HARD to believe really when you consider the shambles of the trams, the council cutbacks, the biting cold wind that sweeps off the Forth and the eye-watering house prices . . .
However, new research claims that Edinburgh folks are the happiest in the land.
It turns out it’s the really little things in the life – the simplest of gestures and most day-to-day events – that give us our biggest boost.
The survey by shopping channel QVC claims Capital residents are the UK’s happiest, with 97 per cent of those quizzed agreeing that the best things in life – from an unexpected compliment to a sunny day – often have the biggest impact on our mood.
And material things – whether it’s a fancy holiday or a designer outfit – don’t even get a look in.
The Capital seems to buck the trend as UK-wide just 23 per cent of people agreed.
Not only that, but we enjoy spreading the happiness – 39 per cent of Edinburgh people asked said they had received a ‘pick me up’ gesture within the past day.
Psychoanalyst Philip Hodson, who studied the research, says: “The little things in life are incredibly important. Even a token gift from a friend or loved one, it gives us that vital reassurance that someone is thinking of us. If it’s one of nature’s little gifts, like the sound of a baby’s laughter or the sight of falling snow – both of which were shown by QVC’s research to rank highly to improve people’s day – reminds us that there’s beauty in the world.
“We must just remember to look out for, and take time to appreciate, these every day little things.”
So forget shopping sprees at Harvey Nichols, dinner at The Kitchin and a million pound home in The Grange. It seems it doesn’t take that much to please us after all. Just what IS it that puts a giant smile on our faces?
The comic and Evening News columnist finds joy in unexpected places. Indeed, one place that many of us try to avoid: “Ironing,” she says. “I LOVE ironing. I’m really good at it too.
“And I love a bargain. Oh, the fun of a rampage through a charity shop and the discovery of a bag with an expensive label and a cheap price tag.”
Being around her kids and the simple pleasure of sitting on the sofa watching telly with her hubby make her happy, particularly if the family cat decides to join them.
“We both work weird hours, so being together is really nice, and quite rare, which is probably why we are still married,” she says. “And the cat falling off the sofa makes me happy. Happens more often than you’d think.
“I love a good belter of a walk, particularly through Leith Links or along the shore at Porty. Especially if it’s brisk. Or warm. Or cold. Actually, any time.
“And unexpected pictures of George Clooney. I know he got married, but he never met me. Dang that restraining order,” she says and laughs.
Another source of pleasure is just catching up with her friends. “Loads of my young pals are getting pregnant and having kids now (I’m at granny-age stage) so it’s great to see them with their babies.”
Actor and film-maker Danny’s short film is a searing and gritty look at the scars left by childhood abuse – not much to raise the spirits there. But he is definitely smiling after picking up a glittering award for his work on it.
“That makes me happy,” he grins, reflecting on winning the best actor in a short film award at the Golden Door International Film Festival in New Jersey last week.
He was in good company – Bruce Willis’ daughter Rumer Willis picked up the best actress title in the same category. And the moment Miss Universe congratulated him was, he recalls, particularly happy.
His film, Eleven, is now being considered for development as a full length feature film, but former Stewart’s Melville pupil Danny, says what really makes him happy is being around his pals back home.
“Being an actor means there are a lot of ups and downs in your life. I am a positive person though. I’m really happy seeing my family and friends excited and proud of me for what I’m doing.”
The owner of Howies in Waterloo Place and Victoria Street, finds unexpected acts of kindness usually brighten up his mood. “Seeing a young person holding the door for an older one,” David says. “Someone offering you small change when you are a few pence short and the wee shop is short of change – with no expectation of getting it back.”
Closer to home, his heart soars with joy when his teenage son actually bothers to respond to one of his texts. “An old friend sending you a cheery message out of the blue and the sun shining on your face on an October morning,” he adds.
His wife, writer and presenter Alison Craig, pictured above with her husband, is at her happiest right now, as the season changes. “I love winter,” she explains. “Bright blue skies, cold, clean air. Boots, designed to hide stumpy legs, are a joy.
“Put the fire on, make a huge plate of slow-cooked casserole and mash to share round the table with some old pals in cosy jumpers.”
The Edinburgh actor is typically spreading happiness – he’s a panto regular and recently appeared in BBC’s Glasgow 2014 Commonwealth Games-themed comedy Don’t Drop the Baton.
For him, happiness is courtesy of nephews, Kian, four, and seven-year-old Cavan Usher, who just have to give him a quick hug to raise his spirits.
But right now what is making his heart leap is news his all-time favourite programme, Twin Peaks, is heading back to television: “The small things, like a hug from my nephews or just sitting watching old episodes of Twin Peaks and I’m happy.”
Charity fundraiser Lynne is one of life’s more upbeat characters – perhaps not surprising as it’s been shown that people who are naturally kind to others often experience ‘helper’s high’, when levels of dopamine in the brain are given a jolt from doing something good.
“Lots of little things make me happy,” she says.
“Fresh laundered bed linen, being sent or given nice flowers – as opposed to ‘garage’ flowers! – meeting a friend’s new puppy, seeing the first daffodils of spring.
“Definitely seeing the crocuses appear in Charlotte Square – that’s probably top of my list.”
Biggest kick is spotting the bus which carries the charity’s It’s Good 2 Give livery.
“I get a real buzz from that,” she adds.
Steve gets an instant kick from looking at his Instagram account and seeing the number of followers go up and up. More than 110,000 of them at last count follow his wilde_oates posts – all made happy by his striking pictures of Capital life.
“I’ve met a great group of people through it too,” he adds, “who are just interested in meeting up and taking photographs. And I get to show people around the world the places I love in Edinburgh and Scotland.”
Finding a fresh angle on an old favourite spot which has been photographed hundreds of times makes him smile too.
“And my cycle to work in the morning,” he adds. “Along the Union Canal from Harrison Park to the town centre. Even on a rainy day, it sets me up for the day ahead.”
Writer Millie, whose latest Leith-based novel When Sorry Is Not Enough, is just out, is happy just waking up every morning. “When you’re 80, if you get up in the morning and are still breathing, that tends to make you happy,” she says.
“I went to Port Seton on a windy day and it made me happy just watching the waves, the white horses, crashing over the sea wall.
“What used to make me happy was seeing bairns in their prams and stopping to have a wee smile, but you daren’t do that these days. Half the time you can’t even see them in these modern buggies.
“And talking to other people makes me happy. My generation was brought up to speak to others, we didn’t have phones or text messages, we acknowledged each other and we had good neighbours.”
Like many, she derives pleasure from newly laundered linen. “Bed sheets that have been washed and dried in the fresh air and have that lovely fresh smell that comes from being outside.
“My sister always says what makes her happy is a good drying day. And my mother used to be very happy when she saw a nice washing line: whites all together, the socks perfectly matched in pairs. I remember her saying how our neighbour in Restalrig, Mrs Anderson, would be long remembered long after she died for hanging out a lovely washing line. When I said I wouldn’t want to be remembered just for that, she scolded me for having no ambition.”
Marathon man Dr Andrew, the Scottish Government’s physical activity champion, naturally includes exercise in his list of what makes him happy. “Happiness is playing five-a-side football with friends then going for a quick pint.
“Getting down from a day in the hills and having a steaming hot mug of tomato soup.”
Exercise really does make us ‘happier’, by releasing endorphins, a chemical that fights stress and can create a feeling of euphoria.
But he’s equally happy with some ‘down time’ enjoying family life. “Happiness is feeding my six-week-old baby her milk after a long day’s work and having a little bit of family time. And going for a walk with my wife and baby girl to the duck pond, and seeing the leaves change colour.”
The chef and Evening News columnist is a busy man, so what makes him very happy is a bit of peace and quiet. “When your rare day off isn’t interrupted by calls and e-mails,” Mark explains. “Getting into bed with fresh bed sheets on a cold winter’s night. And the changing of the seasons. It’s a constant challenge but it makes every chef in Scotland happy.”
Rob, who tours the world with his Elvis tribute act, is never happier than when he’s immersed in music. “Finding something in the bargain bucket that you don’t need but buying it because it’s a bargain,” he adds.
Rob, originally from Prestonpans and now based in Warrington, says that happiness is coming home to see family and friends.
“Getting brown sauce on my chips when I come back to Edinburgh and an ice cream snowball from Luca’s.”
Top ten of happiness
ACCORDING to shopping channel QVC, city folks are easily pleased. Here’s what makes us happiest.
1. A compliment (75 per cent)
2. Sunny days (72 per cent)
3. Climbing into a clean bed (63 per cent)
4. An unexpected gift (63 per cent)
5. A hug (63 per cent)
6. Laughter (63 per cent)
7. Finding money (60 per cent)
8. A good book (60 per cent)
9. Seeing snow fall (50 per cent)
10. Babies giggling (46 per cent)