It might be funnier if I had titled this: Be Happy and Stand Up.
Because then it would be almost as if I had written Be Happy: Stand Up.
Which would be quite funny, no? No. Clearly I have to try far too hard to be funny to actually be funny.
In the last week I’ve come across two great new organisations that relate to where I’m heading. The first is Action for Happiness. Spearheaded by Professor Richard Layard, aka the UK’s happiness guru, the organisation aims (1) to bring current research from the world of positive psychology into the mainstream and (2) to encourage everybody to make themselves and the people around them a little happier. Their little introductory video is here:
And what a great looking website too! I covet it some, I must confess. Which probably doesn’t do much for my happiness levels. The look of the website complements its purpose: to make happiness accessible and enticing to everyone. It’s not just for the self-helpers, the hippies or the researchers—it’s within our reach. AND we can do our bit to make others feel good too.
There are the naysayers of course who complain that this sort of thing infantalises our society. I wish I could be more grown up with my response, but a huge bit of me wants to suggest that they might be just the ones who could benefit from AfH’s suggestions. Layard does a whole lot better than saying Ya Boo Sucks and presents a comprehensive lot of arguments for the sceptics here. (I have to add that, having a certain amount of gumption, I emailed Prof Layard to say how much I liked AfH and to tell him about my idea. And he wrote back a prompt and encouraging reply. THAT made me happy.)
Of course, it’s not really all about happiness after all, as the godfather of happiness, Martin Seligman, revealed last week. In The Guardian’s account of his slip-up, Seligman admits that it should all be more to do with flourishing that straightforward happiness. Although that is not the best adjective to use. In typical Guardian style (what other paper depicts Cameron as a condom?), this piece of news is attached to the fact that Cameron has got himself into measuring the wrong sort of thing. Saying all that, any measure of well-being is a good step forward. And although I am far from being blue (politically or emotionally), I commend Cameron for standing up to the sceptics and moving towards a much broader measure of life in Britain.
Talking of standing up… Josie Long, a stand-up (ahahahahahaaaaa) comedian, has launched a charity that aims to promote university access (and specifically for arts and humanities degrees). The organisation, Arts Emergency Service, is no joke. Long is quoted in The Guardian as saying, “I’m just trying really hard not to be shit.” Maybe that should be Action for Happiness’ strapline, instead of the kinda bland “Let’s put the things that matter first.” Anyway Long’s organisation couldn’t come at a more vital time: with tuition fees in place and the highest-ever unemployment levels for 16–24 year olds, an awful lot of them need an awful lot of persuading that an arts or humanities degree isn’t just an expensive time-waster. I’m all for vocational study, but I do love the flowery stuff too. So—go Josie! I’m right there with you. And I promise, dear reader, no more jokes from me.