Opinion: Cheerfulness is my god

THIS LIFE It is possible to avoid sinking into despair without resorting to antidepressants, writes Richard Jameson

Life is for living and I hope to remain living it to the full. It requires a ruthless disposition to reject the dark and the bad. There’s always a bright positive side and it is, of course, simply a question of acknowledging it and sticking to it. This means the artificial can become the natural.

On the whole, I have kept cheerfulness as my god, as each challenge has raised its head. I’ve gone forth like a rat up a drainpipe, won scholarships, friends and jobs. I’ve found the funny side of nausea. When I started hearing voices, my happiness was at its peak, I went over the top so there is a limit to enjoying life if you go that far. But for the normal person the limit is enormous and you really can be said to be enjoying life to the full. A positive attitude of mind is all that is required. To be happy is a deliberate policy and to let oneself sink into despair is a terrible fate. It is possible for everyone to avoid this.

I have nothing against antidepressants because they may well prevent the gloomy state, but it is all a question of cheering up, and this you can do if you put your mind to it. It is much like lifting yourself up by your own bootstraps – impossible on the surface, quite possible underneath. If you really do find yourself slipping down and down and down, the cry comes…snap out of it!

If you can alter your mood at all you will do this. And most people can. I am not looking for sensational changes, but little alterations upwards. Life is never a perfectly flat, even keel; we are either progressing up or down. I sampled 15 years in hospital. Happiness is the goal for any right-minded person, even though you may be sectioned nine times in succession.

After my acting career, magic took over and I found myself performing for old folk’s homes all over London. Surely this is enjoying life to the full. You may be a football fan, in which case you can enjoy life fully kicking a ball about or by watching someone else doing it. I can well understand such enthusiasm; it’s just that I do not get the thrill from the ball as others do.
Whatever your bent, pursue it flat out. Let’s hope you get as much enjoyment from your job as you do from your leisure  activities. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t. You can derive tremendous satisfaction from something you know very well and that keeps the money rolling in.

Happiness is not necessarily ecstasy, or even excitement. It is difficult to define but you know it when you’ve got it. The art of enjoying life is to be motivated at all times. People suppose they are miserable and nothing can be done about it. This is not so. A deliberate offer to adjust the balance, and even let you ride again in the happiness stakes, will find you taking an interest in the little things in life like never before. And you may feel low but your whole body will respond, and you will have physical proof that this approach is the only one worth effecting.

Richard Jameson is retired and uses mental health services

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