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Happy evangelists take on the cynics

Mark Easton | 00:01 UK time, Tuesday, 12 April 2011

"I promise to try and produce more happiness in the world and less misery."

As a statement of intent, the above pledge, made by those joining the new movement Action for Happiness launched today, seems uncontroversial

But we live in the UK, a country which has won gold medals for cynicism, and I am prepared to guess that among the posts which follow this article will be suggestions that there is something deeply un-British and probably underhand about a campaign to spread joy and reduce suffering.

 

Britain is more distrusting of politicians, the media, public institutions and each other than most other countries. We seem hard-wired to question the motives of anyone who steps into the public arena and so it was no surprise that when I mentioned the Action for Happiness launch to colleagues at the BBC there were more than a few who said they suspected it was all part of some plot by the government to brainwash us out of austerity gloom.

Actually, I think it is far more interesting and ambitious than that. Action for Happiness says it "hopes to inspire a mass movement for fundamental cultural change". One of its founders, the economist and Labour peer Professor Richard Layard, told me he thought it was needed because of the failure of organised religion to turn back the "tide of narrow individualism".

He believes the evidence-based principles of the organisation might help deliver the ideals of the Enlightenment, when great British thinkers, including Jeremy Bentham and John Stuart-Mill, were arguing that "the good society is one where there is the most happiness and the least misery".

The suggestion that happy science offers a more effective route to personal and social wellbeing than religion might be controversial in some quarters, but there is something evangelical about the movement. The pledge I quote at the top is a prosaic form of many solemn and sacred oaths. And the "ten keys to happier living", shown above, have echoes of the Decalogue, although the encouragement to "find ways to bounce back" perhaps lacks the majesty of the Ten Commandments.



But there is another echo for me - my time in the Scouts. Just as I promised to "do my duty", to "be prepared" and "do a good turn daily", so Action for Happiness encourages volunteering, resilience and awareness.

Lord Baden-Powell's mission was, like so many of the initiatives spawned as the 19th century ticked over into the 20th, to encourage community well-being at a time of great change. The founding of the Football Association is another example, part of a flowering of social entrepreneurism that David Cameron would like to see repeated today.

Action for Happiness is not a political organisation in the sense that it is linked to government or opposition. It does, though, want to profoundly to change the way people behave. Its rejection of the idea that more cash would lead to a happier country inevitably raises eyebrows as Britain tightens its belt. But the organisation's founders were preaching the same message in the boom. Arguably, it is a message that has been around for at least two-and-a-half thousand years.

The movement attempts to counter contemporary cynicism with practicality, offering simple ways to give our own lives and those of our friends and neighbours greater fulfilment and meaning. There is certainly a growing body of science to back up many of the ideas, but that won't stop many people assuming some ulterior motive.

So, do you want to spread a little happiness? Here are a few ideas the experts reckon might work:

Action for Happiness - list of ideas for a happier life

Comments

Page 1 of 3

  • Comment number 1.

    Giving = working like a dog for minimum wage.
    Relating = Becoming a friendly and uncomplaining 'work unit'
    Exercising = Keeping fit so you can work harder with less days off
    Appreciating = Being happy with your lot at the bottom of the pile on minimum wage.
    Trying out = Learning new skills for work in your own time and at your own expense
    Direction = Doing as your boss tells you
    Resiliance = Cope with more and more work
    Emotion = Cope with more and more work stress and not get depressed
    Acceptance = Resistance is futile. Learn your place!
    Meaning = You are just a cog in a machine that makes vast bucks for a tiny minority

  • Comment number 2.

    This all sounds like a lot of effort.

    As a lazy cynic, I'd like to ask - what's in it for me?

  • Comment number 3.

    Seriously, that's been around for ages. People haven't taken it in. It's called loving your neighbour as yourself. Way more than 2500 years old.

  • Comment number 4.

    I am a pessimist, and I can definitely see how some may see this as brain washing...but I can see what is in it for me in some ways:

    Giving = Doesn't imply to me working like a dog, it implies thinking outside of myself alone - thinking of those less fortunate, and I definitely do not see the government in that context!

    Relating = There are a lot of people with a lot of problems that are not work related - severe illnesses, just the word Japan offers hundreds for me - I want to understand those around me better in hopes of more personal harmony with those in my world!

    Exercising = Well, probably less said the better, but I need exercise, I don't like being ill, and I feel better when I do it, but this does not involve the gym for me - walking to work, I'll do it today

    Appreciating = I think I have this down, appreciating what I have and what others give to me, appreciating the world around me, and living in a comparatively wealthy country

    Trying Out = I am a perpetual student - and excepting things like jumping out of a perfectly good airplane to parachute, I am open minded - it is very helpful when I travel

    Direction = My boss doesn't define my goals for me in any way - I have several, and most don't involve my job, but this is hard work sometimes!

    Resiliance = Hard to argue with the above here, the job has gotten much harder, but so have other things in life - loosing my father, difficulties at home - I'll take advice on this one!

    Emotion = Try not to fly off the handle, it rarely helps, but this one is a struggle, sometimes I just want to offer a swift kick to an unecessarily annoying person - but I want to feel the full range of emotions, and so many have to be surpressed in the nutty world around us!

    Acceptance = The most difficult, I am highly imperfect, how do other people do it? They are also imperfect, but it doesn't seem to bother them...

    Meaning = Part of something bigger - well, I am , but where I want to help, time is the one commodity you can't get more of - there has to be a secret to this in a world where work, family, and housekeeping rule...

    I love the idea, but it is the practical implememtation of these ideals I find challenging - they are positively discouraged in this environment!

  • Comment number 5.

    "One of its founders, the economist and Labour peer Professor Richard Layard, told me he thought it was needed because of the failure of organised religion to turn back the "tide of narrow individualism"."

    Religion hasn't failed for those who continue to gain great strength and positivity from being a an active member of a faith. For those who have no faith, there is very little to counteract the relentless pressure to individualism, other than sheer force of will, which some will have, but many won't.

    I suspect, sadly, that a mnemonic exhorting us to be happier (lacking as it does the support of the community and the profound intellectual and spiritual reasons for trying to adhere to a process of self betterment that come with religion) will not convince those who have already rejected signing up to a set of common values to do so.

  • Comment number 6.

    No 1 above has probably got it right but I am willing to give it a go if those who have gained most from society in terms of power and wealth would like to kick it off - GIVING: dont moan about a 50p tax rate and those forced to live off state benefits.

  • Comment number 7.

    So a Labour politician is ordering us to be happy, perhaps by making others happy by giving to them? Where was his ideology of giving as his party bled the country dry and set us up for a decade of misery? What form of giving was it when his party began its foreign slaughter? Why are we supposed to just forget what these evil men have done? Let him give his lectures in Iraq.

  • Comment number 8.

    If all they can offer is happiness I'll stick with my religion thanks.

    Jesus gives me joy, which isn't dependent on someone making me breakfast in bed or opening a door for me. It's far more deep and profound.

  • Comment number 9.

    Sounds great to me! I thought with the headline "evangelist" it would be religious, but it seems not.

    The items in the mnemonic do seem to work, something I can attest to. These are also things that it is possible to have a go at. I can heartily recommend volunteering which covers a few of the items.

  • Comment number 10.

    @pdlepage - You can stick with your religion. That's great for you, but don't put this down for others.

    I could be tempted to understand these things through the viewpoint of the Bhagavad Gita, which paints community service as divine in its own right. That's my approach, though I discovered volunteering long before I discovered any sort of religion. I don't believe in Jesus as you do. I have found that in certain circumstances that can lead to pressure, which is why I can be cautious of the promotion of religious charities. I have seen the ugly side of religion.

    Volunteering works. A lot of the things here work. If people can take them up then great! Surely the happiness talked about here is a deeper happiness, a happiness found in being part of a community, I'd say the same happiness that is provided by religion.

  • Comment number 11.

    This is very positive stuff. It makes sense, always has been and always will be a real route to happiness. Let's promote the things in life that really matter! We tend to fall back to money because it is easy to measure, but if we have confidence in our values we can build our goals around them.

  • Comment number 12.

    I think 'Action for Happiness' is a good thing. What would anyone gain by opposing it? Unfortunately today's society is becoming to view curteousy and generosity as weakness and suspicion. Someone else's happiness can sometimes be looked on begrudgingly. Being kind and considerate does not cost anything and doing a good deed or saying something nice can acutually make people feel happier.

  • Comment number 13.

    It has been around for centuries and there are many people actively practising such good deeds. Someone now has managed to bring it to the public eye and as something that we do not do. I am a great believer in making others feel good and myself included. Small gestures are most effective. However, if you are in a situation where you have lost your job, the mortgage cannot be paid, it is difficult to feed your family or there is illness and bereavement around you, it is much more difficult to put these things into practice. Survival is the main focus, not caring for others although I do know people who will still have time to look after neighbours and friends. I hope that all those people who have joined this movement will indeed do their best to be kind, helpful and generous towards others. However, joining such movement is not for me. just let me get on with doing my best for myself and others, that should be enough although I am sure it is not perfect. Let's pray that Cameron will not give it his approval because that will indeed put millions off. The support of a Labour peer is hard enough to swallow.

  • Comment number 14.

    This is a nice idea, but it's very Victorian, positively Dickensian. The Victorians believed that all the ills of society were due to individuals (very true) and that the ills would go away if everybody just behaved better (highly unlikely). Consequently there was very little intervention on the part of government - it was left to the likes of the salvation army and other organizations to exhort the populace (big society?). I admit that child labour laws were eventually passed, but over a lot of opposition.

    There is nothing wrong with any of the suggestions in the ten points, and a lot of people will follow, or are already following them. However it doesn't take many people to decide that 'this doesn't apply to me' and it wrecks the whole apple cart. Some form of coercion is still needed. Society does not make itself, it is made by example, leadership and laws.

  • Comment number 15.

    "2. Hold a door open for someone." Especially if it's Victoria Coren.

  • Comment number 16.

    Or in other words. Use your common sense.

  • Comment number 17.

    It's all fairly obvious really - very hard to upkeep all of these things every day, far more realistic to do some or even just one of these things every day. Every little helps :-)

  • Comment number 18.

    Typical politicans drivel

  • Comment number 19.

    Interesting, I scored 32 out of 40 yet contentment rather than happiness eludes me. Too many in society and especially those who use authority as a weapon to bolster their own inadequacies and who, like paedophiles grooming children for the big let down, and who delight in doing the same to others, and especially taking advantage of the naivety of the nice guys; no sir, only the paranoid survive in this ever expanding society of ours. Not forgetting, of course, that the hot-bed of snobbery is academia. Tell me the old, old story!

  • Comment number 20.

    Reading that list, I'm surprised to see I already do many of them. Aren't most of them just the product of good manners, rather than things you need to make a special effort to remember to do?
    I pity the cynics who claim they "don't have time" for that most simple thing - being nice!

  • Comment number 21.

    #1
    Totaly agree.

    #5
    'Religion hasn't failed for those who continue to gain great strength and positivity from being a an active member of a faith.'

    True....Islamic Fundamentalists are wonderful people if you are an Islamic Fundamentalist.

    #7
    So the last Labour government is responsible for all the evils of the world is it? Forget about the bankers and international capitalists.

  • Comment number 22.

    Do you know what.... its amazing just how many people look inward and ask 'what's in it for me'. The whole point is that it's not -it's about others.

    When we stop looking out for ourselves so much and help others around us, the world not only seems like a better place, but ironically you get far more back in return.

    Why not change a life for the better by getting out of our routine and comfort zone's (that usually we have created for oursleves) and get plugged back into to others. You will be rewarded ten times over...

  • Comment number 23.

    Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote 'The purpose of life is not to be happy. It is to be useful, honourable, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you have lived and lived well.'

    However, by doing so it is also likely to make you happy!

  • Comment number 24.

    A very interesting and commendable set of life rules but far too simplistic and "American" for the British people.
    In our world we are wary of offering a seat in fear of being accused of sexism or being patronising.
    A compliment or hug could lead to a sexual harassment lawsuit.
    A conversation with a stranger could lead to all of the above or get us stabbed.

    We are cynical for self protection, I wish it were otherwise but we live in a complex world not the simple idealistic one that that is promoted here.

    I will continue to take care of those around me and hope the goodwill spreads not in the name of any religion or sect but because I care for my fellow human beings

  • Comment number 25.

    Cool.

    I've joined.

  • Comment number 26.

    14. Let someone have my parking spot?! After I've driven around for half an hour looking for it? This is one of those lists made up by a bunch of "delegates" in front of a flip-chart.

  • Comment number 27.

    #21 the guy lecturing us is a Labour peer, so I thought I'd mention things that he is signed up for - I'm guessing he's not a banker too but maybe you know something I don't -

  • Comment number 28.

    As #3 aptly says there is nothing new here.

    Having read through the obvious material on the Action for Happiness website I don't find much that inspires, and to give an example of how poor the message is, giving requires taking. Perhaps the most elusive quality anyone can aspire to is self esteem, the empowerment of your mind over everything that involves you. It is a key to something resembling the hackneyed version of happiness if nothing else. It is a pity it isn't mentioned anyway on the aforementioned site.

    And to make my point, when you are empowered give and take happen automatically in everything because it is the only way life can be. Does it make you happy? Try it and see.

  • Comment number 29.

    So, to sum up: Quit acting like a tool.

  • Comment number 30.

    21. At 10:37am 12th Apr 2011, ukblahblahblacksheep wrote:

    #7
    So the last Labour government is responsible for all the evils of the world is it? Forget about the bankers and international capitalists.
    __
    Of course it was. Gordon Brown was actually World Chancellor and was personally 100% responsible for the lending practices of US banks..... or thats what rather too many BBC blog posters seem to think anyway. Similarly even though he didn't become President until 2000 George Bush was responsible for rejecting the Kyoto treaty in 1997 and for signing Federal finance acts de-regulating the banks in 1998 & 1999.

  • Comment number 31.

    I absolutely agree with the tenets of G.R.E.A.T. D.R.E.A.M. Trouble is that in the UK it's not fashionable to be positive - look at all the cynical comments here. And therein lies part of the problem - I find the British (English?) fixated on conforming to social norms, even if that means limiting one's self by expressing negative & cycnical views, because that's what's expected in UK society. Anything to be part of the 'in' crowd.

    How extraordinarily limp. I absolutely reject this attitude and approach to life.

    I'm not rich but I recently donated £1000 to my old Scout Group as a thank you for making my youth so enjoyable. The resulting positive feeling will stay with me for a long long time, much longer than my latest 'must-have product'. I also do little things like washing my (elderly) neighbour's car & picking up litter when I walk round my local area.

    Now... just watch all the negative responses flow in, by people unable to think and act for themselves... simply because I expressed something 'other' than the usual British 'down-at-heel' cynicism. Well guys, have a nice wallow - you're welcome to it. You don't mind if I don't join you?

  • Comment number 32.

    @ Mark Easton: your colleagues might not be right to call this a goverenment conspiracy, but Layard is a Labour peer and a swift read of the biographies of other members of the exec on the company's website reveals that their own claim that "We have no religious, political or commercial affiliations" is a flat lie. I prefer journalists who work independently, not just trot out the copy they are sent. Sure the site and the outfit looks like yet another moronic piece of nothing in the 15 seconds-of-fame culture, but why not be investigative - tell us how it is funded and what's behind it. Your colleagues *were* trying to nudge you to do a little work...

  • Comment number 33.

    I wonder if this is why older/retired people are often happier than younger people? Yes, I am one, and now I have more time and less hassle (at work!) I already do most of the things suggested at least some of the time and, yes, I am happier. Little things do make a difference and I feel really sorry for most of the other bloggers above who all appear to be in need of some happiness in their lives. Moaning has become a national obcession. I think this is a really good, positive idea.

  • Comment number 34.

    marge to homer ; " remember ; its easy to criticize.... " , homer : " and fun too ! "
    although the above is one of my favourite all time quotes I do think it is too easy to be negative and adopt a " whats in it for me ? " attitude . The simplest things can bring the most pleasure - feeding the ducks in the park with my 7 year old son , taking in a view at dawn , helping an elderly lady negotiate a busy shop queue- I've also found saying a sincere " you're welcome " to people brings a beaming smile from them .Also, I'm with Duncan over door opening - just amazed that Victoria Coren can't get men to open doors for her - I'd crawl over broken glass just to be given the opportunity !!!!!

  • Comment number 35.

    I agree with the contributor who quotes the bible;The Beatitudes are Jesus' recipe for happiness. But the cynic in me wonders if the government has some ulterior motive for encouraging happiness - less strain on the NHS perhaps. Mind you, the Pensions Department might prefer the opposite as happy people tend to live longer.

  • Comment number 36.

    Am I the only person who deeply resents the government and the political classes lecturing us on how to behave, how to seek happiness, care for each other? What kind of people do these rulers think we are? We are getting doses of this happinness mantra whilst access to knowledge of ethics, of the great writers on ethics, philosophy, and the good life, is being denied to a generation of university students, and this pub style utilitarianiasm is rammed down our throats. Well done BBC for participating in this exercise in dumming down our people. For generations the people - ordinary people - despised by the political classes have been caring for and about each other. Just get out of the way Governments and their mindless hacks in the media.

  • Comment number 37.

    Thatcher started the destruction of the happiness elements underlying British society.
    Thatchers children continue with this destruction, there's not much left to destroy now though, only education and healthcare remain as major targets.

    Current Governments are not unlike that company I worked for, trying to pretend that things will all be fine when you could describe the senior management culture as hugely destructive to internal social cohesion and personal well being.
    There's no difference between this corporate entity and British Society.
    A good society treats people as an asset, a bad society treats people as a cost.

    Britain stopped treating its people as an asset by the end of the 1970s.

    On a more up to date note the British Government will continue to sell its own people down the river, while the corporations continue to suck as much wealth as possible out of local communities.

    The USSR used to tell its people that everything was good too.
    "Last year comrades! we built nine million tractors!"
    It's a lot like that over here now.

  • Comment number 38.

    29. At 11:04am 12th Apr 2011, RubberNutz wrote:
    So, to sum up: Quit acting like a tool.

    ===============================================================
    Well said Nutz. Why on earth would you not want to try to be kind to other people?

  • Comment number 39.

    I think the group Action For Happiness is a really good idea. We need more happiness in Britain. I hope the group's message of being happy will encourage people to become more happy, even in times when it's particularly hard.

  • Comment number 40.

    This article fails to address the current cause of most people's unhappiness: the socially useless, selfish scum who inhabit the City. Has anyone bothered to suggest to these parasites that they should be happy with what they've got - indeed, be happy with considerably less than what they've got?

    It is social and financial inequality that breeds unhappiness and discontent. This is the greatest challenge facing our society.

  • Comment number 41.

    1. At 06:32am 12th Apr 2011, Lee Brown wrote:
    Giving = working like a dog for minimum wage.
    Relating = Becoming a friendly and uncomplaining 'work unit'
    Exercising = Keeping fit so you can work harder with less days off
    Appreciating = Being happy with your lot at the bottom of the pile on minimum wage.
    Trying out = Learning new skills for work in your own time and at your own expense
    Direction = Doing as your boss tells you
    Resiliance = Cope with more and more work
    Emotion = Cope with more and more work stress and not get depressed
    Acceptance = Resistance is futile. Learn your place!
    Meaning = You are just a cog in a machine that makes vast bucks for a tiny minority

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    You miserable bugger.

  • Comment number 42.

    It's about time everyone grew up and realised that this 'enlightenment' type stuff does not work. Time after time in history, idealistic societies have failed, utilitarianism has failed. I see the merit of the idea at the moment - the greatest number of people seem to be unhappy - but what is the ultimate desired outcome of this (bowel) movement? What if what i deem to make me happy conflicts with the majority? What if i like my fried bread, my 3 varieties of apples and £1 bar of chocolate? One more thing, if someone in this movement would pick up Singers book on ethics, they would perhaps need to re-consider what the greatest increase of universal happiness entails...just a thought...it isn't sufficient to say that feeling good about yourself is going to make the world in general a more pleasant place to live...

  • Comment number 43.

    The main driver for happiness is security.
    The main driver for unhappiness is insecurity.
    Security comes from being in a society which gives you hope for the future, and the future of your children.

    Post WW2 security came from:
    The NHS.
    Welfare for the unemployed(and there weren't many unemployed).
    Social housing.
    Free education.
    Lots of jobs, giving you the chance to get ahead in life.

    All these things are gone.
    Only the NHS continues to hang on by its fingernails, mainly because it would be political suicide for the tories/liberals to blatantly kill it off.

    People have more money nowadays...but they also feel a lot less secure about the future because the society around them is crumbling.

  • Comment number 44.

    @ Settlement
    Older people at present sometimes tend to be resigned to contentment due to things like financial security (baby boomer, pension generation), they have passed the stresses of what one could potentially do with their life, peers dwindling and 70+ years of being told what is right and wrong. I can see how elderly people can be happy, but i also know a few who are quite bitter about certain things that have happened during their life.

  • Comment number 45.

    What's this? The 'new' Gospel of happiness OR communitarianist Commandments?

    I'll stick with Jesus Christ thank you very much considering His message is focused on 'eternal matters' as opposed to temporal superficial happiness.

    Don't get me wrong, i do love my neighbour as myself (regardless of who, what they may believe) but with such initiatives as this it's just a continuation of what began under New Labour - destroy the 'old order' and replace it with a new one, which on the 'surface' seems fair and compassionate but if one is not willing to comply I'm sure you will see the true face of this 'one government, one religion, one purpose' show its true colours.

  • Comment number 46.

    @ Marnip
    If that is how Lee Brown feels, that's up to him - it may be making him happier and although that's not in the spirit of utilitarianism (Christmas), it is up to him. If a few other people in the country actually spoke out about how they really felt about their jobs, their commitments and education during their lifetime (too much emphasis on juvenile education IMO), society may be better if not a bit different.


  • Comment number 47.

    @ origami Penguin
    Money matters if it's what society is based on- all the inequalities are derivative (financially speaking). However, money seems to be unavoidable. Government requires something to pay for upkeep of infrastructure etc that allow for things like free trade and travel, and also to allow something a bit fairer and impartial than a barter type economy. I know that this has been abused, and i am in no way happy with the UK government's handling of the situation, but am just mentioning that there is no other real way. In fact, we are becoming more dependent on money and it's information integration - i can't actually see where businesses are going with this stuff because at some point it won't really matter how fast they discover that i changed my mind this week and bought full-fat mince instead of extra-lean.

  • Comment number 48.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • Comment number 49.

    @ady: "Thatcher started the destruction of the happiness elements underlying British society."

    Ah, you must mean those happiness elements prior to Thatcher like British Leyland's fine products, Red Robbo, the 3-day working week, power cuts, unofficial strikes by the hundred and 20% inflation.

    Halcyon days indeed.

  • Comment number 50.

    We're all here on this planet to HELP each other, that's what we all seem to forget. People are in general, always out for themselves.

  • Comment number 51.

    Theres loads of relevent happiness ideas missing from that list, liposuction & tummy tuck would probably make more people happy/content with themselves then resulting in more outward looking happiness/contentment.

    My happiness idea is to plant a politician, head down, which I am sure would make many many people happy.

  • Comment number 52.

    41. At 11:32am 12th Apr 2011, Marnip wrote:
    1. At 06:32am 12th Apr 2011, Lee Brown wrote:
    Giving = working like a dog for minimum wage.
    Relating = Becoming a friendly and uncomplaining 'work unit'
    Exercising = Keeping fit so you can work harder with less days off
    Appreciating = Being happy with your lot at the bottom of the pile on minimum wage.
    Trying out = Learning new skills for work in your own time and at your own expense
    Direction = Doing as your boss tells you
    Resiliance = Cope with more and more work
    Emotion = Cope with more and more work stress and not get depressed
    Acceptance = Resistance is futile. Learn your place!
    Meaning = You are just a cog in a machine that makes vast bucks for a tiny minority

    ----------------------------------------------------------------------------

    You miserable bugger.

    ----------------------------------------

    But the last item is 101% correct, hence, truth can make us miserable & bankers

  • Comment number 53.

    46. At 11:43am 12th Apr 2011, ChrisG wrote:
    @ Marnip
    If that is how Lee Brown feels, that's up to him

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Of course it is. And I feel that he's being meladramaticically cynical, to the point where he's bending the truth into some nasty reality. And it's up to me if I want to feel like that, too. ;)

  • Comment number 54.

    Wealth inequality in the UK has greatly increased along with the general decline in well being amongst the population.

    Over the next 20 years this disparity will increase as those who receive pensions from the huge number of nationalised industries(BT. BGas. etc) that Thatcher denationalised die off to be replaced with people who have no pension of any reasonable worth after a lifetime of working.
    So people will become even less secure and more unhappy with their lot in life.

    However, people went out and voted for the society they now have, so you get what you deserve.

  • Comment number 55.

    I am quite happy as I am. I do not worry about life but feel free to moan about something that I do not like. Follow the words of the song" don't worry be happy"

  • Comment number 56.

    @ ady
    Yes, and i'm sure some of the other intelligent commentators online today also understand that when the knife eventually falls on the safety net, happiness derived from 'phoning a friend' or 'being part of some bigger mess' isn't going to make people any happier with the fact that they are eating food of a quality that is currently being fed to pets at a premium. What will make people happier is being able to say 'i don't care that i am eating what is at present called dogfood', because it is all my circumstances allow and although there isn't much hope of that changing in the medium to long term, i'm fine with that', or, 'i will take responsibility for myself to do whatever i can to live, whether that be work at something menial or grow my own food, even if that means i have to move to somewhere where i can do that'. I think that this happiness question comes down to accepting responsibility for your current situation and well as future (and future generations - those you leave behind), whether a government directly affects it or not. I also feel that some people are not capable of achieving contentment or happiness with any situation, nevermind one that 70% of the general population would be happy with...I think this is something that is recognised by all politicians and happiness gurus, even though they will maintain it is.

  • Comment number 57.

    52. At 12:06pm 12th Apr 2011, MrWonderfulReality wrote:

    But the last item is 101% correct, hence, truth can make us miserable & bankers

    ------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    And as much money as they may have, we're not poor here in this country - no one is. They're going to die on average around 80, pretty much the same as everyone else, and they can't avoid it no matter what they have, nor what they do.

    For the tiny period of time we're here in the great scheme of things, I really don't spend much of it worrying about how much other people earn, as long as I'm getting paid for my labour.

  • Comment number 58.

    @ 45. At 11:40am 12th Apr 2011, LordP:

    I'll take it you mean the doctrine telling you you are a sinner before you're even born, unwilling of god's love, and are lucky to be offered the chance of avoiding death if you only love the same god you're supposed to fear.

    If that's where you get your happiness, be my guest. Sounds like a pretty nasty, masochistic idea to me.

  • Comment number 59.

    I am neither religious or interested in joining a happiness cult, but there are some good deeds listed above that are a great idea. Why we need make official pledges to be a good person I do not understand. Do what you can where you can.

  • Comment number 60.

    ME, you hit the jackpot in provoking comment with this one. I am aware of much of the scientific literature behind this whole notion, not least of which is the great man's book, with the imprimator of being a member of faculty at the LSE. Sadly the primary prescription, as I remember it, was to raise taxes! You want cynicism: the great man wants more attention and possibly to sell more books. Can't believe I sunk so low!

  • Comment number 61.

    @ Marnip
    hehe
    See, if everyone could accept that there are more views in the world than their own, and that some are better than others, but this doesn't mean that the ones that are better are more 'right' than those not, then there's no need for the cynicism. Like i said, there are those who can't or won't accept they are responsible for their own situation, whether it is possible to change that situation at present or not. I don't see what the problem is with accepting that one has made mistakes that are irreversible as opposed to blaming it on 'society', because society is a big word, and everyone forgets sometimes they are part of a society whether they like it or not.
    It's easy for people to blame bankers and politicians, but i would rather be scraping a living in an office job than scraping a black wall in a coal pit... but that's just my thoughts... ;-) Things have moved on, we just don't live long enough to see that most of the time.

  • Comment number 62.

    Crumbs! I think some of the pessimistic comments here demonstrate the clear need for positive helpful attitude. I expect most people have come across these ideas before, wrapped somewhat differently. As a society we have become far too individualistic. Fortunately there are still parts of England, such as Cumbria, where everyday you are encouraged by people's generosity, kindness and helpfulness.

  • Comment number 63.

    @ Griffalo
    yea, seems plausible, but most people do need to feel part of something to have the strength to do good deeds - have an audience and something to discuss to like minded people. I thought social networking was the answer to happiness...after all, people keep answering questions about how great i am on some 'apps'...

  • Comment number 64.

    Its refreshing to see some balance from the media arising through this discussion. Every day we see reports of tragic events and disasters. I'm not suggesting we deny their existence but lets not exclude positive discussion and an awareness of its potential.

    I remember thinking how unusual it was to see headlines including words like 'joy' during the rescue of the Chilean miners. It seemed so unusual.

  • Comment number 65.

    "I promise to try and produce more happiness in the world and less misery."

    As a statement of intent, the above pledge, made by those joining the new movement Action for Happiness launched today, seems uncontroversial

    How about they produce more happiness by minding their own business and stopping patronising us with their list of things to do, this is a chilling vision of what life would be like if the Lib Dems ever got into power.

    1. Give up your seat - I've been hoping Nick Clegg gives up his first
    5. Give someone a hug - What, like a hoodie, as David and his new left Tory party wants?
    6. Take time to listen to someone - perhaps Gordon Brown & him who's taken over should try this?

    What a load of rubbish, no doubt supported by generous government grants, I'm starting a new movement - The Society for Stating the Bleedin' Obvious" - can I have £100k now please?

  • Comment number 66.

    @ Chris G

    I wholeheartedly agree, at least with the second half of your post. Yep, people need to understand they're part of an integrated society like it or not, so get on with it and stop whining :D

  • Comment number 67.

    I was reading the above list of suggestions again and was wondering...
    Do my intentions matter when doing these deeds, or are the deeds good enough in themselves regardless of my intentions? By intentions i mean: am i doing them because they are good or because i am? Some of you will be familiar with the paradox...Also, what if i do something good according to the list that turns out to be bad?
    I'm trying to draw attention to the fact that if these people are setting out how to be happy, they are going to be writing definitions to eternity...

  • Comment number 68.

    Ah, you must mean those happiness elements prior to Thatcher like British Leyland's fine products, Red Robbo, the 3-day working week, power cuts, unofficial strikes by the hundred and 20% inflation.
    -------------------------------------------------------

    British Managers are amongst the most useless and inept managers on the face of the entire planet.

    The simplest comparison is the car industry.
    British Managers presided over the complete annihilation of the car industry in this country.
    Meanwhile companies like Honda and Toyota move into Britain, and USING THE EXACT SAME WORKFORCE, crank out hundreds of thousands of decent quality cars a year.

    Other areas like shipbuilding, aircraft building, machine tools, indigenous car manufacturers, railway building etc etc have all survived in places like France and Germany....but not here...not ONE industry has survived.
    It's all gone from this country, every splinter of it disappeared in 30 years because British Management is so unbelievably poor.

    Maybe we should have let the French run our country, they certainly couldn't have made a worse job of it.

  • Comment number 69.

    unabashed propaganda from the BBC, how predictable. even positive spin on david scameron's big society. This is shameful.

  • Comment number 70.

    @ady: "The main driver for happiness is security."

    Since when has life been a sure bet?

    It's the other way round... Certitudes follow from your belief in self to deal with whatever life throws your way. A positive attitude is the only form of security freely available, so rarely chosen. Far easier to whinge and expect 'others', e.g., politicians to take responsibility. Be prepared to wait a long time.

  • Comment number 71.

    "Britain is more distrusting of politicians, the media, public institutions and each other than most other countries."

    Perhaps it is disillusionment at the state of affairs in this "mother of all democracies". We vote for politicians who too often end up representing the interests of capital, not us, because they learn quickly not to fight too hard against the tabloid media, big business or the banks. Leaned on by the plutocrats, those same politicians are forced to gut the institutions which gave us pride in our nation, and a shared sense of being a civilised society, while transferring wealth away from the poorest. And so we are increasingly thrown on our own resources, and forced to compete against each other in a factitious struggle for economic security, which erodes wages and suits big business very nicely.

    Cynical? Absolutely. And with good reason.

  • Comment number 72.

    8. At 09:30am 12th Apr 2011, pdlepage wrote:
    If all they can offer is happiness I'll stick with my religion thanks.

    Jesus gives me joy, which isn't dependent on someone making me breakfast in bed or opening a door for me. It's far more deep and profound.

    ==============================

    I'll agree its more profound, believing in supernatural mystical fairytale planet and species forming superbeings says it all.

    Still , at least you are off the streets, hopefully!!!

  • Comment number 73.

    @ Marnip
    and of course retaining awareness of the pitfalls of integrated society, where it's tricky to balance the freedom that epitomises western society, with integration of those foreign to western ways. Same goes for social change within society.

  • Comment number 74.

    69. At 12:29pm 12th Apr 2011, budgood:

    He said maybe it's a good idea for you to get involved in your community. What on Earth is your problem with this?

    This list is highlighting a focus on happiness, rather than monetary/alternative gain. What's your problem with that?

    Just another crack at the Tories, devoid of any real, legitimate objection - 'it's bad because the Tories proposed it'. Seriously, how immature.

  • Comment number 75.

    The point which they have mentioned here is true . Rather than complaining try to be optimistic and do things different in your life and see how small things make a difference in life.

    Stop complaining , try to take things in positive. Sharing, spending time and caring where people lack a lot here. Sounds absurd when people tell to be happy you need to do these things . But try giving a seat to the old people in train , these small things create difference in you . These doesnt mean what is written on bullet points you need to stick to it . Try out your own way to help how much you can . Doesnt mean to give grand to poor.

    Small things which you can do to others will be big things for them .

    Seeing you your kids learn. Nothing wrong in changing and seeing .

  • Comment number 76.

    I'm very happy already, thank you so much for asking.

    Or at least, I am about the important things in life.

    Some stuff gets me down, like being unemployed, or listening to yet more lies and ignorance from politicians, or loadsa money going to people in the very financial institutions that caused the current problems, or people around the world who think brawling is a good way to decide who governs their country...

    Then I look at my dearly beloved, my daughter, and my friends, and all's right again.

  • Comment number 77.

    @MrWonderfulReality
    "Theres loads of relevent happiness ideas missing from that list, liposuction & tummy tuck would probably make more people happy/content with themselves then resulting in more outward looking happiness/contentment."

    Will it? I've not tried it so can't comment directly, but it seems to lead to a cycle of being unhappy with yourself and spending for temporary relief, before finding you're still unhappy with yourself. Maybe for many people it does work, but we do see some big stars demonstrating that it doesn't.

    On the other hand I work with some people who are quite big and seem to get on well.

    Happiness is perhaps a puzzle. We find that some things can give temporary pleasure but the pleasure does not last. These seem to be the material things, the expensive toys. Can you be hooked on community work the same way? Maybe it depends on why you do it. What does your self esteem depend on?

    It's so tempting to quote religious ideas here, but I think these ideas must be able to stand on their own merit if they are to be applicable to all.

  • Comment number 78.

    There is another view. Much of the above appears to be written with selfish thoughts in mind and with a grudge against someone such that, 'if they all went away, I'd be much happier'. There is fact. If we remain slightly out of reach of what we strive yet appear to gain ground on it, we are at our happiest. Companies striving to do better, people saving for the future, putting yoursefl out for others. Everything that seems to be work is rewarding whether mental or physical. When you have everything, what more is there to live for? There IS a much bigger picture. When you are content and/or happy, you naturally give this out to others and they feed it back; it's a wonderful circle of energy that empowes!
    PJ
    Liverpool

  • Comment number 79.

    68. At 12:29pm 12th Apr 2011, ady wrote:
    Ah, you must mean those happiness elements prior to Thatcher like British Leyland's fine products, Red Robbo, the 3-day working week, power cuts, unofficial strikes by the hundred and 20% inflation.
    -------------------------------------------------------

    British Managers are amongst the most useless and inept managers on the face of the entire planet.

    The simplest comparison is the car industry.
    British Managers presided over the complete annihilation of the car industry in this country.
    Meanwhile companies like Honda and Toyota move into Britain, and USING THE EXACT SAME WORKFORCE, crank out hundreds of thousands of decent quality cars a year.

    Other areas like shipbuilding, aircraft building, machine tools, indigenous car manufacturers, railway building etc etc have all survived in places like France and Germany....but not here...not ONE industry has survived.
    It's all gone from this country, every splinter of it disappeared in 30 years because British Management is so unbelievably poor.

    Maybe we should have let the French run our country, they certainly couldn't have made a worse job of it.

    ===================================

    Happiness is a nice soft toilet roll, which we make plenty of in UK, so its not all that bad.

  • Comment number 80.

    Llareggub_2 has got it right. This is all about turning attention away from a system that provides huge privelage and wealth for a few, and a struggle to get by for the vast majority.

    Any mention of money, wealth, possessions is conspicuously absent from the list. Because those are the things we peasants have to learn to live without?

    If money is unrelated to happiness, why bother working? Why not just super-mega-tax the Hi-Financiers who have gained 90% of the wealth of the past 30 year? Takle it all off them and tell them to "go open doors for old ladies" and learn a new career (in a call centre?) instead.

  • Comment number 81.

    Over on Stephanie's blog a week ago, we were discussing this...

    219. At 18:12pm on 4th Apr 2011, stanilic wrote:

    Cue mutualism, cooperation and all that stuff!
    ~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
    Amusingly, DC may be touting all this with "Big Society"...how the world has turned, eh, when the true blue party policies are those proposed by a marxist/humanist?
    (Erich Fromm)

    Unless its all a much deeper hue than that, and Dave is promoting the "Big Society" as the new aspiration for the middle classes (who are soon to be the have-nots), while the "haves" continue with the age-old aspirations of leisure, luxury and liberty (freedom from responsibility).

    We may fast be approaching a society in which there could be a class known as the "nouveau pauvre".

    I can just see the BBC running a new sitcom series. Lets call it "Auf Wiedersehen Arbeit."

    Scene from Episode 1.

    "Well, when I lost me job, chum, I didn't just sit there on the dole...I mean, I went out and did some good in the community. Bored? You should be ashamed of yourself. There's loads of potholes need filling, bins needing emptying and other such nowadays. Why don't you come on down tomorrow and join in. Me and the lads always have a good laugh, and its good to go home at the end of the day with a sense of having done your bit for your friends and neighbours."

    I know auntie is supposed to inform, educate and entertain, but they could so easily create a new norm of social conscience in the disposessed and disenfranchised.

    And we'll all buy it because it looks like the moral high ground.

    Shudder.
    ###############
    Little did I suspect...

  • Comment number 82.

    hmmm... seems like the logical answer to this thread is the anarchist principle of mutualism, but then you couldn't be seen to have anything to do with that now could you.

  • Comment number 83.

    Number 21 is a bit dodgy, you'de probably get arrested for it, and whoever it is would scream at you to to get your head back in your own cubicle!!!

  • Comment number 84.

    #1 ditto..................Those folk who spout this happiness nonsence are of the same calibre of religous types, especially those who are financially comfortable! They don't live in the real world, never have, never will..................

  • Comment number 85.

    @ady "British Managers are amongst the most useless and inept managers on the face of the entire planet."

    --------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    The only post in this thread that has made me delirious with laughter! Absolutely 100% spot on my friend. The above statement should be the first amendment in any British constitution.

  • Comment number 86.

    "I promise to try and produce more happiness in the world and less misery," said the Prime Minister, as he rushed through legislation to introduce open-list proportional representation for Westminster and called a General Election...

  • Comment number 87.

    My mother once asked her ex-husband (my father): "Are you happy and content with the way your life has turned out?".

    He replied: "I'm content with my discontentment and happy with my unhappiness".

    I think he made an important point here - how you respond and react to any situation is down to your state of mind. Today could be the last day you're alive, so you might as well get as much meaning out of it as you can.

  • Comment number 88.

    Even Cadbury is gone now, the asset stripping of our country to the highest bidder continues without a pause.
    100 future years of jobs, profits and livelihoods...gone.
    They're getting so desperate they even tried to flog off Englands forests, lol.
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-politics-12488847

    Now the big valuable bits of Britain has been sold off or asset stripped there aint really very much left to put up for sale.

    At this rate we'll be selling the Houses of Parliament off around 2030.
    Would the last person to leave the building please turn out the lights.

  • Comment number 89.

    Apparantly, once upon a time not that long ago, happiness was a cigar called Hamlet, or so the adverts said.

    There is no absolute to happiness or anything in life.

    You are what you is and you do what you duz.

  • Comment number 90.

    'Complain about this comment' - doesn't that just say everything!?

  • Comment number 91.

    Ah but the misery-guts just keep on fighting, read this from the BBC site
    http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-12969922
    When even innocent comments/compliments are construed as a sexual assault there is no hope for the shiny-happy-people. Positivism, optimism and even normal human interaction is crushed under the jackboot of PC, activism and cynicism.

  • Comment number 92.

    @MrWonderfulReality:
    "...liposuction & tummy tuck would probably make more people happy..."

    @rjc1008:
    "...I've not tried it so can't comment directly, but it seems to lead to a cycle of being unhappy with yourself...

    ...on the other hand I work with some people who are quite big and seem to get on well."

    Quote of the day.


  • Comment number 93.

    I love what these guys do - http://thekindnessoffensive.com/

    And this is a nice initiative, given the problems High Street retailers are having at the moment - http://www.shoppingmakesyouhappy.com/ - Have a look at the video . . . it made me laugh!

  • Comment number 94.

    number '1', love it, you've made me and I'm sure many others smile with your 'cynical' comments.
    The only shame is, there's probably an element of truth in there.
    I do most of the things on the list, I am generally nice to the world around me, I try to treat people as I would like to be treated.
    I am a cynic myself, a lot of what we are talking about here is altrusim, it is a very rare commoditiy in this world, few people are nice for the sake of others . Even I am only nice to the world because I hope the world will respond in kind. Does this make me happy? Nah of course not.
    To be really cynical, if this is an idea from a Labour peer, has he secretly jumped in to the tory corner and is trying to help promote camerons 'big society' idea?

  • Comment number 95.

    88. At 12:47pm 12th Apr 2011, ady wrote:
    Even Cadbury is gone now, the asset stripping of our country to the highest bidder continues without a pause.
    100 future years of jobs, profits and livelihoods...gone.

    -------------------------------------------------------------------------------

    Cadbury was a private company before it got sold to another private company, that happened to be from another country.

    Not a single one of your posts has been factually correct, or even vaguely enlightening. Please, just stop spreading the stupid.

  • Comment number 96.

    Sounds a lots like We Are What We Do's actions, ACTION 030: Bake something for a friend, ACTION 035: Write to someone who inspired you, ACTION 094: Make a coffee for someone busier than you... http://bit.ly/9OS2mB

  • Comment number 97.

    The best move I made to feel happier was to stop watching television, especially the News.
    I record films and watch them later, scrolling through any adverts.

    Modern TV is not a contributor to mental wellbeing or happiness IMO.

  • Comment number 98.

    They forgot to add number #41 ... "Share your prozac"

  • Comment number 99.

    I believe I also read a 'research' project recently that purported to have discovered how happy shopping made people. That was obviously for the benefit of a crumbling retail trade, as inflation plus wage freezes plus unemployment bites and people realise they've got f-c- all to spend after taking care of the essentials. This one has the same state ideology ring to it - be happy, no matter what the economic situation. Do lots of things for nothing. Er - how are our rulers doing on that one?

  • Comment number 100.

    "I promise to try and produce more happiness in the world and less misery."
    Okay, I agree with this, have no problem with this. Even in times of austerity, being good to our fellow sufferers will bring a sense of doing what is right.
    You can be distrustful and resentful, and still be kind and gentle to those innocents that share your plight.
    But "Action for Happiness" really does sounds like a psychological-ploy, a kind of brainwashing by the Coalition Government to vacuum all the sheeplings into a bag of euphoria and keep them pleasantly mollified.
    Remember this: You can by happy and rebellious, IF rebellion is the right thing to do.
    Happiness can make you feel better, but doing what is right, regardless of the level of happiness that it may bring you, will make your spine good and strong. It will give you character.

 

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