I think I mentioned in an earlier blog post that I signed up for an Action for Happiness course.  Has anyone else done one before?  I saw it advertised on twitter and it looked useful and insightful so I decided to give it a go.

I’m going to write up my thoughts and reflections every week for my own record but also I hope some of the questions maybe useful for anyone reading.  You can find information about the course here: http://www.actionforhappiness.org/.


The aim of the course is to bring people together to explore the issues that really matter for a happy and meaningful life.  It is run over 8 weekly sessions of 2 hours each.  Each session starts with a mindfulness activity, a video from an expert, discussions and action ideas.  It is run by volunteers and you can find sessions all over the world.

Session 1 – What really matters in life?

People who have followed my blog for a while may remember my post about the ‘Big Picture‘ when I questioned what was really important in the grand scheme of things.  I do often ask myself questions like what really matters and so I was pleased to see it as the theme for the first week of the course.

Like I mentioned in the introduction, each session begins with some mindfulness to tune in.  The ‘One Moment Meditation‘ was introduced which is a way to incorporate mindfulness even in the shortest moments of time.

Next, we made a list of the good things that had happened to us this week.  Mine were:’

  • The sun shining
  • My purple tulips opening up
  • Bluebells flowering in the garden
  • Spending time with my daughter making dolls house furniture
  • Being honest with my psychiatrist and getting my medication changed.

We then had a discussion on how rich countries have made great progress in the past 50 years  in terms of material items but we have seen a decline in happiness and more people suffering from anxiety, depression and broken relationships.  And how we as a society have seen declines in trust, values and social connectedness

Happiness is the meaning and purpose of life.  The whole aim and end of human existence.  – Aristotle

The question ‘What do you think matters most in life?’ was then asked.  Here is what I wrote down:

  • Relationships with other people
  • Saving the planet
  • Creating happy memories
  • Helping other people
  • Health

This week’s expert view came from Richard Layard one of the founders of the course.  You can see the video here.  Richard Layard is Head of the Wellbeing Programme at the London School of Economics (LSE).  The main points I write down from the video were:

  • Many things matter but happiness can be thought of as the ultimate good
  • The starting point for a happier society if to care about the happiness of others
  • We need to succeed in harmony rather than in competition with others
  • The factors that matter the most are our relationships with others and our inner mental health
  • We need to develop inner strength but avoid self-absorption
  • We can choose our attitude in any circumstances
  • Under 1% of happiness is due to our incomes
  • Only 30% of people trust others
  • We need to look at emotional health in children alongside academic achievements
  • Schools should not be exam factories
  • We can measure happiness in a meaningful way
  • We’ve been getting richer but not happier
  • Happiness brings huge benefits: overall health improves, less likely to catch colds, we function better when happy, we’re more productive, we make positive contributions to society

Enjoy the little things in life, for one day you’ll look back and realise they were big things – Robert Brault

Our next task was to take a few minutes to reflect and imagine we were at the end of our lives.  What advice would we give our future self on what really matters?  These are my answers:

  • You don’t always have to be the best
  • Work on keeping and making good friends
  • Family is important, cherish them while they’re there.

The final task was to come up with an action to take as a result of this week’s session.

Mine was to spend less time on social media and more time with real people.