In pursuit of the 'pursuit of happiness'

on Monday, 22 November 2010. Posted in N21 Community

So David Cameron thinks it is time to measure the nation’s wellbeing (GWB), as a measure of the nation’s success, as well as our GDP and has tasked the Office For National Statistics to create a ‘happiness index’.

The pursuit of happiness is suddenly a hot topic, ther's even an i-phone app to track how happy you are. Only last week, the New Economics Foundation (whose strapline is ‘economics as if people and the planet matter’) published a report ‘The role of local government in promoting well-being’. Number three of their recommendations, (which are summarised on their website) is to encourage Councils to set up more online social networking sites to strengthen local connections.

Meanwhile Action For Happiness, a new charity launches in the New Year. It is the brainchild of Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington School, where happiness has been taught on the curriculum for the past five years, with apparently measurable improvements in the wellbeing of his pupils, who it must be added cannot be classed as coming from deprived backgrounds. He argues that “as we move into a world with fewer resources, there needs to be a realisation that contentment is about quality of life, not possessions’.

The term localism has been bandied about a lot in recent months;  it’s what Cameron’s Big Society is all about, empowering local people to improve their own local lives. Interestingly recent research by the Social Science Research Council found that people’s level of happiness was generally tied to things that are local, the quality of someone’s everyday environment, life in their ‘patch’.

Whilst the NEF recognise that factors such as financial solvency and good health are pretty important, the NEF Think Tank has its own five point plan for happier living:

1. Connect with family, friends and neighbours and invest time in making relationships
2. Be active – walk, run, garden, dance etc
3. Take notice – be curious, be curious
4. Keep learning and trying new things
5. Give – do something for somebody and smile!

Extra money, according to the researchers doesn’t equate to extra happiness and in an interesting talk given by Martin Wilkinson, about his brother’s book ‘The Spirit Level’, at the Friends Meeting House last weekend, there is lots of evidence to suggest that ‘status anxiety’ is seriously bad for your health.

So in conclusion, stop fretting that the guy next door earns more than you do, put your boots on and go out in the cold.

Perhaps it could even be argued that is good for your health in encouraging you to do all the stuff in 1-5?

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So David Cameron thinks it is time to measure the nation's wellbeing (GWB), as a measure of the nation's success, as well as our GDP and has tasked the Office For National Statistics to create a 'happiness index'.

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