Tuesday, 25 January 2011


The BBC are doing some interesting things about happiness reflecting on the fact that we are less happy now than we were and getting even more unhappy... 

"Success is not the key to happiness. Happiness is the key to success. 

If you love what you are doing, you will be successful." 
Albert Schweitzer

Psychologists have apparently now come up with a formula for happiness:
'Pleasure + engagement + meaning = happiness'.

Happiness appears to be connected to relationships, contentment, security and money, health, transcendence and fulfilment. One key ingredient to happiness is social relationships, and another key ingredient appears to be having important goals that derive from things like children and family that are important to us, and to make progress toward those goals. Perhaps that why colleagues working in the Education Leeds team were so happy and engaged especially as is important to feel a sense of belonging to something larger than oneself.  Three exercises have been proved to produce lasting reductions in depression and lasting increases in happiness. You can try the three that work which were "three blessings" - writing down three things that went well today and why; "the gratitude visit" - writing a gratitude testimonial and delivering it personally; and "using your signature strength in a new way" - taking the signature strength test and using your highest strength in a new way.  

Despite everything research suggests that we are no happier now than we were 50 years ago. In his book 'Authentic Happiness' Martin Seligman argues that happiness is not the result of good genes or good luck and that we can teach people to be happy by cultivating and using many of the strengths and traits colleagues possess including kindness, originality, humour, optimism and generosity. By identifying the very best in ourselves Seligman argues that we can improve the world around us and achieve new and sustainable levels of commitment, contentment and meaning.

Lord Richard Layard, Director of the Well-being Programme in the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, argues that the key to success is to give higher priority to promoting better human relationships. He believes that the revolution to build character should be a major aim in every school with expert teachers of PSHE for whom that is their full-time mission and passion. Richard argues that PSHE is an extraordinarily difficult subject to teach but that we increasingly know what works and what does not. PSHE teaching must be based increasingly on evidence based research about what changes children and young people and what does not!

I have always been interested in happiness and I am more and more convinced that the seven things we all need to do to be happy are:
  • exercise regularly;
  • get mental stimulation;
  • get artistic stimulation;
  • do a good turn every day;
  • do something with a friend;
  • give yourself a treat;
  • celebrate and congratulate yourself.
You can watch The Happiness Formula on BBC Two on Wednesday.

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