Happiness Club reflections.. a year on
March 21st, exactly a year since our first meet up, we held our final Happiness Club as a celebratory dinner. Here are some final thoughts on this awesome journey.
A year on and we've had two births, two more pregnancies plus various sad and happy life changing events. We've met in our homes, pubs, under trees in the park, walked up hills, and even did a session over WhatsApp.
As a reminder, there were 10 evidence-based keys to happiness which we explored through the year long experiment: Giving, Relating to others, Exercising, Appreciating, Learning, Direction, Resilience, Positive Emotions, Self Compassion and Meaning. There were many little changes that came about from these keys, captured in my previous posts. Here are some final thoughts on this awesome journey:
On the Happiness Club:
- The Club acquired a life and momentum of its own. From the moment I asked my friends, slightly embarrassed that they might find it cheesy, I was surprised by the enthusiasm for it. There were months when life felt pretty full, with plenty of reasons not to turn up, but our club just kept coming together. I thought I'd have to do a lot more cajoling! I think it's because it felt good to connect and open up on these themes - often exposing quite personal things about ourselves and our lives. The social act of committing to be there brought a lot of joy; I was excited to hear friends who didn't know each other before the club wanting to continue our club as a supper club.
- Clubs make it easier, and more fun, to change. A lot can happen in a year, some of which might make a Happiness Club seem like an indulgence. But the regular nudge of a new theme, as well as knowing that everyone else was keen to meet, kept us going through the journey which we might otherwise have given up on, if left to our own devices.
On the 10 happiness keys:
- Changes might not happen in the key's designated month. Sometimes exploring the theme sowed the seeds to seize future opportunities. For example, when I heard about the book club and knitting clubs at work, I knew to prioritise and protect these commitments because of what we explored in the Learning and Connecting themes, months earlier.
- The keys teach you how to be kinder to yourself, and enjoy activities for their own sake rather than as means to an end. For example friends have made fun of me for all the courses I've been on. Aerobics instructing courses, meditation courses, art courses and plenty more. What was the point of it all? I knew I loved it but didn't really know why. The Learning theme made me understand what happens when you learn - your brain creates new neural pathways and this fuels new ideas, confidence and creativity. Now, in my sheer joy at learning new stitches in knitting club, I get it and I savour it. People ask me what I'm knitting - I'm knitting nothing in particular, I just love doing something different and seeing the fabric emerge.
- The Gratitude Journal still reigns supreme. My first Psychologies My first Psychologies post (here) talked about the brain-rewiring effects of writing just 3 things to be grateful for, before bed. A year on, it's still central to my happiness. But I'm more aware of what make me grateful having explored the keys.
- We can control our own happiness. The most empowering thing about this club was exploring tools that impact your happiness, and trying them out. We experienced the fact that happiness is not 'done' to us, but something that we can choose to develop. For a number of us, it was a realisation that direction and goals will contribute to happiness but they alone are not enough to make you happy. If you've achieved all your goals and still feel a bit at sea, it may be worth looking at some of the other keys.
And on a personal note, it was when I mentioned Happiness Club in the interview for my dream role that they 'knew' I was the right person. I had been trying to get a job there for months. So maybe the pursuit of happiness itself can help us attain some of our other goals too...
A huge thank you to the Marylebone Happiness Club and Psychologies Magazine for this wonderful year-long experiment. If you haven't given it a go already, I urge you to try your own Happiness Club!