UN International Day of Happiness

On 12th July 2012, the General Assembly of the United Nations proclaimed 20th March the International Day of Happiness. By doing so, it recognises the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world.

In celebration, Happiness Matters is running three events in Bedford.

Happy the Movie

The Bedford Happiness Experience

Happiness Matters Ceilidh

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

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.

 

Ten Days to Go

Ten days to what?

My first ever marathon – 26.2 long miles of running – in London.

It is the biggest physical challenge I have ever undertaken and until about 18 months ago I had always said to myself and others that I could never do it. Strangely enough, once I decided that I was going to enter then it immediately entered the realm of possibility.

I had set myself a goal. I  then went about reading up on training plans and made one for myself. In doing this, I broke down the goal into small achievable chunks. I wasn’t focussed on running 26.2 miles but on adding 2 or 3 miles onto each long run. This made it seem far more manageable and as each week passed the end goal of the marathon became more and more achievable.

Next, I thought about what else I might need in order to motivate myself to keep going with the training. One of the things I came up with was joining a running club. I had always run alone while training for previous shorter runs. As a result I had always trained for an event and then immediately after I had stopped completely – such a waste. I had the belief that all people who run in clubs are elite runners. Thankfully I decided to go anyway and find out for myself rather than make assumptions.

Sandy 10m 2012

Joining Bedford Harriers was the best decision I have made in my running career. Not only has it kept me running regularly during what has been a challenging winter for running (see photos below), it has also introduced a variety of training sessions into my routine which I didn’t previously use – intervals, tempo runs, and hills (previously consistently avoided). I have also made some good friends who are a great source of motivation and encouragement and I liked the club so much I decided to join the committee.

Lazy Gang in the Snow

So now it’s countdown to the big day. I am tapering, thinking about my nutrition and rest, and hoping that I don’t catch a cold or get a ridiculous, badly timed injury. I pick up my number next week from Excel in London and get a taster of the atmosphere and excitement of marathon day itself. I have my shirt with my name on it so others can shout for me. Many people have said that it’s this that will get me through those last few miles.

I am very excited and at the same time a little worried about what to focus on next. This has affected my life decisions for the past 4 months – not going out, not drinking, spending many whole Sundays running and travelling to races. I have a feeling I’m going to feel a bit bereft. And I am wondering if this will be my first and last marathon or whether after a few weeks to forget the pain, I will be looking to book my next one.

I am running for Samaritans and many of my friends and family have been extremely generous in contributing to the fund which is now almost at £1500, for which I am extremely grateful. Should you feel like you want to sponsor me this is the link:

Caroline Clark’s First Marathon

Absence Makes the Heart Grow Fonder

I would often think about this saying – ‘absence makes the heart grow fonder’ – while living overseas. I took its meaning to be about people, and recognised how I thought more often, and perhaps more nostalgically, about the people I was separated from than I did when I was with them more often.

In the past year I have returned to live in Bedford, where I grew up for part of my childhood, and for the first time in my adult life I live very close to my parents. So for the past 10 months I have become used to seeing them at least once a week. This is quite a change from the past 20 years when I saw them only intermittently on visits home from or when they came to visit me. I have quickly adapted to this change in circumstance and what was new and exciting for a while is now my new normal. I confess I am already in the realm of taking their constant presence in my daily life for granted.

Recently, however, there has been a disruption in my new comfort zone. My sister now lives in Australia and my parents have gone to visit her and her family for a while. How very dare they? That wasn’t into the unspoken agreement I had written and signed in my own mind about how this would work. My sister wasn’t given access to parents anywhere in that document by the way.

I am reminded in a timely fashion, by their temporary absence, to appreciate and be grateful for the fact that I am able to choose to live close to them, that we get on so well, that they are fun to be with, and that they are a tremendous source of love and support in a plethora of ways.

As for my sister and her family so far away on a permanent basis, it’s also a reminder to make time to write the letters I promised to write, which have become a little intermittent of late; and to catch a few minutes here and there with them regularly either on email or Skype rather than waiting for the right time for a long chat. Little and often fills the heart (I slightly made that up, and I think it works).

The absence of things in life, as well as people, can lead to a new and more intense appreciation for them. Having spent long periods of time living in India, I appreciate more of the simple day to day things which I previously didn’t give any thought to. They were normal, my right, expected. When we feel that then there is little pleasure to be gained from those things. And obviously the more that we have the more we will adapt to having, and the more we will take for granted.  However, when they are taken away from us we learn how much they mean to us and how far they contribute to the comfort and ease of our lives.

So pretty much on a daily basis I am thankful for the following simple things – running hot water; bath tubs; drinking water from the tap; brown bread; hummus; trees and flowers; central heating; and fast wifi.  It’s not a definitive list; there are others. These are my regulars.

These simple things get mentioned in my gratitude diary along with my family, friends, home, nature, the weather (on occasion), hobbies, literature, movies, food, drink, things that make me laugh. It’s become a bedtime ritual now to recall the day or the week, depending on how often I write it and a great way to keep appreciating what’s around me. The intention is that there will no longer be the need to deprive myself of things in future in order to appreciate them.