Be a Leaf on a Tree

Photo courtesy of Brandon Holmes – Dreamstime Stock Photos

I recently went to see Gyles Brandreth doing his show ‘Looking for Happiness’ in Edinburgh. Being a happiness coach and enthusiast, it was an obvious choice, and I enjoy his wry humour, often at his own expense. We trusted him to be kind and polite, so we chose to risk sitting on the front row, generally a dangerous choice if you go and see a comedian as you often get picked on, sometimes with humiliating consequences!

One of us lived to regret that, as she was invited on stage to lead the audience in the Hoky Koky. Not too challenging you might think, but Amanda has never once stepped foot on a dance floor in all the years I have known her. She confessed afterwards that she had no idea how to do the Hoky Koky, and the video I took of her reveals that pretty clearly.

Apart from the hilarity we enjoyed at Amanda’s expense, the show was entertaining and thought provoking. As someone who has read a fair amount about the science of happiness, I was intriguing to hear what he had to say on the subject.

My favourite tip from his show is the title of this article – Be a leaf on a tree. It is a lyrical and evocative way of summing up the benefits of community.

Being individual and existing in the world as a unique entity with the freedom to go your own way through life is important for us. At the same time it is well established from research into happiness that connection to other people is central to our emotional health and well-being.  That connection could be accessed through any number of relationships or communities – with our families, friends, colleagues, clubs, sport teams, or religious groups.

If we liken those connections to the trunk, branches and twigs of a tree, we can see how the leaf can exist individually whilst being dependent on other parts of the tree for the necessary strength, support, and security and nurturing to flourish in the world. Without being part of something bigger it will quite quickly wither and die.

Happiness is affected by our connections with others, and our happiness affects our connections to others – it is a circular process. People who have the most social connections are generally happiest and those who have the fewest are the least happy. And the happier a person is, the more likely they are to have a large circle of friends, a romantic partner, be satisfied with their family life and social activities and receive emotional and tangible support from friends and colleagues.

Why not take stock of the connections in your life. Think how you can become more involved, more connected, and as a result nourish yourself, gain greater support and security, and feel happier.  And ask yourself – if not now, when?