A really huge initiative was launched this week called "Action for Happiness. http://www.actionforhappiness.org/. It's main aim is to increase joy and happiness in the world by being kind to others and fostering a sense of community in response to what they say is "an epidemic of loneliness and isolation".
So is this true? Are we at the stage where we need an intervention to be happy? Professor Richard Layard, who runs the wellbeing programme at the London School of Economics says that despite earning more money than ever before society isn't any happier. To this end, he has helped mastermind this initiative and is asking people for an individual commitment to increasing happiness for themselves and perhaps more importantly for others. Supporters will do this by setting up local action groups with a view to promoting happiness and well-being in their communities.
Now it's easy to pour scorn on such a seemingly "frothy" idea but I have to admit when I read about it I felt positively excited by it all. I spent last night reading everything I could on Action for Happiness, tweeting every nugget of information regularly in an attempt to get the message out there. I think I did this because I have felt that, as a nation we have become glazed with a veneer of negativity. We seem to have lost all sense of community and yet this is the glue which keeps families together and each other safe and happy. By operating within our own personal bubbles, are we missing out on simple acts of caring for other people, the vulnerable and isolated, when a small act of kindness could foster a sense of belonging and improve well-being?
Yesterday's media was all about the postive effects of Action for Happiness, I mean after all, who would DARE to diss such a positive cause on it's launch day. Today, this was counter-balanced with the headline along the lines of "happiness makes me feel a bit sick". Wow that didn't take long did it! Launched Tuesday, placed on pedestal; dissed on Wednesday, shoved off pedestal! Happy.......for one day! To be fair the journalist in question, did admit that the organisation had "fantastic chutzpah" to attempt this in the grip of the worst recession in decades. She also noted the impact of technology in pursuit of happiness and highlighted the wonderful MINDAPPLES (http://mindapples.org/) which is another social enterprise promoting positive mental health. Their aim is to "make looking after our minds as natural as brushing our teeth" and they do this by asking the question “What’s the 5-a-day for your mind?”. It's a simple concept but how often do we really give our minds our full attention (if any!!). Given the list of daily chores, work, cooking tea, packed lunches, feed fish, feed cats, feed cats, feed cats (AGAIN), washing, remove choc wrappers from washing machine etc etc, is it any wonder we don't think about nourishing and protecting our minds!
I'm sure the debate will continue about the validity of pursuing happiness as a specific aim. But for me, I'm certainly going to give it a try and have already signed up to Mindapples and posted my 5 a day which were:
1. Watching my washing blowing in the wind (chance for a brief meditation!)
2. Share a joke with my 11 year old (laughter always the best medicine for me!)
3. Listen to Pause for Thought, Radio 2, 9.15 am or thereabouts (eclectic mix of vicars/monks/wise people offering an insight into daily life which is always refreshing and thought-provoking.
4. Have coffee, cake and a chat with a friend (my cure all for everything - guaranteed to make me feel good).
5. Give a hug (best of the day usually when husband returns home from work) - I used to get them from my son and they were glorious but he's 11 now and its SOOOO uncool!! Boo!
Why not take a moment and think of your 5 a day!
I'm off now to see if I can log on to the Action for Happiness website. I've tried on several occasions only to be told that the website is overwhelmed and has crashed under the weight of users!!! I guess I'm not alone in pursuit of happiness!
Have a good week and BE HAPPY
ps Forgot to mention that yesterday during the launch, someone led a group meditation which was disturbed by a persistant ringtone! I can just imagine all those lovely people merrily meditating and then getting more and more annoyed by this. I know my own mindfulness guru would have said "turn towards the discomfort - explore how that ringing phone makes you feel". I would have wanted to shout SHUT THE BLOODY THING OFF I'M TRYING TO GET HAPPY HERE!!! Still learning......