Happiness Matters Ceilidh

Saturday March 22nd – band and dancing starts at 7.30pm 

Join local band, Bricks and Brussels, for an evening of dancing, laughter, learning and fun. No experience is necessary as there will be a caller to explain all the dances. If you have never been to a Ceilidh before, now’s your chance! Bar opens at 7.30pm.

Tickets  are £10 for adults and £5 for children under 14 and are available directly by clicking here to email Happiness Matters or from the Corn Exchange Box Office.

The Bedford Happiness Experience

Saturday 22nd March 2014 – FREE ADMISSION

Life is too short not to be happy, and yet many of us don’t give our happiness the attention it deserves.

The Bedford Happiness Experience brings together a wide range of happiness inducing activities for you to enjoy – music, poetry, mindfulness, games, laughter yoga, acts of kindness, gratitude, and even DIY!

For adults and children of all ages – come along to the Harpur Suite from 11am to 3pm and get into happiness action. No tickets required.

‘HAPPY’ – the Movie 

Thursday 20th March – 7pm – FREE ADMISSION

In collaboration with The Bedford Film Festival, we are showing this inspiring feature length documentary which leads viewers on a journey across 5 continents in search of the keys to happiness. The film addresses many 
of the fundamental issues we face in today’s society: how do we balance the allure of money, fame and social status with our needs for strong relationships, health and personal fulfilment? Through remarkable human stories and cutting edge science, ‘HAPPY’ leads us towards a deeper understanding of what and how we can pursue more fulfilling, healthier and happier lives. 

Come and enjoy this inspiring film with us while enjoying tea, coffee and delicious cakes in the lovely surroundings of Coffee with Art, 82 High Street, Bedford.

Due to limited capacity, tickets are required and are available free from  http://happythemoviebedford.eventbrite.co.uk

Out with Resolutions. In with Goals

As one year comes to an end and another begins, we naturally start thinking about what we want to change or improve in our lives. Tradition has it that we set ourselves resolutions, a host of things we plan to either start or stop doing, or do more of – losing weight, getting fit, saving money, quitting smoking, cutting back on our chocolate or booze consumption.

How many times have you begun the New Year with a bunch of resolutions? And how would you rate your success at maintaining them even to the end of January?

You are not alone; sadly about 88% of us fail to keep to our New Year Resolutions.

Don’t be discouraged though; there are some good reasons why resolutions don’t work:

  1. Will power is not a character trait, it is more like a muscle. We need to develop it over time through repetitive use and gradually increase the challenges we set it. So starting a year with several resolutions is bit like trying to lift your own body weight without building up that strength gradually – it’s doomed to failure.
  2. Setting ourselves abstract goals without specific actions or behaviours make it very difficult for our brains to focus on what actually to do.
  3. We tend to set resolutions in the negative – I won’t eat chocolate, or I’ll stop smoking, and our brains do not understand negatives, which effectively means we are saying to ourselves ‘eat chocolate’ and ‘smoke’.
  4. Often we choose to take on areas of life which we feel we ‘ought’ to sort out, but we aren’t necessarily ready to make the changes required.

There are some simple ways of increasing your chances of success:

  1. Make your goals realistic – under promising and over delivering is far more motivating than the opposite.  The more we begin to achieve the more likely we are to continue.
  2. Set yourself milestones along the way so you are working towards a closer, smaller goal and acknowledge and reward yourself for reaching them.
  3. Break each milestone goal down into small steps with some specific actions to follow.
  4. Build in time for those actions – put it in your diary, write them down, create a habit around them.
  5. Hold yourself accountable by sharing your goals with people.
  6. Find ways to make it fun, not a chore.

This New Year resolve to set yourself some clear, realistic goals which are congruent with your current priorities. If you want support to set goals and keep you on track to reach them, contact us for a free 20 minute consultation on 01234 342919.

 

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?

Step into someone else’s shoes

Photo courtesy of Christophe Villedieu – Dreamstime Stock Photos

My post ‘The Golden Rule’ talked about compassion and treating others as you would like to be treated yourself. This is an excellent basis for compassion and kindness, and will no doubt lead to more tolerance and understanding. On a personal level though, I prefer the following: Treat others as they would like to be treated. I confess that I can’t remember when and from who I heard this, which is a shame as it has stayed with me and I quite often consciously apply it.

This came to mind this morning as I was thinking about someone I know who is really unwell at the moment and we are keen to visit him, try to cheer him up and give him our support in person. However, he is resisting our offers and says that he would rather be on his own. The temptation in this kind of situation is to think about what you would want from others if you were in his situation, and then push to deliver that, even if that person is saying they don’t want it.

What might work better for people you want to support, is to think about them and the kind of person they are and to ask more open questions about how they would like to be supported. This way, you are showing your understanding of them as a person and also giving them the chance to tell you what they might need, which might not be something you would have thought of yourself.

I know myself that I really don’t like people telling me what to do. It pushes my stubborn button and I find myself immediately resisting whatever it is they are suggesting, even if I rationally know that it is a good idea. I guess that is why I like coaching so much, as the answers always come from the client and not the coach! Anyway, if someone was to apply the ‘treat others as they want to be treated’ idea and knew me well then they would ask me what I wanted to do about a particular problem before giving me any suggestions of their own.

Sometimes we might do something for someone which we think is really kind or thoughtful, and not get the reaction that we might have wanted or expected. This could be because we have treated someone as we would want to be treated and not as they would like to be treated. On a simple level this can happen with gifts – we sometimes buy people things which we like rather than things they might like.

A example of this could be tidying up when staying with a family member. One person might like to be really organised and tidy and therefore think that they were doing someone a favour by tidying up and cleaning while staying with them. In their world, that is a kindness and would be much appreciated by them. However, the other person might live like that for a reason. If they wanted it to be tidy then they would in all likelihood have tidied it themselves by now. The tidier will no doubt feel pleased with themselves for being so kind and will expect the recipient of the kindness to be grateful and the reaction may instead be of irritation or annoyance rather than gratitude. That is not the way they would want to be treated, so the good intention is lost.

Next time the opportunity arises to help someone, ask yourself how you think they would like to be treated in that situation rather than how you would like to be treated, or even ask them and see what changes.

 

Pay It Forward Day Update

I didn’t realise and therefore blog about Pay It Forward Day last Friday until a little late in the day, so allowed myself to include Saturday to complete my 3 acts of kindness.

I realised that Saturday morning offered 2 straight forward ones in the same place at the same time in different ways. I had a meeting on Saturday morning with some people I had not met before in a cafe in Bedford and I knew that it was the birthday of one the people attending. It turned out that I had met her once before.

Anyway I decided to go to the little florist across the road on the way and get her a little something. I chose 4 lovely orange and yellow gerberas which were really fitting to the bright sunny day and welcome spring like feel.

That cafe (Frescoes) also operates a Pay It Forward or ‘suspended’ coffee system so I bought 2 coffees when I left for future customers in need.

That planned already, I was thinking about what else I could do. I was going out that evening with the Bedford Harriers circuits group so was thinking about what I could do for whom there or on the way.

Then an email appeared in my inbox. In the subject line was one of the suggested Pay It Forward ideas from my blog post:

  • Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while

It was from a school friend who I have not been in touch with for about 10 years. I had lost touch with her for a while as you do from time to time. However, later on there were opportunities to make contact again which I had not taken. In fact she had contacted me previously on Facebook and I had chosen to ignore it. I am not proud of that and now cannot explain what was making me so pig headed and selfish.

What a wonderful opportunity had come my way as a result of the blog. I emailed back straight away, including an apology for my behaviour and made an arrangement to speak on Sunday when we both had time. It was great to reconnect and we have planned to meet up soon to be able to properly catch up. I’d like to thank her for reaching out to me again and for being so gracious about my previous rudeness.

What a great reminder that it’s never too late to apologise for your behaviour and to reconnect with people.

 

Pay It Forward Day

Today is Pay It Forward Day in the UK. The movement was inspired by a book of that name by Catherine Ryan Hyde. The book is about a boy who was challenged along with his classmates by a teacher to come up with an idea to change the world. The book was made into a film starring Kevin Spacey, Helen Hunt and Hayley Joel Osment.

The boy’s idea was that he would do something good, kind and generous on a large scale for three other people and that they in turn would do the same for three more people, and so on. What would follow would be a tidal wave of selfless and generous acts of kindness.

In celebration of the day and the idea, how about giving it a try and doing 3 things you would not otherwise have done today? Here are a few ideas if you need some inspiration:

  • Write a letter of appreciation to someone who plays an important part in your life
  • Smile at some people you don’t know and say good evening
  • Call a friend you haven’t spoken to in a while
  • Tell someone how much they mean to you and why if you haven’t done that in a while
  • Appreciate someone at work for a task well done or for having a really good attitude
  • Buy treats for the office (sorry this a bit late in the day – you could delay till Monday!)
  • Buy a stranger a drink if they are waiting at the bar with you
  • Stop and have a chat with a Big Issue seller as well as buying a magazine from them.
  • Help someone with their shopping, with a pram or with their luggage 
  • Thank someone for good customer service
  • Write an email to a company or club which you feel do a great job
  • Pay It Forward at a cafe or pub – leave some extra money with the staff and ask them to use it to buy a drink for someone who looks like they need cheering up that day
  • At a restaurant, ask for the bill of another table from the waiting staff and pay it for them, and write on the bill that it’s a pay it forward gift
  • Make a donation to charity or sponsor someone

Not only will this make someone else’s day, it will also contribute to your happiness so it’s a win-win concept. What have you got to lose?

Kindness, like a boomerang, always returns.  ~ Author Unknown

Marathon Euphoria

I am a marathon runner.

I really never thought I would say that, and how wonderful it sounds. I think I may even become a serial marathon runner, which is even more unexpected. I had it in my mind that one would be more than enough, when in fact I loved every minute of it. Having said that if you asked me to run another one today, I would politely decline. There is a significant amount of grunting and groaning going on whenever sitting down, standing up or going downstairs is involved.

I got up on Marathon Sunday knowing that large part of my challenge was already in the bag. With the generous support of my friends and family I had already exceeded my £2,000 commitment for the Samaritans through sponsorship alone. That made the day all the sweeter.

Marathon 1

The day got better and better as it went on. The preparation of those long runs, sometimes in pretty harsh conditions, paid off. I paced myself well, slowing myself down initially, and ran between 7.92 to 8.68 km per hour throughout. This really helped as I had plenty left in me by the time I got to the 20 mile mark. That famous wall didn’t hit me at all.

The crowds were brilliant. There were so many people out and so much encouragement  along the way. Wearing a vest with my name on was definitely a bonus. When I felt that I needed a boost I ran closer to crowds and smiled, and immediately got a response with people calling my name and telling me how well I was doing. The only time this didn’t work was when a rhino, Andy Pandy or Super Man was running near me – I didn’t get a look in then!

Marathon 2

There was some fabulous music along the way – steel, brass, and rock bands as well as my personal favourite – the Taiko Drummers. There’s something primeval about that sound, along with the great memories it evokes of the time I spent living in Japan, that always moves me. It was the only time in the race that I felt near to tears. Emotion welled up inside me. It was a feeling of joy; of great connection with people; and gratitude – for the chance to experience such an incredible race.

People were so generous along the way with their endless clapping, cheering and smiling, as well as many who must have spent a lot on jelly babies, Haribo, Starbursts, oranges and bananas, all of which were very welcome. The volunteers on the fuelling stations were also really enthusiastic, shouting words of encouragement as they handed over the water or Lucozade.

I’m so grateful to my friends who came out to support me on the day. I didn’t manage to see all of them which is a shame although it helped my time – I stopped for a sweaty hug about half a dozen times and am blaming that for not getting in under 5 hours! It was worth the stop every time – I felt euphoric to share that moment with people dear to me. I didn’t even feel daunted by starting off again which I thought I might. I was excited to finish, which I did after 5 hours, 2 minutes and 45 seconds. I expected to cry and didn’t. I hugged the lady sobbing next to me and felt alive and invigorated.

The Samaritans had taken over the Playhouse Theatre and my friends had gathered there to see me and it was a great feeling to walk out on stage to a welcoming cheer. That first pint of lager shandy was amazing, as was the hot shower, the massage and the second pint.

I wore my medal with pride for the rest of the evening, and wore it again last night at the Bedford Harriers induction evening for new runners. And I will again this weekend when I see some other friends. It was hard earned and I value it all the more for that.

If you ever had even the smallest desire to run a marathon, I urge you to stop procrastinating, join a running club and set yourself a target. The sense of achievement is unbeatable.

£2,295 of my £2,500 target raised so far and still time to sponsor me here!