Tuesday, November 15, 2005

The Mission: Make a town happy

Psychologists test theories of happiness in a "dull British town." John Nash, in Times Online:
If you were searching for the path to lasting happiness, Slough probably wouldn’t be the place you’d start. But for Richard Stevens, a leading psychologist, the Berkshire town proved the ideal location for a pioneering experiment: take all the theory and speculation about what makes human beings happy and test it over ten weeks on people in an ordinary British town. He believes he now knows what works.

Poor old Slough: it was the running gag in The Office; John Bunyan linked it irrevocably with “despond” in The Pilgrim’s Progress; and Betjeman famously pleaded: “Come, friendly bombs and fall on Slough/It isn’t fit for humans now.” Stuck under a Heathrow flightpath and beset by roundabouts and soulless concrete buildings, it is an emblem of the sadder aspects of modern Britain. But Stevens, along with a team of shrinks, counsellors, an economist and a film crew, found it fertile ground for emotional uplifts.

The team recruited 50 local volunteers, aged from 17 to 78, spanning the racial spectrum, and with occupations from housewives to local councillors and university tutors. The mission: Make Slough Happy. With a four-part BBC television series on the completed project starting next week, Stevens, the avuncular chair of the Open University’s social psychology course, claims to have found the path to happiness in everyday modern life . . . and it isn’t more money.

His formula splits into four general categories: physical, relationships, work and community. But if there is a keyword, it is connectedness...
The BBC will soon air a documentary about this experiment. Here's the "Happiness Manifesto," according to the Times:
Plant something and keep it alive.
Count your blessings — think of at least five — at the end of every day.
Have an hour-long uninterrupted conversation with your partner each week.
Telephone a friend.
Give yourself a regular treat.
Have a good laugh each day.
Take regular exercise.
Smile at strangers, or talk to them.
Cut your television viewing by half.
Perform an act of kindness every day.
I see several that I'm doing already (exercising, conversing with my spouse, and watching almost no TV.) Shall I try the rest of them? Hmmm...


Anonymous Anonymous said...

all very interesting. see, i'm in London, which is close enough to Slough in distance, not to mention spirit, to warrant some very very grey days itself. i have a plant. i do laugh. okay my tv viewing could be cut by half but I LOVE MY LAW&ORDER. well, i'll keep you posted on the success of the happiness manifesto.

2:31 AM  

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