The Movement for Happiness Backed by the Dalai Lama [Q&A]

The London-based organization Action for Happiness provides educational resources and tools to increase personal well being.

Aug 6, 2015

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Action for Happiness founder Richard Layard and the patron of the organization, the Dalai Lama.

Action for Happiness founder Richard Layard and the patron of the organization, the Dalai Lama. 

The word happiness is thrown around quite frequently - oftentimes without too much thought or understanding into what being happy truly means. Action for Happiness is a movement that is out to decipher that concept, by providing practical tools to improve mental wellbeing throughout the world. The movement must be on to something - as the patron of the organization is the Dalai Lama himself! We were lucky to speak with Natasha Warne, the Head of Community Courses at the London-based organization. In this week's 10 Good Questions, Warne sheds light on how Action for Happiness goes about activating change – read on.

1. What is your organization’s mission?

Action for Happiness helps people take practical action to improve mental wellbeing and to create a happier and more caring society. Our patron is The Dalai Lama and we have tens of thousands of members who are taking action to increase wellbeing in their homes, workplaces, schools and local communities. Our vision is a happier and less self-centered world, with far fewer people suffering with mental health problems and far more people feeling good, functioning well and helping others.

2. What makes you guys different from the rest?

That we are a global movement promoting societal change as well as individual happiness. There are thousands of books and courses out there with advice about how to be happier, which is great, but we see individual happiness as a step towards societal change. We encourage our members to create more happiness not just for themselves, but in their workplaces, with their family and friends and in their wider communities. 

A London Action for Happiness gathering.

A London Action for Happiness gathering. 

3. Offices or open work space?

A lot of our work is out and about delivering talks, courses and groups in community spaces - so we don't spend a lot of time in the office! Most of us are part time volunteers so the time we do have together in the office is precious and we use it to share ideas and support each other. We can be a noisy bunch so you wouldn't want to sit next to us!

4. What three words describe your organization?

Passionate, hopeful, inclusive 

5. What inspires you?

The idea that our own happiness is intricately connected to the happiness of others and to the wellbeing of the planet. I have just finished reading Matthieu Ricard's new book on Altruism and he explains these connections beautifully. He blends science and philosophy to tackle some of the greatest problems of our time such as climate change and inequality. He shows that compassion is the key to creating a better world and that ultimately cultivating compassion is what leads to our own happiness. So being happy isn't selfish after all! 

Action for Happiness Head of Community Courses Natasha Warne.

Action for Happiness Head of Community Courses Natasha Warne. 

6. What is the best part about your job?

Delivering courses and sharing ideas about what's really important in life and what really makes us happy. I learn so much from the participants and we all take away new ideas about how to improve our lives and the lives of those around us. I am inspired everyday by our members and my colleagues. 

7. Does your team eat lunch together?

Yes! We only tend to see each other once a week so when we do we always have lunch together. We are lucky to have some amazing vegetarian cafes near our office in Bethnal Green so we can usually be found in there - it's a great opportunity to share what we are doing in a relaxed way and often our best ideas can come up over a veggie burrito!

8. Facebook or Twitter?

Both! 

Participants discuss happiness at a Action for Happiness event.

Participants discuss happiness at a Action for Happiness event. 

9. What do you want Goodnet users to know about your organization?

That we have a wealth of information and free resources on our website to help individuals create more happiness for themselves and their communities. We have created "10 keys to happier living" with suggestions how to put them into practice.

10. How can people get involved?

There are so many ways... here's a few:

- You can join our movement on our website - we ask members to take the pledge to try to create more happiness, and less unhappiness in the world around them. Our website has lots of ideas how to put this into action so you can choose actions that seem most useful and realistic for you.

- You can also attend our talks, we usually run about one a month. Our next event is on September 21st and is especially exciting as we have the Dalai Lama (our Patron) coming to talk! and if you're not nearby you can still watch the talks on our YouTube channel 

- There are "Action for happiness groups" running in various places, you can find out more information on our website. If there isn't a group near you, we can support you to start one yourself.

- Or you could visit a local Happy Cafe, where you can meet others who are interested in promoting happiness and wellbeing in a relaxed and welcoming atmosphere. The first one was set up by Action for Happiness supporters in Brighton and there are now more than 20.