Happiness Club: One year on, have you had a happy year?

A year ago, Psychologies and Action for Happiness launched a joint Happiness Club project together. As we celebrate our first year, inaugural club founder Suzy Greaves asks, has it worked? Are Happiness Club members happier?


Happiness Club: One year on, have you had a happy year?

Last December, I started our very first Happiness Club. We joined forces for a year-long project with charity Action for Happiness to invite our readers to create book-club style gatherings in our own homes where we invited friends along to discuss how we can put happiness – ours and other people’s – at the heart of our life philosophy. The vision was for Psychologies and Action for Happiness to work together to create a happier and less self-centred world, with far fewer people suffering from mental health problems and far more people feeling good, functioning well and trying to help others.

Has it worked? Well, the big picture is that we’ve had more than 1,000 clubs starting globally with an estimated 10,000 people focusing on happiness every month. For me, personally, it’s been a profound year. I’ve become part of a group of incredibly kind and supportive women. Slowly, over time, we’ve come to know each other and started to trust each other, not only with the highs of our lives, but also the lows.

It hasn’t been all laughs, with ill health, heartbreak and stress snapping at our heels. But what has been magical is that we’ve created a safe place where we can be honest and know we won’t be judged, but rather listened to and supported. In our last Happiness Club of this year, I found myself incredibly moved as we quietly chatted together, and I realised we’d found somewhere for two hours on a Monday night once a month to just be with the good, the bad and the ugly in our lives. Happiness is not just about joy, but about acceptance, support and love.

Seeking out happiness

It’s also about shifting our attention and choosing to seek out the light when all around feels dark; to seek inspiration when all you feel is despair, and to know there is a road back from misery to happiness. I suppose I’ve always been passionate about this because deciding to make that shift started for me at an early age, when I lost both my parents to cancer as a teenager. Quickly, I had to learn to shift my attention – to actively seek happiness rather than be defined by grief. I learnt we cannot control what happens on the outside, but we can control how we react to it, and that distinction makes all the difference between a happy life and a miserable one.

I only wish I’d had access to Action for Happiness 30 years ago, because the charity has done the hard work of giving us the scientifically proven methods and practices to shift our attention to being happy and create a happier world wrapped up in its deceptively simple ‘10 keys to happiness’.

Take action

This year, I’ve been reminded that it’s not enough to just read about happiness to make a difference to the quality of your life; you have to do something differently, too. That’s why I believe Happiness Clubs are working. Every month, you invite a bunch of friends to come together to focus their attention on happiness, to have fun, to eat, maybe have a glass of wine and to discuss questions like: what do you enjoy about giving? How can you connect more with your local community? How can you be unconditionally supportive to yourself? Then you are challenged to take one small action to improve your own and other people’s happiness, and held to account by the group to take that action. The Happiness Club provides the architecture of monthly gatherings where together, you get to create the foundation of happiness habits to build on.

As editor of Psychologies, I’ve come to understand that to make a real difference and create a genuine impact in people’s lives, we need to take it off the page of a magazine and create structures in our lives that support a new way of doing things. And together with Action for Happiness, we are doing just that – we are creating a free, fun, enjoyable way to connect more deeply with our communities; to commit to taking small daily or monthly actions that will make our own lives, and other people’s, happier.

A huge thank you

I’d like to thank Vanessa King, the positive psychology expert for charity Action for Happiness, who has been our Obi Wan alongside us this year – she’s recorded a video for every key of the 10 Keys of Happiness, plus given advice and support. Going forward, she has inspired our new Happiness Club Book Club page in the magazine where we will read one book on happiness and positive psychology every month (and we will create a summary if you haven’t actually got the time to read it!), with five questions to discuss so that we can continue our Happiness Clubs into 2016.

Plus, a big thank-you also goes to Mark Williamson, director of Action for Happiness, who helped me launch this initiative and invited me to speak on the same stage as the Action for Happiness patron, the Dalai Lama, in September. Now there’s a happy moment I will never forget!

I’d also like to thank all the Happiness Clubbers up and down the country who email me every month, who blog for us and are part of our ‘global happiness club’.

For all our other readers, I’d be delighted if you would like to join us in 2016 in our continuing efforts to make the world a happier place – all the information you need to register is below.

Set up your own Happiness Club

If you haven’t started a Happiness Club but would like to, it’s very easy to do. All you need to register and start your own club can be found at: psychologies.co.uk/get-your-happiness-club-started.

Be inspired by video interviews with Action for Happiness director Mark Williamson and positive psychologist Vanessa King, offering tips and research about happiness. If you’d like to blog about your journey, email me on suzy.greaves@psychologies.co.uk.

The 10 keys of happiness

Photograph: iStock