Monday, 2 February 2009

Finding Happiness

In the UK we prefer to use the word ‘wellbeing’ in exchange for ‘happiness.’ I think the reason we Brits are reluctant to use the “H” word is because it might sound too frivolous. However, this is now changing. In all the recent research I’ve undertaken and interviews I’ve conducted as it relates to what people really want in their lives, when it gets down to the nitty-gritty, happiness sits right at the top.

The LSE’s (London School of Economics) most attended classes are its happiness classes. The same can be said of Wellington College, Harvard University and Cambridge University, to name but a few. In fact, ‘a few’ is inaccurate; there are large numbers of schools, universities and government initiatives in the UK that have happiness/wellbeing projects in place. So now that happiness is out of the closet, how are we going to keep it that way?

It's become clear that real, sustainable happiness is a by-product of what we give, not what we receive. So to put that theory to the test, at the end of last year, I attempted to spend Christmas day volunteering at a charity. However, by the time I got round to contacting the various bodies, it was too late; all the spaces had been filled. There’s a saying - “A dog is not just for Christmas”… I decided I could offer my services after the holiday season.

I approached a mental health charity at the beginning of last month. It turns out that they were looking for someone to run a class on Personal Development. That seemed to be a good fit for me. So, last Thursday I facilitated the first of a 3-week course on Self Development for the charity. About ten ‘service users’, as they’re called, arrived at the Centre to attend the workshop. To be frank, before the event began, I was quite nervous. However, as soon as the first service user arrived, who was both communicative and articulate, I felt calm and happy to be there. At the end of the workshop I felt privileged and fulfilled.

For me, learning how to be happy continues to be a very personal journey. For some, it’s as if they were born happy and remain so throughout their lives. For others, it seems to be as normal as having a cup of tea. I’ve met people who don’t consider unhappiness as an option. Clearly, I don’t have the secret to happiness per se, in saying that, I am learning how to recognise it when it emerges. And being able to recognise what it is that makes me happy for long periods of time is the key to revealing the secret.

P.S - The following may encourage some of you to feel a little happier:

"Banking shares have enjoyed their best week for months. ...bail-out plans on both sides of the Atlantic will ease the current strains..." - The Guardian, Saturday 31 January.