Learning happiness: A day At The School of Life
The Happiness Project London (HPL) is my search to find happiness by following certain rules. These are: to be active, connect with the outside world, give to others, nurture things, learn and be curious. Since I began the HPL in 2009, I’ve felt more content, made new friends and gained five pounds – the downside of making the most of London’s excellent restaurants.
I’ve also discovered a vast amount of information on the science of happiness. I’d been meaning to go to the School of Life for ages. It was founded by Alain De Botton and has seminars on life, love and the pursuit of happiness. Last Sunday they hosted Richard Layard from Action for Happiness and I had to go.
It was like a Sunday sermon in a great hall filled to the brim. The Choir with No Name had us singing the Turtles and Primal Scream. I was reminded of how much I love singing en masse — one of the things I miss from going to church as a child.
Richard Layard explained the 10 keys to happier living, the result of discussions by a team of happiness dudes on the most important factors for creating happiness. The rules are split into how you interact outwardly each day, and your inner mind. The former are:
- Trying out
I was chuffed that the rules I’d collated on the back of a fag packet were so similar to those that a team of scientists took many months to agree.
But then I realised my rules were missing something fundamental, to my blog’s detriment. And that is the rules of the inner mind. The most important rules, without which I don’t think you can be truly happy. I was now mentally slapping myself on the forehead repeatedly. They are:
- Direction (some sort of aim or goal – but not too challenging)
- Resilience (the idea that no-one can force you to feel anything you don’t choose to feel)
- Emotional positivity (can you take a brilliant day where crappy things happen and allow the positive to outweigh the negative?)
- Acceptance (of yourself and others, allowing yourself to forgive)
- Meaning (the understanding that you are part of something bigger – in whatever spiritual or religious way you want it to be).
As well as kicking myself, I’m delighted to have discovered them. But I also realise how horribly short of the mark I am. I’m not emotionally resilient one bit, I lack emotional positivity at times (a great night out has been ruined by an insensitive comment) and I have only recently managed to accept myself, let alone others (a different attitude to friendship or holidays or SQUEEZING THE TOOTHPASTE can rub me up the wrong way).
I was delighted to find like-minded people at the School of Life and it’s given me the impetus to take the ‘inner mind’ rules and work out what I’m doing wrong and work on exercises to improve. The fact is, I’m not going to find nirvana through going to dance classes or eating the best burger in London (although I certainly enjoy them). So, I want to make this the new focus of my blog.
The School of Life has some excellent upcoming events. Their breakfast lectures look brilliant – all that culture before you’ve even got to work – and they’ve got Grayson Perry talking about Kinky Sex on Sunday 13 February. I’d also love to go to their lectures on Mindfulness, Photography in London and — ahem — How To Be Cool.
Photo: Sasha Kerr