Tuesday, October 23, 2012

Creating happiness, bouncing back and sharing hope with Scotland’s Happiness Day.

My first blog post in a while!  I was asked to write what the background was to Scotland's Happiness Day so here it is ... 

Life is very rarely ever a straight line; it goes up and down all the time. Happiness gives you resilience to cope with anything that life throws at you, to bounce back on your feet and make life better.  Happiness creates success too - everyone benefits when we feel good, positive emotions spread out so we can create better things for ourselves and others too.  If people understand this and know how to go about it, just think how much better our society could be.

I spent 20 years working as a Human Resources Manager in various sectors. I have seen so many people struggle with stress, worry, anxiety and fear.  High levels of unhappiness in a workplace can see co-operation, teamwork, productivity and social interaction replaced with hostile silos of low morale, increased absence, lack of trust and reduced work flow. I have seen people be floored by depression, which left them feeling so low and bleak, unable to express or feel any emotion.

 I wanted to find a way to help people to step out of this negative mindset, to feel more positive and break free from the negative spiral. My thirst for personal development has led me to explore topics on everything from spirituality, the soul, reincarnation, neuroscience, the power of the brain, quantum universes, emotional intelligence and loads more. I read a lot of positive psychology books, self help books and learned a variety of alternative therapies.  The real breakthrough came when I learned NLP (Neuro Linguistic Programming) - it blew my mind as it delivers fast results and a whole set of tools to change the mind set.
I decided to leave my job in HR in 2006 to set up my own business, Stress the Positive, to help people who were struggling with life find a more positive way to handle things.  I combined my NLP therapy with my other skills and knowledge, developed some courses and provided one-to-one therapy sessions.  It was all very exciting and rewarding as the clients I was working with changed their lives around quickly.

I also taught my two children, Calum and Kirsten, the techniques that I had learned and their minds grew, they understood that they could change how they felt.  Tragically, in October 2007, just a few weeks short of his 13th birthday, Calum lost his life to meningitis.
The impact of Calum’s death shook me to my very core. The grief, depression, panic and anxiety were overwhelming.  I questioned so many of my values trying to make sense of what had happened, but I vowed that I would be happy again, that our family would survive this tragedy. I wanted Calum to be proud of us and to recognise us as the family he knew if he could see us.

Surviving Grief
After learning all these great techniques and ways to help others I now found myself having to apply them to my own thoughts.  Grief is about as far removed from happiness as I have ever been; I described my days as black with no motivation to do anything. I knew that exercise can increase endorphins but as I struggled to get dressed, going outside seemed beyond me.  This is when I began to use little simple things to lift my mood for a short while.
Listening to upbeat music, using aromatherapy oils like bergamot and peppermint, reading inspiring quotes from books like “1001 ways to make you smile” and looking up to the sky helped to create a chink of light in the darkness.  I began to write letters to Calum in a journal, pouring out my emotions while feeling a connection with him.  Together with family and friends we began to raise awareness and funds for the Meningitis Trust.  Many people helped with our fundraising efforts and we were on the receiving end of such kindness from people all over the world.  These acts of kindness were like a beacon of light in the darkness that allowed some colour and happiness to enter my world.  I was then able to use even more of my knowledge, disconnecting the trauma and emotion using a variety of NLP techniques and mindfulness.  Gradually I became happier, friends and family noticed the difference as I smiled more and even began to laugh again. 
Grief does not just vanish though; I still have days that are difficult but this is only natural. It is why real life happiness is so important to me.  This is not just positive thinking and pretend everything is wonderful, it is learning what can work, trying new things and storing the happy energy to help bounce back from the low points.  Use good memories to connect with positive emotions, learn some new skill (I took up quilt making and made a memory quilt), build strong connections with friends, help other people, watch something funny to make you laugh, dance in your living room, blow bubbles or whatever works for you.  

The Happiness Club is born.( http://www.meetup.com/The-Happiness-Club) 

I learned so much about what helped me feel happier that I wanted to share that with as many people as possible. The Happiness Club was born coinciding with the launch of Action for Happiness in April 2011.
Now with over 200 members and 3 locations our meetings can certainly never be labelled as ‘boring’.  Action for Happiness - 10 Keys to Happier Living created the monthly themes this year, but this isn’t just about discussion. The focus is to learn and try out real tools that can help too – members can learn NLP techniques to change beliefs and let go of negative emotions, practice meditation and mindfulness, write gratitude journals, learn how colour can affect mood, fill laughter banks and create feel good tunes and so much more.  We invite guest speakers and arrange special events and workshops.  The Happiness Club is all about empowering people to take control of their own happiness and encouraging them to make changes in a friendly and supportive atmosphere and then to spread that happiness further.

 Scotland’s Happiness Day – 10th November 2012 (https://www.facebook.com/ScotlandsHappinessDay101112)

We had World Happy Day in February this year and the Happiness Club arranged a showing of the movie Happy.  It started me thinking – Scotland should have its own happiness day.  Scots can be seen as bit dour - we aren’t, we just need a bit of encouragement to enjoy ourselves at times!
Together with some of our loyal Happiness Club members we have created a fabulous event in Glasgow to encourage and spread more happiness.  With inspiring speakers and a great range of workshops we are taking happiness to the next level. http://scotlandshappinessday.eventbrite.co.uk
If you can’t make it along to the Glasgow event, there are 3 key ways to boost happiness on Scotland's Happiness Day.
1.       Get together with some friends OR make some new ones.
  1. Get active - take part in some activities that you enjoy.
  2. Add an act of kindness to your day and see your happiness expand.
You deserve to be happy and can help others around you be happier too. I choose to believe this and think Calum would be happy with our efforts.  Get active in happiness seeing someone smile and feel happy is worth its weight in gold. 

For more suggestions on how to feel happier please check out my previous blog posts.