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Making Slough Happy: a seriously happy experiment on BBC TWO


Category: Factual & Arts TV; BBC TWO

Date: 25.10.2005
Printable version


Happiness is a serious business, at least for six people who are putting their reputations on the line in new BBC TWO series, Making Slough Happy.

 

Embarking on an unusual three month social experiment, six happiness specialists, spanning a variety of disciplines from psychology to economics, will work to try and improve the happiness levels of people in the Berkshire town of Slough.

 

Happiness is currently on the up; at least in academic circles.

 

Psychologists, sociologists, economists, neuroscientists and public policy experts have been increasingly turning their attention to the study of happiness; what is it, when do we experience it, how can we generate more of it in our lives and communities.

 

Happiness is now being viewed like other skills; people can be taught how to be happier, and given specific pointers to help them increase positive feelings in their life.

 

Many of us think we know what will make us happy - from a higher salary, fame and celebrity to a lottery win, but the research suggests we are often looking in the wrong places.

 

Armed with what they believe are the ingredients of happiness - the data, facts, ideas and theories culled from global happiness research - the six experts believe they have the keys to unlock the secrets of this most desirable of emotions.

 

This four-part observational documentary follows the team - psychologist Dr Richard Stevens; psychotherapist Brett Kahr; Richard Reeves, whose expertise spans philosophy, public policy and economics; work place specialists Jessica Pryce-Jones and Philippa Chapman; and social entrepreneur Andrew Mawson OBE - as they test out their ideas on real people in a real town.

 

Dr Richard Stevens says: "The great thing about the psychology of happiness is that it is for everyone. Whoever you are, however happy or unhappy you are, you can get something from it that can make a positive difference to your life.

 

"My primary work involves a series of intensive workshops on the psychology of well-being and happiness skills with the 50 volunteers.

 

"But our hope is that this will have a ripple effect - that the volunteers will take their newfound skills and attitudes out into the community, and in this way we will begin to change the psychological climate of Slough."

 

Increasing the happiness levels of an entire town is a tall order, so the team will focus on 50 volunteers, who reflect a cross section of the local community, as well as a range of moods.

 

Working with a variety of techniques, workshops and experiments - including some less orthodox approaches from dancing in supermarket aisles to graveyard therapy - the team will be aiming to increase each person's level of well-being.

 

But aside from planting the seeds of goodwill amongst this group, they are ambitiously aiming for some far reaching results.

 

Central to this science is the belief that happiness can be measured.

 

Global research has recorded the happiness levels of countries across the world, and there is even a World Database of Happiness.

 

In the series, the happiness levels of the Slough volunteers will be measured before, during and after the end of the project to assess whether the team's methods have been effective.

 

At the start of the experiment, Dr Richard Stevens reveals the findings of the first questionnaire, which showed that the Slough 50's happiness level was close to the UK average.

 

However, the volunteers were also asked to respond to a comparable question: How satisfied are you with your life? - a question for which data has been collated from around the world.

 

On this key question the group returned an average rating of 6.4 - well below the UK average and just below the level for China.

 

Significantly, most of the countries that have lower ratings are former Soviet bloc countries so the experts have their work cut out to improve the life satisfaction levels of people in Slough.

 

Following this rollercoaster, often emotional ride, from workshops and singing classes, to happiness in the office, it remains to be seen whether the experts have bitten off more than they can chew and if ordinary people will be won over by their new approaches to positive thinking.

 

Notes to Editors

 

Making Slough Happy is an Optomen Production for BBC TWO

 

Making Slough Happy begins on Tuesday 15 November at 9.00pm on BBC TWO

 

How to be Happy is published by BBC Books

 

For digital viewers, happiness is just a red button away. Join poet Ian McMillan as he takes you through a normal day to find out what makes you happy. More details on the series can be found at bbc.co.uk/lifestyle

 

Measuring the happiness of the Slough Volunteers

 

The experts selected two established tests of life satisfaction and constructed three further tests of happiness and mood especially for the project.

 

The advantage of the simple question on life satisfaction is that it made it possible to compare the responses of people from different countries.

 

The World Database on Happiness gathered by researchers at Erasmus University in Rotterdam records a variety of scores on satisfaction with life.

 

These measures are expressed on a ten point scale and in rank order, along with the year of study:

 

Denmark = 8.3 (2003)

Switzerland = 8.1 (1996)

Ireland = 7.7 (2003)

Canada = 7.8 (2000)

USA = 7.7 (1999)

Norway = 7.6 (1996)

Netherlands = 7.5 (2003)

Britain = 7.3 (2003)

France = 6.9 (2003)

China = 6.5 (2001)

Romania = 6.2 (2003)

Hungary = 5.9 (2003)

Turkey = 5.6 (2003)

Latvia = 5.5 (2003)

Russia = 4.7 (1999)

Bulgaria = 4.4 (2003)

Zimbabwe = 4.0 (2001)

 

PC

 

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Category: Factual & Arts TV; BBC TWO

Date: 25.10.2005
Printable version

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