Wednesday, 13 April 2011

In pursuit of Happiness

A really huge initiative was launched this week called "Action for Happiness.   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 ( 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

Mindfulmissy xxx

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......

Sunday, 3 April 2011

Can I be a mindful mum?

I looked at my 11 year old son today and thought "OH MY GOD, who stole my toddler and replaced him with this.....well bloke really!  All broad shoulders, big feet and a phone that rings permanently to the tone of Mr Blue Sky (ELO - we have taught him well!!!).  It got me thinking on this wonderful Mother's day, have I really been there for him, savoured those special moments, really noticed him grow?  Or did tiredness, work and those duller than dull daily tasks get in the way?   It's so hard to be in the moment with children, the very nature of their being makes us constantly look ahead as we approach the next milestone and tick it off in our mental manual of motherhood!  Each stage of childhood brings untold riches - that first smile, the first moment they roll over, the first time they sing a Tinie Tempeh track.....(google him!!)  But, is this tempered by our desire to move onto the next stage so we can be rid of the more arduous tasks of parenting such as getting up in the night for feeds or dancing the merry "colic" dance? 

And so it continues....oh how we hung on that first word "Shooooooooooe,  shoe.................DAD HE SAID SHOE!!!"  Ok... for a first word it was a bit random but I was beside myself with joy at this new development!   Over time these words grew and grew until they numbered so many they squeezed the space out of my brain.  You know that moment when the lift door opens, everyone packed in like sardines.  There's only you waiting and you feel you have to get in and then it beeps for ages in protest.  Well that's how it's felt sometimes when my precious boy overfilled my day with dialogue!  And yes, I have been forced on occasions to say......"WILL YOU PLEASE JUST GIVE IT A REST".  All that time teaching them to speak only to say....stop speaking!  I hang my head in shame!  So these wonderful beings we bring into the world continue to grow and blossom and we get sucked into a cycle of planning ahead, often without realising.  Even now, when my son is still in the last year of primary school, I'm looking towards September when he goes to secondary school;  checking out uniform, what he will need, who he will walk to school with and, to this end, allowing him to "practise" walking to school in preparation (while I wait patiently by the window, heart in mouth until he appears, waving and rolling his eyes at my anxiety).  Where is the NOW in all of this? 

But not to be too hard on myself (or mums in general), I guess this forward thinking is what keeps us afloat.   It's perhaps inevitable that we live a little bit in the future so that we can pave the way for them, make their day a little easier, or bring some organisation to the chaos that can surround our kids.   However, I think it's also about checking out that at some point in our day we really do pay them some proper attention; rather than that half-hearted "how was school?" said whilst making a stir-fry, doing the packed lunches and keeping an eye on twitter!  (points for multi-tasking!! yes!  Points for being no!).   Learning mindfulness and developing a commitment to it has really helped me pause more, notice when I'm doing too many things at once without focus and it's enabled me to really look at what's before me.  The only problem is, that since I last looked my cute little boy, all mucky faced and knobbley-kneed has started to change into man complete with deeper voice (eery! - I keep thinking there's a burglar upstairs then I realise it's my boy!), spots (please can I have my clinique concealer back) and bigger feet that mine!!!  (AT LAST!  I've got my trainers back - there are some perks to this growing lark).......BUT.....

I don't think I'm ready for this!!!   

Have a wonderful mother's day!


ps  I read this lovely poem today via Paulo Coelho's blog.  It's really worth a moment's pause in your day to celebrate motherhood (or parenthood)

pps have just had to break off to send text to son as it's chucking it down and he's out playing/hanging out with his friends!  "Are you keeping dry?" I asked (sub-text, you might get a cold/flu/pneumonia/bubonic plague...somebody stop me!!).  If I was a mindful mum I'd have said "Enjoy the rain"!!!!  Still learning........