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

‘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.


The Golden Rule

On April 18th I am going to hear Karen Armstrong speak at an Action for Happiness event. I was not aware of who she was before I was sent the details of the talk. What a fascinating woman and what a mission she is on. I watched a video of her speaking and it really resonated with some of the things I had been mulling over myself for a while.

She is a former nun who believes that religion has been hijacked and at the same time that the central tenet of the main religions has great relevance for society. According to her, that message is compassion.

She talks about Christianity, Judaism and Islam and describes how each of them has a similar core principle of compassion which boils down to ‘treat others as you would like to be treated’ or on the flip side ‘ don’t do to anyone else what you wouldn’t want done to you’.

She also points out that each of the religions specifically mentions that this golden rule of compassion should not be restricted to your own group, whatever that might be, but that strangers should be honoured.

She points out at one stage that believing is easy but consistently practising compassion is difficult, and that sometimes very religious people prefer to be right than compassionate. I guess the same might be said of very anti-religious people – as soon as there is entrenchment it becomes more about winning that being kind, open minded, or generous.

She is on a mission to reclaim religion and to make it a source of peace in the world, and to move people from toleration to appreciation. I thought this was a very good point. The first is passive and the latter active and therefore takes more effort but will have a greater impact on peace.

In order to achieve this mission, she has set up the Charter for Compassion. The project used a unique web-based decision making platform, thousands of people from over 100 countries added their voice to the writing of the Charter. In a six-week period, thousands of submissions were entered which were then read and commented upon by over 150,000 visitors. These contributions were then reviewed by the Council of Conscience, a multi-faith, multi-national group of religious thinkers and leaders, and incorporated into the final document.

You can read it and also sign up to here:

Charter of Compassion

If you’d like to hear her speak you can get a ticket for the event on April 18th in London here:

Action for Happiness Talk – 18th April 2013