Tag Archives: Professor Ellen Langer

The pursuit of happiness continues…

2 Mar

This post continues on from part 1 of my Happiness & Its Causes musings…

As the Happiness & Its Causes conference rolled on, a common theme seemed to emerge: The time is now for our nations, and all of us living within them, to focus on wellbeing as a measure of our prosperity.

Mark Williamson, the director of Action for Happiness (a movement which began in the UK in April 2011 and already has 20,000+ members) said, ‘We’re getting richer, but we’re not any happier. We are obsessed with our wealth and not our wellbeing.’

Did you know that in the UK, the Prime Minister is driving a shift from thinking about wealth to focusing on wellbeing? In fact, the UK is apparently now leading the pack in the way it measures its citizens’ levels of happiness. There is a focus on GWB (General Well Being), not just GDP. How wonderful is that! And it’s not all fluff – it’s finally the realisation that happiness equals prosperity, which equals growth. Happy people are happy workers. Happy workers are more productive. Thus, the nation flourishes.

As Mark spoke, a series of posters flashed up on the screen. One that stood out to me was, ‘The meaning of life is a life of meaning.’ I love that! My meaning in this life is to live a life that is meaningful. 

Dr Seligman would later ask in a panel discussion, ‘Imagine your grandchildren are writing your obituary. What would they say about how you contributed to this world?’ This is how you find your meaning. Live according to your meaning, your mission, and you will be happy by default.

 

Another theme that today’s experts all seemed to agree on was the old adage that your thoughts become who you are. You become what you think about. Change your thoughts and you can change your life. Yes, it’s something which is sprouted by self-help gurus across the world. But there’s a reason for that – it is so darn true!

In the panel discussion, Langer said, ‘If you believe something will happen, you set yourself up to achieve it. You will grasp the things that will help you reach that goal and avoid things that will prevent it from happening.’ She cited study after study that showed that when you shift your mindset, you can influence your health. One such study involved a group of chambermaids who didn’t believe that, despite the fact they moved about all day changing beds etc, they did any actual exercise. You would think that people who bend and clean and lift and generally move about all day would be healthier than sedentary people. Not so! However, once these chambermaids were asked to believe that their work was exercise, they lost weight, lowered their blood pressure and even looked younger! That, my friends, is the power of the mind. Change your mind, change your life!

Half an hour for each speaker really hasn’t been long enough to really dip deep into the happiness field. But I hope my posts have helped you think about happiness and wellbeing in a new way, the same way the conference has shifted my thinking. Google the speakers I’ve mentioned, and you’ll find a wealth of information on how to be happier and live your life with love, zest and meaning.

If there’s one thing that has stirred me today, it’s this (and this is my own interpretation):

Forget trying to ‘be happy’. Instead, live with love, integrity, humility, gratitude and always, ALWAYS, help the person next to you. Happiness comes from helping. And that is how we can heal the world.

Let the search for happiness begin…

2 Mar

The grand and intricately ornate Sydney Town Hall is perhaps the perfect setting for the Happiness & Its Causes conference. The dimly-lit corridors, delicately decorated ceilings and looming organ have created a serene mood – the ideal mood for contemplating happiness and our unwavering pursuit of it.

I entered the hall to hear Ben Lee’s tune ‘We’re All in This Together’ bouncing around the ornate space. Rows and rows of red cushioned seats were yet to be filled. Though there was already a buzz in the air; an anticipation that rose as high as the stained glass windows at the top of the tall building. I turned around at the tinkle of a bell – a stout man with a wide grin was ding-a-ling-ing a little gold bell and ushering the happiness-seekers into the hall…

As Gretel Killeen took to the curtained stage, the crowd hushed and she dazzled us with her trademark humour. Forget her Big Brother stint – this woman is an acclaimed documentary filmmaker and author (one of my favourite childhood books was the hilarious My Life is a Toilet. One of the characters was called Dwayne Pipe. Geddit? Dwayne Pipe? Ha!)

She pondered, ‘Is asking ‘am I happy?’ opening the door to discontentment?’ It’s a great question. In the west, we seem so consumed by this constant craving to be happy. You could argue it’s a luxury – to try and ‘be happy’. Many people would be happy tasting bread again, having been deprived of it for years. Gretel knows because she has met them on her travels to famine-ravished nations. ‘We are,’ Gretel said, ‘the only culture that searches for this thing called happiness.’

[Later, Prof Ellen Langer would offer this gem, ‘We only seem to ask if we’re happy when we are unhappy. Otherwise, we are just being. We’re just getting on with it.’]

Source: tumblr.com via Mary on Pinterest

 

After Gretel left us in stitches, Dr Martin Seligman asked us, ‘What can we hope for in life?’   I believe we can hope for love, for compassion, for change and for health and happiness in ourselves and others. Society, it seems, would like us to hope for affluence, a new car, a better house, our kids in private schools…But why shouldn’t we shift that mindset and hope for happiness, health and wellbeing to spread to every corner of the earth?

Seligman said, ‘Have you noticed that the happiest you have ever been, has been with other people?’ Isn’t that the truth! I love Sunday afternoons lazing about in bed, curled up with a book and a cuppa and maybe a piece of chocolate. But my happiest moments have been bent over, holding my sides, as my friends and I have an endless laughing fit. Or I’ve been cuddling up to The Lad, sharing our deepest secrets and plans for the future. Recently, I had a past life regression therapy session and was asked to tap into three happy moments from childhood. Not one of those moments was of me alone. I was with my family, or on a beloved horse I used to ride.

It makes sense, then, that to be happy we need to look to others. What can I do today that will help the person next to me get a buzz? How can I help them live a little more easily in this moment? When I help that person and focus on their happiness, I get a kick as well. It’s the circle of happiness!

Join me in part 2 of my Happiness & Its Causes musings…

The quest to be really, really, ridiculously happy

1 Mar

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why are we here? How can we be truly happy? How should we live to fulfill our purpose? As I wander along an unknown path to better health and happiness (and share my experiences with you via this blog), these are the questions I ask. No doubt they are the questions all of us ask.

What is the whole darn tootin’ point of this life?

To find out, I’m heading along to Happiness & Its Causes, a two-day event that claims to bring together 40+ of the world’s best and brightest minds in philosophy, psychology, spirituality, science and the arts.

I’m intrigued to discover what these inspiring minds have to say about our endless quest for happiness. What causes a truly happy life? And is there such a thing as a truly happy life?

I’ve always found the word ‘happy’ to be a bit blah. It’s the emotional equivalent to saying ‘good’ when someone asks how you are. It doesn’t really mean much.

Give me ecstatic! Fulfilled! Radiant! Joyful! ENLIGHTENED! I want to discover how to unlock these powerful states of mind and spirit.

I’ll be blogging from day 2 of the conference tomorrow, as I poke my head into a few of the keynote presentations, including:

  • Dr Martin Seligman and Professor Ellen Langer: discussing a visionary new understanding of happiness and wellbeing.
  • Action for Happiness director Mark Williamson: the importance of putting the things that matter first.
  • Psychotherapist and Buddhist lecturer Renate Ogilvie: exploring 16 guidelines for a happy and meaningful life.

Until then – don’t worry, be happy! 🙂

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