Today sees the launch of the Action for Happiness, an organisation that aims to help create a happier society by enabling people to make positive changes in their personal lives, homes, workplaces and communities. The organisation notes that, despite improvements in living standards, wealth and material possessions, people in Britain and the US are no happier than they were 50 years ago. In order to address this problem, they suggest that we should reject society’s focus on materialism and self-obsessed individualism and instead seek to forge healthy relationships with others and perform meaningful activities that spread happiness throughout the community.
Its founders are keen to stress that the movement is neither part of, nor a reaction against the government’s ‘Big Society’ initiative, but instead reflects an ethos than can be traced back as far as Aristotle (“Happiness depends upon ourselves”). They have so far received support from the likes of the Dalai Lama, poet Carol Ann Duffy, philosopher Alain de Botton and actress Goldie Hawn.
In order to help us forge a happier society, the Action for Happiness website provides a list of 50 simple actions, gestures and outlooks that individuals can seek to incorporate within their daily routines. These include:
“Do kind things for others…Volunteer your time, energy and skills…Help out a friend in need…Be curious and get inspired…Really listen to what people are saying…Get completely absorbed in something…Make time for fun with family and friends…”
We at The Reader Organisation recognise many of these ideas from the work done within our Get Into Reading project, and believe that shared reading groups stand as a bold example of the kind of approach Action for Happiness are calling for. As a result of attending our reading groups, people affected by ongoing mental health issues, other medical conditions or temporary everyday-life troubles have reported decreased stress levels, increased concentration, improved confidence and a greater belief in their own abilities. Looking forward, we believe that the shared reading of great literature can play an important role within the wider society and want to see it established as a core service within New Reader Libraries.