good thing about me is that I’m open and curious and interested in just about anything, which makes me pretty positive. The bad thing about me is that my fascination/confusion about how my emotions work makes me swing wildly between self-awareness and paranoia, and I can be quite introverted at times. I’m at my happiest when I’m fully connected to my friends and family – a piece in a jigsaw, a happy little pea in a pod.

In interviewed Sasha in July 2010.

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