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Can we be happy in a world where misery reigns?

 

Learnings from the Happiness and Its Causes Conference 2017.

 

Being happy and living a happy life can at times feel like a guilty pleasure. How can we really enjoy our happiness when so much pain resides within us, is happening to those we know around us, and is increasingly at the forefront of our global view? 

 

A constant unease, fear and anxiousness burns as we witness the recent horrific terror attacks in England, read about the devastation experienced by war-fleeing refugees, and know that extreme poverty, hardship and illness exists everywhere. It feels selfish to have happiness amidst so much suffering.

 

In his opening address to delegates at the Happiness and Its Causes Conference 2017, His Holiness the Dalai Lama tackled this big hairy happiness dilemma.

 

This unease exists because outside values conflict with our deep internal values. These internal values flow from a universal value that we are all connected by a ‘biological basis for compassion’ that comes from those precious moments of mother/child bonding at birth.

 

No matter who we are, whether we are a victim, bystander, villain or angel; we were all born with an innate need to connect and feel love.  This has been a study in psychology for decades - see "Still Face Experiment".

 

Whilst we can’t ignore our own suffering or that of others, exposing our true nature of being loving creates altruism. Our inner values want us to bring forth compassion and work towards relieving the suffering imposed by the outside values of fear, hate and anger.  His Holiness suggests that we move the emphasis away from the idea of “us versus them”, and instead focus on our sense of oneness as a global community.  It is not an easy path, but we can all play a small part in creating big change.

 

We are honoured to share with you some of our other conference highlights that struck a chord with us and we hope they do with you too:

 

1.   Compassion

Compassion for yourself, others and the planet was a strong theme between speakers.

Mattieu Ricard, Buddhist Monk and humanitarian spoke about how altruism and compassion are recognised as the intrinsic connection between all sentient beings.  If we can create a caring economy, where people and the planet matter, we will create a brighter future for the world.

 

Dr Christine Carter from the Berkley Greater Good Science Centre also touched on self-compassion and forgiveness as a cornerstone of happiness.  Shamash Alidina, co-founder of the Museum of Happiness in London, and Lisa Forrest, Olympian, also spoke about the importance of self-kindness.  Evan Sutter from the Happiness Compass asked the pertinent question of “how can we enjoy relationships with others, if we can’t be with ourselves”?

 

2.   Meaning

Maria Sirois, psychologist, spoke about finding happiness in our darkest moments by looking for a balance between positivity and meaning, and being able to hold what is good, even when we are broken in ourselves.  We are sure there was not a dry eye in the house when Maria spoke. 

 

Similarly, Associate Professor Michael Steger discussed techniques for creating meaning in life, even when we struggle, in order to contribute to our wellbeing.

 

Professor Richard Ryan also discussed the way that pursuing intrinsic goals, meaningful relationships, and doing good for others will do good for yourself.

 

3.    Mindfulness, simplification, nutrition, neuroscience and more…

Other ideas around simplification, slow living, gratitude, mindfulness and neuroscience were discussed at length by the huge array of wonderful speakers.  The integral role of nutrition in supporting good mental health was explained expertly by our friend, nutritionist Michele Chevalley Hedge.  Aunty Rhonda and her daughter discussed the importance of connection and finding a meaningful path in life.  Hailey Cavill taught everyone in the room something when she discussed the research that shows that altruism releases the same chemical cocktail in the brain that occurs during orgasm – apparently, we are hardwired to do good for others just as we are to mate!

 

4.    A final message

Happiness is important in living a good and fulfilling life, but it is just one component of life. Challenging emotions and experiences are part of every person’s life, and this connects us in a common humanity.  We can experience happiness, even in dark times, and nurturing mindful compassion for yourself and others sits at the heart of living a fulfilling and happy life.

Make your moments matter, even the small ones.  Notice and appreciate the good.  And remember that we are all in this together, so be kind to yourself and others.

 

**Talk to us today if you would like to support your own wellness with a one-on-one session with us or if you’d like to discuss some wellness workshops for your staff or clients. **

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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