Happy!

Nic & Ragnhild wearing Happy Movie T-shirtsThe summer is almost over and it is time for me to get back to work – always a mixed thought of course but I feel ready to commit to some projects that are emerging.  Apart from holidays with my kids one trip I made this summer was to the International Positive Psychology Association’s third conference in Philadelphia.  I gave a workshop on the Five Ways to Well-being which seemed well received but the big surprise to me was the screening of a new film simply called Happy.  Why a surprise?  Well I was actually in it!  I had completely forgotten that about 3 years these guys came to our offices and interviewed me (for quite some time!).  Anyway independent documentaries take a long time to make and now it has been finally released.  So apart from the shock of seeing myself through a time warp (with short hair and no beard!) it was great to see a well made thoughtful film about happiness around the world.  The film is available for groups to arrange viewings and I think that Action for Happiness in the UK will host at least one this autumn. But I believe you can arrange them directly with the makers through their webiste here.  Anyway the picture is of me (with friend) in happy t-shirts! 

In time I will post here about the projects I am working that excite me but meanwhile have a good end of the summer.

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3 Responses to Happy!

  1. Phil says:

    Nick

    Thanks for running this web site and I’ve just printed off “The Five Ways” for further study.

    While I enjoy reading your comments and agree that a positive attitude to life is probably essential to happiness, I’m not convinced of the connection between “Positive Psychology” and happiness. I think it’s perfectly possible to have a positive attitude to life while being fairly unhappy, for example by the relentless pursuit of a career that denies you a social life.

    In fact, since reading the book “Smile or Die” by Barbara Ehrenreich, I shudder every time I see the term “Positive Psychology”, which seems to be an invention of the American psychiatric profession aimed at selling services which put the individual into an upbeat state so that they will feel good about something (a product, a service, a church or at being ‘downsized’) and don’t ask the tough questions that perhaps they should.

    Also, Positive Psychology gives the impression that there is some ideal (and in truth, non-existent) state of happiness that we should aspired to. 25 centuries ago the Buddha (I’m not a Buddhist) observed that unhappiness derives from desire. So pursuing happiness in this way surely turns happiness into a desire and thus (paradoxically) risks causing further unhappiness.

    A few years ago I remember the sad case of Helen Rollason, a BBC sports journalist who died from cancer. I remember her saying before her death that she’d felt her symptoms a year before she sought medical help. The reason she gave for this procrastination was that her positive attitude to life meant that she had just shaken off her symptoms and got on with life. It seems an overly positive attitude can actually be quite a negative thing.

    • Nic says:

      Phil,
      I think there are all sorts of risks associated with trying too hard to be happy … I think that happiness flows out the side of other engaging activities and it why we have a developed a dynamic model of well-being that highlights all the ‘feedback’ loops between different elements of well-being/happiness. As with many new disciplines there is good and lass good research associated with it. Unfortunately some ‘bad’ practice has also used the label positive psychology and I think that has brought good research into disrepute unfairly. Researchers like Barbara Fredrickson are world class – and much of what Ehrenreich critiques is really not positive psychology at all. Grounded positivity is what we need really.
      All the best
      Nic

  2. Hi, I’m really hesitant to write this, but a very ‘uneducated’ guess? Could be that whilst in pursuit of a goal or career move. Maybe one of the 5 essentials, is being neglected?

    Caroline

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