IF you want to be happy, be . . . like Bill Bailey. The comedian thinks the key to happiness comes from life’s simple pleasures, such as listening to music, writing a letter or just having a good swear.
During these bleak times, the Strictly contestant shares his new book: Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide To Happiness.Billa Bailey thinks the key to happiness comes from life's simple pleasuresCredit: Chris McAndrew
Bill says: “This was written during the coronavirus pandemic, largely while we were in lockdown.
"Happiness might seem an odd or even perverse topic to tackle during these strange times but perhaps this whole experience has made us all take stock a little and consider what is most important. And happiness is right up there for me . . . along with correct footwear.”
In an exclusive extract, here NATASHA HARDING reveals some of the funnyman’s happiest times.The comedian has written a guide to happiness
SWEARING is good for us — it’s been proven. Cursing makes us healthier and helps us to lead happier, more productive lives.
WTF, Bill? You’re talking b*llocks now.Swearing can actually help you withstand painCredit: Shutterstock
No, it’s true. According to a study by Keele University, swearing is not just beneficial as a form of verbal venting, of catharsis. It can actually help you withstand pain.
As part of this study, which I have to say sounds like the best fun, participants were asked to submerge their hands in a bowl of iced water and keep them there for as long as they could stand.
During this total hoot of an ordeal, half of the participants were told to repeat a neutral word and the other half a swear word.
The result of the Keele study was unequivocal. The swearers could hold their hand in the bowl 50 per cent longer than the primsters (a word I’ve just invented for someone who does not, or will not, swear).
But when I bang my toe on the table leg, or trap my finger while assembling a deckchair, or clip my elbow for the umpteenth time on the car door, then I will give full rein to some imaginative cursing — and it feels good.
ONE of my earliest memories is hearing my mother singing around the house.
She would often accompany songs on the radio. Magic Moments by Perry Como was a favourite.For Bill music is a companion, a source of happiness and sometimes comfort
Visualising music is a habit I acquired in childhood.
From an early age my mother would sit me down near the record player and bring music to life.
A favourite of mine, I now know, was the Karelia Suite by Sibelius. But back then I had no idea who the composer was or what the piece was called.
I had no expectation or frame of reference. For that reason, I think of it now as one of the purest forms of musical enjoyment I can recall.
For me, music is a companion, a source of happiness and sometimes comfort, and my curiosity at its power over us has been my mother’s gift.
FOR me, laughter is a pure form of happiness because it’s raw, unadulterated and you cannot control it. We laugh despite ourselves, as if laughter is no respecter of how we ought to be, or think, or behave.
It’s pure happiness precisely because there is no way to predict it.Laughing causes the brain to release endorphins that help to reduce pain and trigger positive feelingsCredit: Getty Images - Getty
Over the years, I have heard all manner of different laughs emanate from an audience.
The cackle, the explosive snort, the involuntary whinny, the breathless rasp, the belly-laugh . . . the full sonic range of human glee.
Laughter is good for us. It’s a release, a stress-reliever — it causes the brain to release endorphins that help to reduce pain and trigger positive feelings.
It inhibits the stress hormone cortisol and stimulates the hippocampus, the brain’s memory centre.
Which is why so many of our fondest memories involve laughter. It can stop arguments in their tracks and doesn’t fail to make everyone feel that little bit better.
THERE are days when we have the time and the need to lose ourselves in a book.
I consume books and the written word like homemade brownies; I revel in being gripped by the twists and turns of a thriller, being immersed in a classic or a biography, fascinated by a feature, a column, even the instructions that accompany a vegetable steamer.Sometimes reading is just escapism, which is also fineCredit: Getty Images - Getty
Sometimes reading is just escapism, which is also fine.
Read the classics, sure, but also an occasional lightweight airport pulp novel is a good palate cleanser for denser, richer fare.
I’VE never been out with my dog Tiger yet and not had a chat with some other dog owner. All this has positive knock-on effects that can counteract loneliness and even boost your self-esteem.
Many studies will tell you this, and that’s all marvellous, but what they don’t mention is you’ll have dog hair on your clothes and poo-bags in the pocket of every coat you own.There’s something about dog's steadfast adoration that gives us joyCredit: Shutterstock
The thing I love about dogs is you get so much back from them — if you put the hours in, they repay you threefold.
I know people who have been avowed non-dog people, then some scrawny mutt somehow wins them over. We can’t help ourselves because they’ve wormed their way into our affection for thousands of years.
There’s something about their steadfast adoration that gives us joy.
SOMETIMES you just need to cut loose and whether it’s throwing shapes at the wedding/club/campsite or just having a quiet boogie on your own, dancing is an excellent way of doing that.
When I was a teenager, I had ballroom dancing lessons. There was a dance school across the road from our house and I learned the waltz, the foxtrot and the quickstep. The teacher was a tiny woman with huge passion for The Dance.Having a quiet boogie on your own can boost your happiness and disconnectCredit: Getty Images - Getty
I can see the appeal of the foxtrot, the tango and the rhumba, but it’s not really me. I am more of a free-form mischief dancer, — a Loki of the Lindy Hop.
I remember one night in Madrid with the wife and the teenage son — pogoing, headbanging and generally arsing about at a Foo Fighters gig.
It remains one of my most cherished memories.
It’s the best fun to dance like no one’s looking among a crowd full of people.
I HAVE a collection of letters from my grandmother and my mother, who were both enthusiastic letter writers.
These have become keepsakes, mementos. Letters can have great power and lasting influence.If a letter seems too onerous, a card will be fineCredit: Alamy
I don’t see anyone printing off emails and framing them any time soon.
If that’s not enough of an incentive for you to write a letter, what about postcards?
I have made it a ritual every time I am on tour, regardless of where I am, to send one. I urge you to make the effort. If a letter seems too onerous, a card will be fine.
Just gather the writing paraphernalia. Go through your address book and put pen to paper. It will make someone happy.
Mainly you.Bill Bailey’s Remarkable Guide To Happiness (Quercus, £20) is out now.
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