Christmas is long behind us, the bills are pouring in, it's cold and spring is far off. Here are 10 places to win back that feel-good factor and beat the blues
Tucked away in America’s deep south, Happy has a mere 700-strong population and just 2.8 km2 of land to its name. It may be small but it does have one claim to fame: rockabilly star Buddy Knox was born here in 1933. OK, so it may be a bit of a one-horse town, but at least it’s got rhythm to go with your blues.
The price of happiness: US Airways run indirect flights to Austin-Bergstrom airport (AUS) in Austin, Texas from around £600. Once there, pick up a Greyhound or Coach USA pass for a few dollars.
Denmark is regularly voted the happiest place in the world. Based on levels of contentment, quality of life, and work/life balance, it tops the charts – with Switzerland and Austria falling close behind.
That fresh Nordic air obviously has a lot to answer for, so take advantage of Copenhagen’s free bike hire, hike the Bulbjerg-Nymindegab West Coast Trail, or hop around the South Funen archipelago by boat. To really get those endorphins going, throw your inhibitions – and clothes – to the wind on one of Denmark’s many nudist beaches – just remember to slap on some suncream…
The price of happiness: easyJet flies from Stansted to Copenhagen from around £45 return. For details about free bike hire, hiking, sailing trips and naturist beaches in Copenhagen, visit www.visitdenmark.com.
Forget football – join the most ridiculous exercise craze to grace our shores instead: laughter yoga. A combination of yogic breathing (pranayama) and laughing, it’s been praised all over the world for its mood-boosting qualities. See Karma comedians: the laughter clubs of Mumbai for our investigation into its practice.
The price of happiness: Emirates flies from Heathrow and Gatwick to Mumbai from around £350 return. For more info on laughter yoga go to www.essenceoflaughter.com.
When University of California Medical Centre studied how religion can affect our outlook on life, Buddhism was revealed as the most mood-lifting of faiths. Book yourself into a meditation retreat for a quick pick me up, or go the whole hog with a proper introduction to the Buddhist faith.
The price of happiness: Cheaper than you think. The Kagyu Samye Ling Tibetan Buddhist centre on the banks of the River Esk, Scotland, cuts out the need for a long-haul flight. Prices start from around £80 for a yoga short course.
The best time to experience the uplifting Northern lights is between November and February and it's sure to get those endorphins going. Take a self-drive trip through the rugged north of Iceland, stopping off to look for whales and watch the sun skim the horizon.
The price of happiness: Icelandair flies from Heathrow and Glasgow to Reykjavik Keflavik (KEF) from around £250 return throughout the summer. Discover the World’s new Arctic Circle Adventurer includes accommodation, car hire and insurance for a seven-day self-drive tour.
One to save for the summer... Hire yourself a VW camper for a gleefully nostalgic trip back to the ’60s. Look out for festivals including Camper Jam, VW Northwest show and Vanfest around the UK throughout August and September – after all, who can be glum on a road trip?
The price of happiness: In the height of summer, expect to pay around £825 per week to hire an authentic VW camper. You can find many good rental companies with competitive quotes online (try www.oconnorscampers.co.uk or www.snailtrail.co.uk). Weekend VW festival passes start from around £25.
Just for Laughs, Montreal’s annual standup festival, takes over the city later this year.
Other free attractions include the beautiful parkland of Jardin des Floralies, the city’s labyrinthine underground shopping malls, and the world-class Montreal Museum of Fine Arts.
Take a trip to the home of cocoa, though, and you may be pleasantly surprised.
With elephant spotting in Mole National Park, humbling slave fortresses along the coast and the incredible stilt village of Nzuleza, Ghana is a spectacular country of contrast and intrigue. It’s well worth taking some time to explore, and with the sunshine, dancing and infectious enthusiasm you’ll be grinning in no time.
The price of happiness: British Airways fly from Heathrow to Accra for around £560 return. See www.touringghana.com for more details about things to do in Ghana.
There’s not much that a rum cocktail and a hula can’t cure. Pull on your grass skirt and flowery garlands in Hawaii.
The price of happiness: United Airlines fly from Heathrow to Honolulu from around £700 return.
Head to the remote west coast for a taste of the real South Africa, quietly beautiful with its deserted beaches and little bay towns.
Wanderlust’s Guide of the Year 2010 Selwyn Davidowitz runs township visits between Stellenbosch and Cape Town – a recommended way to see the truly inspiring charity work taking place in South Africa’s townships. If that doesn’t raise a grin, nothing will.
The price of happiness: British Airways fly from Heathrow to Cape Town from around £700. Accommodation on the west coast tends to be more reasonable than that in the cities and more touristy areas of the South coast. See www.ilovecapetown.com for more information on Selwyn’s tours, and www.southafrica.net for SA’s tourist board.