So instead I’m going to cheat a bit, share with you something I started doing last year and intend to go on doing. It is something that has had a very positive impact on my life and personal wellbeing and I promise contains no reference to either diet or gym!
In January 2015, I along with many colleagues attended a workshop facilitated by Professor Neil Frude who runs the “Happiness Consultancy” www.thehappinessconsultancy.co.uk through which he aims to help individuals and organisations increase their happiness and enhance their well-being. It was a fun day as you would expect with plenty of laughter and while it’s not rocket science to state that it is better to be happy than not, what surprised me was just how much scientific research there is to show that increased happiness promotes better mental health, improves our resilience and therefore also our ability to cope with potentially stressful situations. It’s also contagious – think about it for a moment – would you rather be around a happy person or an unhappy person, I suspect you’d prefer the former because being around them would make you feel good too. Oscar Wilde captured this perfectly when he said – “some people cause happiness wherever they go; others whenever they go”.
So if it’s that obvious why do we need science, positive psychology and workshops? Well it seems we are all programmed to take note of what goes wrong, to focus on problems, go over and over in our minds what went wrong – while the good things in our lives often get taken for granted or even go unnoticed. So we need to make a conscious effort to redress that balance and one way to do this is to take time every day to find 3 good things, to note them down and reflect on them. It has been scientifically proven that doing this, even for a week, has a significant positive impact on people’s happiness levels, or to put it another way people feel better about themselves and their lives.
So after the workshop I bought a page-a-day diary (going cheap as it was already 2015 – so that was my first good thing) and set myself the challenge of writing down 3 good things every day. Not big things, not earth shattering moments of euphoria just simple little things that made me smile.
I recommend you take time to notice the good things this year, whether you choose to write them down or not is up to you, but notice the things that make you smile, make you feel better even if just for a moment.
Think about how you can use this way of viewing the world to change how you approach everyday routines, so instead of asking your kids if they had a good day at school or your partner how their day at work was – ask them to tell you about something good that happened. And yes they will quite possibly think you’ve lost the plot but so what keep going with this it is worth it.
We should also bring this viewpoint into our work – what is it that gets noted in the records, put on the agenda for meetings or discussed at handover? Do you share the good things, no matter how small or do you focus just on the problems? Yes it is important that we reflect and learn when things “go wrong” however, it is also important that we balance this with the good stuff. We know this from, amongst other things Person Centred Approaches and Positive Behaviour Support, which encourage us to start from the positives, the strengths, from what works.
We can enable the people we support to shift their focus from the negative stuff to the positive stuff too by commenting on the good stuff, drawing their attention to it and by being happier ourselves and therefore more fun to be around. Remember that happiness is contagious, we have a responsibility to those around us to be happy – so you’re not being selfish it is important that you feel good – after all one of the MacIntyre Promises is that we will all be “kind and friendly and fun”.
There are plenty of things stacked against us and it’s going to be a challenging year there is no doubt about that but surely that’s all the more reason to take time to notice the good stuff. My little 2015 book contains over 1000 things that made me happy last year which I believe is an amazing and powerful thought, but what’s even better is that 2016 is a leap year – so I get an extra 3 happy thoughts this year – bonus!
Director (Adult Services)