Why I set up a happiness club
An intro to me, why I set up a happiness club and details of our adventures so far...
In June 2014 The Colchester Happiness Project had our first get together. I’d been inspired by Action for Happiness to set up a local group exploring what makes us happy. I remember nervously putting out little welcome packs for the eight people who had shown an interest in coming along, ordering a cup of tea and waiting for the first happiness explorer to arrive. Whilst I sat waiting, my mind fell into old negative patterns of self-doubt and anxiety. I wondered what on earth I was going to say to people who would expect me to be some sort of happiness expert, and why the hell I had decided to do this in the first place.
30 minutes later and everyone had arrived, ordered tea and cake and were chatting and laughing with people they’d never met before. And it dawned on me – this is why I decided to do this; to make genuine connections; to share giggles; to learn, journey and discover with fellow happiness explorers. Suddenly all my self-doubt and anxiety were replaced with a wonderfully warming sense of being completely at home. I didn’t need to be an expert, I just needed to be my authentic self, be open and honest that I was (I quote) “making this up as I went along”.
The happiness project grew steadily and we’ve had some great adventures. Favourites of mine have been exploring the benefits of being in nature by having a riverside picnic followed by an hilarious go on some rowing boats (none of us were any good and spend much of the afternoon tangled up in overhanging trees, unable to co-ordinate our rowing to be able to reverse) delivering happiness workshops in a tepee at the Chelmsford Fling Festival (which mainly involved wearing silly wigs and doing 3-legged races) and getting 300 Women’s Institute members dancing to Pharell’s song ‘Happy’ in a Cathedral!
A spanner in the works
By August 2014 things started to unravel for me as my marriage fell apart. My own anxiety returned with a vengeance as I faced the prospect of becoming a single Mum to my children, Elsie aged 4 years and Albie just 11 months. I had qualified as a Hypnotherapist and Life Coach just six months previously, and wondered how I would manage building my new business, moving house, running the happiness project whilst, most importantly, providing a loving, warm and happy home for my children. I felt completely at sea, with no land in sight. I also felt a fraud. I’m a Hypnotherapist and Life Coach, I know all the techniques, I shouldn’t be experiencing anxiety. I should be able to take anything life throws at me and maintain a completely calm and happy sense of self (that negative voice again).
I had to prioritise and took a few months off planning happiness meet ups. I posted the odd thing on the Facebook page, and by January 2015, settled in a new house, with new routines and focussing on the possibilities of the future, I posted details of our next happiness meet up. I wanted to do something practical that was about focussing on living the lives we want in 2015, and providing a visual reminder of the things we want to move towards. 25 of us spent a lovely afternoon cutting and sticking to create ‘vision boards’ and one by one we shared with each other the things that really mattered to us, and that we were going to prioritise in 2015. You wont be surprised by the things people wanted to move towards; prioritising and valuing family and friends, more time in nature, more fun, cultivating and expressing love. What was surprising and moving, was that we all wanted these things, and as we shared the stories behind our boards, we started to realise that we are all fundamentally the same, we just get caught up in the stories of our lives and of society that tell us we are separate and different. We left that afternoon feeling more positive, connected and happy.
Psychologies magazine joins the adventure (Yay!)
Now, I don’t read many magazines. I have little time and I find most magazines aimed at my demographic gossipy, bitchy and/or boring and un-stimulating. Psychologies magazine is, in fact, the only magazine I buy. And I buy it religiously. So it’s now February 2015, and Psychologies has teamed up with Action for Happiness to follow the adventures of 100 happiness clubs and I’m beside myself with excitement to announce that the Colchester Happiness Project is one of them! We’ve had some great adventures in the past 8 months and lots of laughs. What we haven’t done, however, is taken the time to really explore each of the 10 keys to happier living, one by one, and commit ourselves to taking some positive action as a result. This partnership with Psychologies gives us that push and that structure to delve further into happiness, making it something we commit to taking action on throughout the month, not just during the meet up. Each monthly issue will focus on one of the 10 keys to happiness and give us some questions to discuss, and actions to commit to for the month ahead. We will be sharing our journey and discoveries through an authentic monthly blog. I hope you will join us on the adventure.