Can Brighton Be Any Happier?
Thanks to good new social media I noticed yesterday that Action For Happiness was having a meeting in Brighton. It turns out that this city by the sea already has its own Action For Happiness action group!
Off I toddle to the Quaker Meeting House on Ship Street. I arrive early and think, ‘well if there’s anywhere I can sit quietly for a while, it’s here!”.
I was delighted to see that Mark Williamson was giving the talk. I associate with and like this man. He is real, not fluffy and genuinely comes across as trustworthy and someone who cares.
The aim of the evening was to introduce the Brighton action group & its interested followers with the basic ethos behind the movement.
So here goes:
Background / The Reason
In the last 50years the developed world has doubled its wealth yet it is no happier. Consumerism does not appear to buy happiness.
The key to being happy isn’t simply about having a positive outlook and smiling. It includes a level of life satisfaction + some kind of meaning or purpose
The concept of Happy seems to be universally accepted. The routes & triggers to feeling that are highly individual.
Denmark scores as the happiest country in the world. The key factors for this being:
- Connections (with friends, family)
- Trust (in others)
- Fairness (with people you deal with)
- Support (of each other as well as on a social policy level)
- Balance (of work and life commitments)
- Self-accepting (a strong sense of being OK with who they are and not worrying what others think of them)
Where Action For Happiness Focuses
- Political Change
Governments are, to some degree, now trying to assess the happiness/well-being of their citizens.
Two recent reports are notable in that they trying to provide some level of measurement of happiness on a global scale:
- The UN recently published The World Happiness Report
- UNICEF: An Overview of Child Well-Being in Rich Countries
On a political level the impact of policies and recognising how these impact peoples’ sense of happiness is seen as an important step forward.
Don’t think Orwellian control of your happy state. Do think well thought through social policies trickling down to support the individual & society.
- Building a Movement focused on Happiness/Well-being
Recognising that happiness is about personal responsibility and one’s sense of connection with key contributors to that, people & places around them.
Your own happiness impacts the happiness of those around you. Think ground-swell.
- Local Action
Having a sense of local ‘togetherness’.
Working with those in your locality to create an understanding & connection away from the non-commercial drivers (or failiures!) of happiness.
Awareness of local groups, activities, spaces & places.
Academic achievement alone will not make a child happy.
Local league tables drive out creativity & the nurturing of social & emotional skill sets.
There’s a need for life skills to be incorporated into the curriculum to create stronger emotional resilience amongst young people. Dealing with being happy can also be about how you manage failure or difficult situations (positive psychology, etc).
A special reference to the NEF survey reviewing levels of happiness in the workplace and what triggers being happy within a work environment.
Points From The Floor
Connect the plethora of local voluntary groups to create community & purpose.
Encouraging & increasing cross-generational connections (example: University of The Third Age – U3A) – older people are cited as being happier (through life experience and being able to accept that happy & sad can coexist and therefore have stronger emotional intelligence).
Lobbying headmasters for inclusion of a happiness agenda along side league tables = a more rounded happy pupil.
Awareness of local events creating local connections & community.
Happiness across communities is less about striving for equality. It’s more about removing extremes of inequality. You can’t simply re-distribute wealth or tax-incentivise/penalise your way into happiness.
An overall acceptance that strict governmental policies driving home ‘happy’ is not the answer, but creating a framework that allows a balance of conditions can work (social policy, environmental, less-commercial focus, education)
What Did I Learn?
For the most part, not a lot 🙂 And I genuinely mean that positively. It was great to be in an environment where what you feel is revisited, discussed and brought back to the surface.
I’ve been through my own journey on this and there isn’t a point raised I don’t agree with or feel I haven’t in some way covered over the last 4 years. Personal journeys matter enormously in finding what balance you have to create in your own life.
The aspect that I found intriguing on a macro scale is the desire to make governments and policy makers aware of the currency of happiness. Moving forward it could become a recognisable asset. Perhaps these gloomy times have only helped to heighten the need.
What I greatly admire is the cause and the work and drive of the people behind this movement. Everyone from the ground up to the great minds who understand the benefits of this on a social & economic scale.
Can Brighton Be Any Happier?
As the evening progressed I thought.. ‘An action group for Action for Happiness in Brighton? In a city where life-style is a key part of living here!’
I increasingly kept imagining a Green revolutionary coming to town and saying, “let’s go eco!”.
It’s a quick win here but maybe I see this as an outsider. I chose to live here (well, near Brighton, but the outcome is the same!). I see the benefits on a daily basis. Maybe if it’s your home town you don’t appreciate it in the same way.
That said, I am also acutely aware through my work at The Prince’s Trust that despite the access to The Downs, the beach, the outdoor life, the nightlife, diversity as well as the micro-climate to this fabulous place that there is a huge level of social inequality in and around the city. So everywhere has a similar issue in that regard.
My hope is that as a local action group one of the outcomes is how it highlights how much does work here. To be a beacon of delivering the components of being happy in an absolute sense. Sometimes people simply need reminding. To re-connect people with what is good. On that basis alone I think this will be an immensely powerful thing.
The rest will come. One happy step at a time.
Action For Happiness Info
There’s a great website which holds lots of nice snippets and useful bits of info about everything covered here plus loads more.