We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring will be to arrive where we started, And know the place for the first time. ~T.S. Eliot Four Quartets

01 August 2006

The Happiness Project...

"Thousands of candles can be lighted from a single candle, and the life of the candle will not be shortened. Happiness never decreases by being shared." -Buddha

I recently took part in a happiness project for mums in the UK. It started with a questionnaire to gauge your current happiness level. Mine wasn’t too bad, perhaps because I am an optimist by nature. But I was interested anyway since like many people I am always up for improving my lot.

The project was inspired by the BBC programme ‘Making Slough Happy’ (Slough being a town in the U.K). It was discovered that mothers looking after young children are very often at their unhappiest time in their lives . Having my second child 5 ½ years after my first has been a very different experience for me. I worked outside of the home when my first was small. Now I am at home and have had my moments of isolation and sadness. It can be very hard to get even a few moments to oneself.

On a scale from 1 to 100, the average score was 52, before the programme.
After 4 weeks the average score was 64 - a rise of over 10% in just 28 days.
Through making a small effort and building a few new activities into your everyday life it is possible to make a difference. The activities and principles are based on concrete scientific data and have been proven to boost happiness and well being. And its all free.

The 10 basic Happiness Principles:

  • Count your blessings
  • Have a good laugh every day
  • Daily kindness – do a good turn
  • Treat yourself every day
  • Cut TV viewing by half
  • Say hello to a stranger
  • Look after something you've planted
  • Get physical -go walk, run, exercise
  • Phone or talk to a friend
  • Talk time – an hour conversation with good friend or partner

Of these principles, I think for me, cutting tv viewing has made a huge difference in general. I lived without a tv for many years before I was married, and noticed a big change in my fear levels (going down), my feeling of having 'more time' and my creativity as well. Watching tv can be relaxing at times, but it is passive, above all else and it dulls the mind. Walking as well, anywhere and everywhere possible, allows me to feel the earth beneath my feet, to connect with it, to ground myself, to pound out frustration, to breathe in the air and look up at the sky.

Sometimes we think that a new job, having more money, or a bigger house, or a new car will give us more happiness. The science says that sometimes we may get a serotonin boost from such material pleasures, but that never lasts. Aristotle concluded that men and women above all else seek happiness. And Buddha also had a lot to say on that 2500 years ago too, that we all want happiness and don’t want to suffer.

It’s interesting to note that studies of lottery winners have shown that within 3 years they have returned to the level of happiness they were at before their big win. The euphoria wears off. Its true we do need enough money to cover the basics of food, shelter and clothing , and after that it doesn’t make you more happy.

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