“Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough/It isn’t fit for humans now” (Betjeman) (disclaimer: I have family near Slough and have nothing against it. Its true what they say about the number of roundabouts though).
So far, everyone seems to like The Happiness Project London Rules. I didn’t make them up myself – they are an amalgam of various happiness/positivity rules I’ve seen and that I believe can work if you have enough discipline to follow them. They are sort of a mix between “make the most of London” and “be part of the wider community”.
I was reminded recently (from a list on my mum’s fridge) that there is another set of rules developed by a “happiness team” of phychologists, phychotherapists and such, who went to Slough (why there?) for 3 months in 2005 to improve the happiness levels of the town.
It was filmed for the BBC and called “Making Slough Happy“. The basis of the programme was to test 10 simple measures (the Happiness Manifesto) on a group of volunteers:
- Plant something and nurture it
- Count your blessings – at least 5 – at the end of the day
- Take time to talk – have an hour-long conversation with a loved one each week
- Phone a friend whom you have not spoken to for a while and arrange to meet up
- Give yourself a treat every day and take the time to really enjoy it
- Have a good laugh at least once a day
- Get physical – exercise for half an hour three times a week
- Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger at least once a day
- Cut your TV viewing in half
- Spread some kindness – do a good turn for someone every day
They found that the most important path to happiness is in our relationships – with individuals and communities, even random people on the street or in supermarkets. Importantly, they found that you cannot enhance your wellbeing by having more material things (I’m going to write a post about this soon). At the end, the volunteers reported an increased level of happiness in areas like work and relationships – and certainly they realised that the pursuit of money did not bring happiness. How life in Slough must have changed:
There is an overlap with The Happiness Project London Rules. However, my “Be Active” refers to1 hour of exercise a week which should be increased to 1/2 hour 3 times a week, and my “Give” refers to doing charitable/kind acts once a month whereas the happy guys in Slough say you should do something every day. I’m guessing this is more small kindnesses like giving someone your seat on the tube or texting a friend to check they are OK. I’m going to amend my Rules accordingly.
I’m also going to add the other rules that I missed out:
- Count 5 blessings per day – If I make this a routine on the tube home, it should stick. Today, I’m thankful that I didn’t kill the man who barged past me for the free seat on the tube this morning, and the rest is sort of private. I also need to realise I’ve got it good compared to many people.
- Phone a friend and arrange to meet up – I have many wonderful but slightly neglected friends who I’ll be phoning over the coming months ,and making the long overdue trip oop North.
- Give myself one treat a day and really enjoy it – Sadly all the things that come to mind (chocolate, wine, fags, coffee, shopping) have temporarily been given up for health/money reasons. Its probably best to pick something small, so today it will be having a nice glass of wine over dinner.
- Have a good laugh at least once a day – currently CBB is fulfilling this criteria, but sans CBB, I’ll make sure don’t go a whole day without a laugh.
- Smile/say hello to a stranger once a day – this may prove quite hard in London, but I’m quite good at it (people are friendly to each other where I’m from). There’s lots of people to smile at – the Evening Standard distributor, the London Transport guy at the tube, anyone over 70.
- Cut TV viewing in half – I sometimes get stuck on what else to do if I’m having a night in (I’m not sure if Facebook/twitter counts) but am going to try this, with exceptions for CBB and any panel-based dance shows, obv.
If you’re interested in this sort of stuff, please look out for upcoming posts on how to cope with stress in London, the problem of London’s consumerist culture, and how to enjoy London on the cheap.
If you’re not, then don’t worry – the lack of “stuff to do” posts is due to a self-imposed January exile, but I’ve got quite a few fun things coming up soon.