Happiness is more than Hedonism

At first I didn’t like the idea of a Happiness Club. I believed pursuing happiness was self-centred and hedonistic. And then I read the 12 steps devised by Action for Happiness and realised they precisely match my own core values.

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Author of Happiness by Design, Paul Dolan explains that some people are driven by pleasure and some people are driven by purpose! That’s it! That’s why I can’t relate to chasing happiness for its own sake. I am a purpose-driven person. I derive exhilaration from having a cause bigger than me. I want meaning not thrills!

I want deep fulfilment not giddy elation. For me, and so many others, fulfilment comes from ‘MADness’; Making a Difference and working for human rights and social justice to overcome poverty and deprivation, abuse and suffering.

And Making A Difference can only be achieved through joining forces with other like-minded people to champion causes together.

Happiness comes from giving not getting! The irony is the more we contribute and impact other people’s lives, the more empowered we feel. A sense of empowerment and happiness are interwoven.

We need connection, not isolation. Happiness is about community not individualism. Happiness flows from connection and genuine face-to-face friendships, and cannot be replaced by online contact.

My philosophy for every day is to add joy and reduce suffering.

So I decided to take up Psychologies magazine’s challenge and start my own club. I had only moved into the charming village of Bethersden in Kent six months earlier so I was keen to get to know my new neighbours and make some women friends.

I popped invitations in nine mailboxes but as expected only a few were able to make it on the day and that was just fine. We had a core group of four sitting around my dining room table with a pot of tea and plate of fancy biscuits and instantly the ladies, who hadn’t met before, opened up and chatted and got to know each other.

I had intuitively invited ladies who were very warm and caring types and we all had so much in common with a love of horses and dogs and we shared a desire to give to others in need.

What a pleasure it was to connect with like-hearted women and sense that this was the start of something deep and meaningful! We discussed the topic of Giving. It was so surprising to discover the acts of kindness my new friends were involved in. One neighbour through her church is helping to set up a kitchen to feed the homeless. Another is helping loved ones through cancer treatment.

The risk I took to push through nervousness and reach out to my neighbours as a newcomer in a close-knit community paid off. In one afternoon I made some beautiful new friends!

Thank you Psychologies and Action for Happiness for launching this simple idea that potentially can break down isolation and transform lives everywhere.

Diane Priestley

Engaging storyteller, Prolific Journalist, Empowering People Matters

Hello Psychologies Tribe, Let me introduce myself! I'm an experienced journalist with a career spanning more than 30 years writing for newspapers, magazines and online publications in Australia and the UK. I write about relationships, health and humanitarian issues. I'm a qualified Counsellor and Workshop Facilitator. I moved from Australia to the UK in 2009 and now live near the beach in Folkestone, Kent and part of the year in Kenya doing community work.


Go to the profile of Jane Maree Stuart
almost 7 years ago
While in a networking meeting, I was asked the question, 'how does one measure happiness'? I was not able to think of any way to actually 'measure' happiness, and the question has been bothering me since. I saw this article and thought that someone on here might have some ideas on the matter? Jane.
Go to the profile of Diane Priestley
almost 7 years ago
Hi Jane, Thanks for your comment. I think "measuring" happiness is a difficult concept because in the course of any one day we experience a range of emotions and moods, which is healthy. I personally wouldn't want to feel "happy" every moment! However there are certain universal human needs and when these are met in our lives we tend to feel a sense of fulfilment. Beyond survival and security needs, humans need to bond and love and be loved, achieve and contribute to others, learn and be creative and be free. Psychiatrist Dr William Glasser came up with these five basic needs. The 10 principles devised by Action for Happiness meet all these core needs. The clever team came up with the acrostic GREAT DREAM to stand for Giving, Relating, Exercising, Appreciating, Trying Out, Direction, Resilience, Emotion, Acceptance and Meaning. Check out the www.actionforhappiness.org website!