One Secret of Happiness

When we share times when we were happy and times when we make others happy, it makes us happy (and builds community).

How to do this

You will get the most out of the questions below if you talk about them with friends or partners who are interested. The idea is to have conversations using these questions as prompts. You are sharing stories not gathering objective data. If you are listening it helps to be enthusiastic and enjoy it.

·         Talk about two or three times in your life when you were very happy. Why was that? What was it like?

·         Talk about two or three times when you made someone else happy. What was that like? What did you and the other person gain from this.

If you enjoy it, remember to tell two or three friends about it. In this way, you will generate a ripple of happiness starting from you.

This works well in a small, intimate group but also surprisingly well in a larger one, where it is great fun and builds a sense of community.

A story

I tried this with my wife and another couple. We spent about half an hour going round the table answering the questions. It was very easy and enjoyable. The most difficult bit was deciding which of many happy experiences to share. This makes you realise you have had lots of them, which is great.

It was interesting to learn what made other people happy. For instance, Barry became deaf quite young and spends time, and gets much pleasure, helping elderly people use their deaf aids. This was a lovely way to get happiness from something problematic. We all agreed that making other people happy was a great source of personal happiness.

I heard one of my wife’s happy times again of being utterly overwhelmed by a sunset, but I also heard her describe it to our friends and this gave me a new and vivid perspective on her and her experience.

I talked about a time I was reading passages from a very funny book with a group of friends and my uncontrollable laughter caused a shared explosion of helpless laughter from all of us. We were laughing with each other like a group of very small children. It was lovely.

We all felt the conversation had been a most enjoyable and different way to spend time together. We felt both happier and closer afterwards.

More information

If you are interested in the approach, have a look at some of the literature on “Appreciative Inquiry”. One key idea is that we create what we look for. So if we look for happiness that is what we find!

The “Happy Planet Index” measures the efficiency with which countries turn their ecological footprint into happiness and long life.

How you can help me

I would appreciate any comments you might have about any “happiness” session that you run. It would be lovely to know more about what you learned, what you enjoyed about it, any impact it’s had since and any ideas about how I could do this work better. There are lots of ways to contact me vis the website.

My dream is that more people will be sharing happy stories, just like you did and this will create happy communities with happy people. It’s odd that something so simple could make the world a better place.

So your comments will be really helpful. Please drop me a short email or phone me. The mail address and phone number are at the bottom of this note.

If you would like help using this idea, or have any comments or questions please contact me. Thanks, Nick