To those who think of happiness as a “nice to have” luxury or something that comes after a lifetime of sacrifice of single-mindedly driving to achieve a goal, happiness researcher Shawn Achor, head of Goodthink and author of “The Happiness Advantage,” is on a mission to change minds, hearts and lives.
Happiness, he says, isn’t just about feeling good, it’s about the joy we feel while striving after our potential. His research has found that choosing simple happiness habits that take no longer than brushing your teeth can boost your mood, make you happier and, as a result, healthier, more productive and creative at work and closer to those you love at home. He explains:
Q: We never used to talk about happiness. Now it seems all the rage. What’s going on?
Achor: I think we’re living through twin revolutions. The high-tech revolution allows us to have information at our fingertips at any moment. And hidden behind that is a more powerful one. Because of that technology, we’ve been able to understand the human brain better than ever. We’ve learned that we’re not just products of our genes and environment. But by changing our mindset and habits, we can actually dramatically change the course of life, improve intelligence, productivity, improve the quality of our lives, and improve every single education and business outcome.
There’s a great thing on Google called N-gram. And because they’ve digitized all this literature, you can search language usage over the past 150 years. And you can see that, over the past 10 years, there’s been this massive increase in the use of the word “happiness.”
But if you look over the past 150 years, we are a little blip at the end of a long decline … throughout the entire 20th century. And that maps right onto society becoming more industrialized. And as we got more interested in time management and productivity, we lost the individual, and with that individual loss, we lost happiness as well.
So I think the world has actually been malnourished as we’ve focused so much on productivity and ignored happiness and meaning to our own detriment.
Q: What you’re describing is so much larger than ourselves – industrialization, now globalization – is real happiness out of the hands of individuals?
Achor: What’s hopeful is that happiness is actually an individual choice, even in the midst of negative circumstances. It’s not something our employers can give to us, though they can limit and influence that choice.
We’re finding that happiness is a social creature. If you try to pursue it in a vacuum, it’s very difficult to sustain it. But as soon as you get people focused on creating meaningful connections in the midst of their work, or increasing the meaning and depth of their relationships outside of work, we find happiness rising in step with that social connection.
In Pictures: Independent on Sunday's Happy List 2015
In Pictures: Independent on Sunday's Happy List 2015
1/96 Gordon Aikman Awareness raiser
After being diagnosed with Motor Neurone Disease (MND) in 2014, Gordon from Edinburgh launched his ‘Fightback’ campaign to improve conditions for fellow sufferers. As well as raising over £220,000, he became a trustee for MND Scotland and his campaigning helped persuade Scotland’s First Minister Nicola Sturgeon to double the number of MND specialist nurses. Photo credit: Neil Hanna
2/96 Foluke Akinlose MBE Awards Founder
In 2007 Londoner Foluke launched the annual Precious Awards, a development of her organisation Precious, the UK’s first online magazine and network for women of colour. The awards honour the achievements of entrepreneurial women, and her nominator says it “boosts the confidence of so many women and creates role models for future generations.”
3/96 Nimco Ali and Leyla Hussein FGM campaigners
Leading voices against female genital mutilation (FGM), Nimco (pictured) and Leyla, who were both born in Somalia before moving to Britain, co-founded Daughters of Eve which works to protect girls’ rights in communities which practise FGM. Leyla is also chief executive of Hawa's Haven, raising awareness about gender-based violence in Somali communities in the UK. Photo credit: Paul Grover/REX
4/96 Shamash Alidina Vicky Johnson and Kieran Walton Happiness Curators
Sharing joy is what drives this London based trio. They run the Museum of Happiness, a series of interactive, fun workshops exploring how we can all feel happier. Featuring mindfulness, face painting and ‘positive newspapers’ (which include solutions to news stories), they hope to set up a permanent Museums of Happiness in every city.
5/96 Jackie Ambler Food Bank Heroine
Determined to do something for Stoke-on-Trent, Jackie volunteers at the food bank, where she is said to “make people feel there really is someone who cares about their circumstances – they leave with much more than just three days of food.” She also volunteers at a club for disadvantaged children.
6/96 John Anderson Wildlife rescuer
The man behind Blyth Wildlife Rescue in Northumberland which, since 2006, has saved hundreds of injured or orphaned birds and animals every year. It is open 24 hours every day, fields around 750 calls annually, and has developed a network of volunteers, some of whom foster animals until they can be released.
7/96 Joyce Anderson Campaigner
Royal National Institute of Blind People campaigner from Morpeth, Northumberland, who took a councillor on a blindfolded walk to highlight the difficulties people with sight loss face. Joyce’s tireless work recently led to local buses introducing audio announcements to help remove the barriers that prevent visually impaired people using public transport.
8/96 Simon Anderson Fundraiser
After a motorcycle accident left Simon paralysed from the waist down he trained his dog Fudge to do everyday tasks, such as picking up keys. Simon, of Taunton, was so inspired he began raising money for charity Support Dogs and ten years on has raised over £50,000 as well as acting as a spokesperson.
9/96 Ann Andrews Christmas angel
Every year for the past 30 years, charity Surviving Christmas in Hastings has helped those in hardship or distress during the festive period. Ann runs the two-day event which offers free food, medical support, clean clothing, showers, haircuts and entertainment, and helped over 5,000 people last year alone.
10/96 Lisa Barker Charity founder
After losing her 17-year-old daughter Hayley to leukaemia, Lisa set up HayleysHugs to bring joy to youngsters with life threatening illnesses. Her charity shop of the same name in Burnley helps fund children’s ‘small wishes’ and she distributed Christmas gifts to young hospital patients on the oncology ward that treated her daughter. Photo credit: Kevin McGuinness/Lancashire Telegraph
Kevin McGuinness/Lancashire Telegraph
11/96 Abdul Basit Inspired baker
Islamic Relief volunteer Abdul combines his social media expertise and kitchen know-how in fundraising project Cakes4Syria, making and delivering baked goods. After starting in his home town Bradford in 2013 it soon went national, with 7,000 cakes ordered in the first year. Since then over £300,000 has been raised to support refugees in Jordan and Lebanon.
12/96 Lynne Beckett Fundraiser
Internet giant eBay named Lynne as 2014's top UK charity seller, having raised more then £100,000 for the Midlands Air Ambulance Charity, funding over 40 helicopter missions. Lynne, a former nurse from Stourport, spent years treating airlifted patients and now devotes her time to auctioning donated goods.
13/96 Dorothy Beeson Wildlife saver
Initially using her back garden to rescue and care for swans in the 1980s, Dorothy sold her house to finance the first national swan sanctuary in Egham, where she lived in a caravan. Today, she runs the UK's largest veterinary-registered swan hospital, and is credited with helping keep our rivers “majestic”.
14/96 Samuel Bell Charity founder
After being diagnosed with rare Hirschsprung’s disease at birth Glaswegian Sam was given just three months to live. After over 60 operations, today the 16-year-old is the UK’s oldest surviving sufferer. He set up charity Samuel’s Smile to allow children with rare diseases to enjoy days out and meet their favourite celebrities. Photo credit: Grant Parfery photography
Grant Parfery photography
15/96 Anthony Bennett Hospital volunteer
At 16, Great Ormond Street Hospital patient Anthony of Greenford, west London was given a mere 11 per cent chance after contracting life threatening conditions, including pneumonia. Ten years on, Anthony devotes his spare time to helping patients, fundraising, and telling his story to secure important funding partnerships for the hospital.
16/96 Danny Bent Fitness campaigner
The self-styled ‘hugging adventurer’, Danny runs Project Awesome, a free morning fitness club for Londoners three times a week. He even buys new attendees a coffee as motivation to get moving. Danny, originally from Buxton, also climbs trees, breaks world records, and snorkels in bogs to spread happiness and raise cash for charities.
17/96 Sabir Bham Sportsman
For 20 years Sabir has been inspiring young people in Waltham Forest through sport. He founded youth club, Salaam Peace, in the wake of the 7/7 bombings to promote Islam as a peaceful religion. It involves sportspeople, police, youth offending teams, schools and colleges and provides fun, structured activities for the young. Photo credit: Sabera Bham
18/96 Ian and Pauline Bothwell Charity Superstars
This couple has dedicated the past 34 years to caring for the physical and emotional needs of people in South Armagh. In 1984 they set up charity Crossfire Trust in the border area of The Troubles, offering support to families and organising cross-community events for people to come together to eat and talk.
19/96 Tracey Bricknell and Jude Weston Charity founders
After seeing the devastating effects of cancer on loved ones, this duo from Derby created charity Every Cloud, which aims to boost those fighting cancer by giving them wigs or makeovers. Next they plan to cycle round Britain to fundraise, despite Tracey having “never even been on a bike”. Photo credit: acantrill-jones / Northcliffe Media Ltd
acantrill-jones / Northcliffe Media Ltd
20/96 Gbolahan Bright Star teacher
Twenty years ago Dagenham teacher Gbolahan started Bright Futurez (also known as the Bright Academy) offering free maths classes to children in areas of high deprivation. He and his wife also provide counselling and mentoring for young people with behavioural problems. “The aim is to bring the best out of each child,” he says.
21/96 Mike Bright Volunteer inspirer
Helping people “change the world in their pyjamas”, Mike’s 'micro volunteering' website Help From Home lists over 800 easy ways for people to volunteer without leaving the house, which has been used by over 10,000 people. This year Mike, who resides is Cardiff, is encouraging people to give up 2015 seconds to do good deeds.
22/96 Eddie Brocklesby Fitness Champion
Fitness Champion Britain’s oldest female triathlete Eddie, 72, from Vauxhall, London, set up charity Silverfit to increase the number of older people doing physical activity. Eddie champions exercise for mental wellbeing, saying; “It's not to get us oldies living longer, but enable us to live life to the full, independently and happily.” Photo credit: ©Susanne Hakuba
23/96 Fiona Burnett Heroic knitter
This Shelter Scotland volunteer has knitted over 676 blankets to raise money for the homeless. Fiona began helping in the charity’s Prestwick shop over 13 years ago and sold her first blanket on her very first day. Since then she has made one every week to sell, with one fetching £40.
24/96 Luke Cameron Kindness campaigner
This Cheltenham 26-year-old’s New Year’s resolution last year was: 365 days, 365 kind acts. His Good Deed blog logged daily kindnesses, including buying food for strangers, fixing a neighbour's TV and volunteering at an animal sanctuary. He has extended his mission for another year and inspired others to do good.
25/96 Kevin Carr Marathon man
Woolacombe barman Kevin ran the equivalent of a marathon every day for almost two years, crossing 26 countries and raising money for the British Red Cross and SANE. Kevin became the fastest man to run round the world (18,000 miles) in 621 days, enduring bear attacks and being hunted by wolves along the way.
26/96 Doug Castle and Colin Coughlin Memorial Savers
Part of a team which fought to honour the victims of Cardiff’s only ever recorded mining disaster, which took place in 1875 in the Lan pit in Gwaelod y Garth. They devoted hours to clearing woodland around the mine’s entrance to create a special place to remember those who lost their lives.
27/96 Sue and Jim Clifford Super-adopters
Over the past 25 years this Berkshire couple have adopted nine children deemed ‘harder to place’. Sue volunteers as an Adoption UK 'buddy', providing support for other adopted families, while Jim (who received an OBE for services to social investment) raises the profile of adoption needs at government level. Photo credit: Joanna Latocha
28/96 Sam Conniff Youth mentor
As the co-founder and chairman of London-based youth marketing agency Livity, Sam has mentored hundreds of young people and helped them create campaigns to improve the lives of other youngsters, working with companies including Google, Channel 4 and Barclays. Livity recently expanded to start working in Africa too.
29/96 Sister Vianney Connolly Volunteer
“A lady filled with love,” is how this Catholic nun from Wrexham is described. She has volunteered for CAFOD for the last 27 years, marching for justice, and lobbying MPs to tackle poverty. Sister Vianney always carries £5 in her pocket every day just in case she meets someone in need.
30/96 Jenny Cook Young Ambassador
After having her large bowel removed aged just five ‘Wee Jenny’ from East Kilbride became determined to improve life for fellow sufferers of Inflammatory Bowel Disease (IBD). The 12-year-old, who was made a Young Ambassador for Yorkhill Hospital Childrens’ Charity, tirelessly raises money for them and charity Crohns and Colitis UK.
31/96 Barry Coppock Super Volunteer
Since he began helping the Stroke Association in 2008, Brian has run hundreds of events offering free blood pressure tests, securing a regular testing programme in London libraries. As well as delivering talks to help stroke prevention, Brian, of Chingford, also supervises new volunteers and helps coordinate the charity’s events.
32/96 Katie Cutler Fundraiser
When Gateshead resident Katie heard that local disabled pensioner Alan Barnes had been mugged on his doorstep, leaving him too afraid to return home, she began raising money for him. Over £330,000 was donated, and Katie has since founded her own foundation to help fundraise for other deserving people. Photo credit: Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
Ian Forsyth/Getty Images
33/96 Jane Davis Reading advocate
Jane, from Birkenhead, founded The Reader Organisation, a national charity working in prisons, care homes and mental health centres to connect people and improve wellbeing through shared reading. It runs over 360 shared reading groups each week and created the world’s first International Centre for Reading and Wellbeing in Liverpool.
34/96 Wendy Daws Inspirational artist
Founder of the Kent Association for the Blind Medway Art Group, artist Wendy brings together visually impaired people (aged from 52 to 96), who are often excluded from being creative and helps them experience art. Their recent spray-paint graffiti exhibition won the Epic Award for exceptional work with disabled people. Photo credit: Gary Weston | Spaghetti Weston Ltd
Gary Weston | Spaghetti Weston Ltd
35/96 Rajeeb Dey Social entrepreneur
At 17, Rajeeb set up StudentVoice, a social enterprise which represents the interests of secondary school students in national education policy making. A champion of young people, Londoner Rajeeb has since founded Enternships.com to aid youngsters secure paid internships, and also co-founded StartUp Britain to nurture entrepreneurial culture.
36/96 Mario Di Maio Mountain rescue
Former leader of the Aberdeen Mountain Rescue team who was involved in over 600 rescues from the hills of lower Donside and Deeside over 44 years, saving hundreds of lives. Mario retired at the age of 60 last year, but continues to volunteer, training new recruits and educating young people in mountain safety.
37/96 Sue and Paul Dixon Charity founders
The Dixons, from South Derbyshire, created and coordinate Shoutout, a charity for adults with additional needs. Alongside running a drop in centre every Friday night, they organise activities such as sailing courses, cookery classes and camping weekends. “They feel like a family to me,” their nominator says.
38/96 James Everett, Drew Wright and Warren Wilson Happy lads
These three residents of Rainbows Hospice for Children and Young People in Loughborough led a group, most of whom suffer from a form of muscular dystrophy, to re-create Pharrell Williams’ hit video Happy because they wanted to tell everyone what a happy place Rainbows actually is. It has since had over 6,000 views.
39/96 Trevor and Sheila Fairhurst Charity founders
After their daughter Carly was killed by her boyfriend aged 19, the Fairhursts created The Carly Fund to raise awareness of domestic violence. They have raised over £55,000 to enable Victim Support to continue its counselling service in their hometown of Wigan, and also speak to victims themselves. Photo credit: Bill Morris / Greater Manchester Police
Bill Morris / Greater Manchester Police
40/96 David Feindouno Community uniter
Guinea-born David, now residing in Plymouth, fled his home country after escaping a brutal attack. He settled in the UK in 2008 and, as well as mentoring immigrants and asylum seekers, founded Plymouth Hope Football Club then Plymouth Hope Charity, offering community events and training programmes with a view to promoting social inclusion.
41/96 Gwyneth Fookes Historian
Gwyneth has spent the past 35 years voluntarily educating the public about Caterham, Purley, Warlingham and district. As well as being vice-president of local history group The Bourne Society, the 80-year-old edits their Local History Records, organises, and raises funds. She is here as a representative of all Britain’s dedicated local historians.
42/96 Reverend Jan Gould Music maker
Cardiff vicar Jan set up Making Music Changing Lives, a community music group giving children the chance to learn a musical instrument. Jan brings together volunteers, including professional musicians, to teach over 70 children each week. She received the Prime Minister’s Points of Light award for her commitment.
43/96 Elizabeth Grier-Menager Coat collector
Four years ago Elizabeth set up Wrap Up London, collecting over 42,000 unwanted winter coats at Underground stations and distributing them to the homeless across the Capital. She has since founded HandsOn London, a charity that makes it easier for people to find volunteering opportunities near them.
44/96 Sally and Andrew Hall Fundraisers
After their son Skye, 5, was diagnosed with a brain tumour last year, he decided to try to make a loom band long enough to reach the moon to fundraise for medical research. Skye sadly died in August, and ever since Sally and Andrew, of Oxfordshire, have worked tirelessly to promote his #LoomToTheMoon challenge, raising over £120,000 for Blue Skye Thinking, the charity set up as a legacy to Skye.
45/96 Sebastian Handley Library founder
This artist created the capital’s smallest library inside a disused red phone box in Lewisham, south London. He spent £500 of his own money on ceiling lights, carpet and seven shelves. It houses over 200 books, with a whole shelf dedicated to children’s literature, and is looked after by two librarians.
46/96 Dominique Harrison-Bentzen Good Samaritan
When art student Dominique lost her bank card in Preston, a homeless man called ‘Robbie’ offered her £3 to help her get home. She was so touched that she launched an appeal to get him a flat. It raised £42,000, which will enable a local homeless charity to house ‘Robbie’ and others. Picture credit: PENTAX Image
47/96 Hilary Henriques Campaigner
The National Association for Children of Alcoholics, which Hilary co-founded in Bristol, provides a free country-wide counsellor phoneline which she has staffed every Christmas Day since 2002. As well as training over 1,000 volunteers, the Helpline Model of Care she developed is shared with agencies as an example of excellence.
48/96 Alex Holmes Anti-bullying Campaigner
Bullied while at school, Londoner Alex now campaigns against bullying with national youth charity The Diana Award. He heads up the Diana Antibullying Ambassadors Campaign which works with over 16,000 young people in schools across the UK. He also helped secure partnerships with companies including Facebook to promote the scheme. Photo credit: Barrie Downie / (C) CHANNEL 5
Barrie Downie / (C) CHANNEL 5
49/96 Phillip Howells Active OAP
Voted the UK’s most Over Active Pensioner in a competition by Senior Railcard, this 68-year-old from Ledbury has run 167 marathons to date, with a lifetime target of 333. Despite a back operation and being diagnosed with a heart condition, Phillip plans to compete in an ultra-triathlon Ironman event by the time he is 70. He hopes to inspire people of all ages to remain active.
50/96 Genny Jones Happiness spreader
Genny (AKA the ‘Confident Queen’) from Gravesend wanted to show thanks for the support she received after being made redundant. In 2009 she created Happiness Project Kent, organising fun, inclusive events, including a One Minute Smilence, using her mobile 'happiness booth' to spread joy and help people get the most out of life.
51/96 Grenville Jones Charity founder
Founder of Goldies [‘Golden oldies’], which puts on singing sessions to fight loneliness in later life. Started seven years ago, over 10,000 singing sessions have been organised by a team of thirty session leaders across southern England and Wales. Grenville, of Bath, is planning to open a charity shop next.
52/96 Primrose Kaur Panglea Kindness supplier
Inspired to do good after the birth of her daughter, Londoner Primrose began doing random acts of kindness. One involved writing happy notes for strangers, composing over 5,000 in July 2014 alone. “She even stopped a young man committing suicide," her nominator says of the notes, many of which turned up on social media. Photo credit: Dave Willis / Daily Express
Dave Willis / Daily Express
53/96 Malcolm Kitson Hospital visitor
For the past 14 years Malcolm has devoted three days a week to improving life for older patients at Southampton General Hospital. He leads Time For You, a programme which matches volunteers with patients who wouldn't normally receive visitors. Described by his nominator as "an inspiration who frees staff up to care".
54/96 Vince Knight Kind builder
Builder Vince from Grays, Essex was asked to quote for a wet room for 12-year-old Katie Anderson, who was born with neurofibromatosis, a disease which causes tumours to grow along her nerves. Vince built the £6,000 bathroom for free, persuading local suppliers to donate materials, and completing the project within a week. Photo credit: East News
55/96 Luke Lancaster
Dyslexic Luke of Crowhurst, East Sussex was assaulted in school after saying he "wanted to learn". Determined to make it "cool to care", aged 12 he founded youth-led charity Young Pioneers which helps turn victims into successful survivors as well as encouraging young people to look after their health. Photo credit: Technogym may have issues
56/96 Natasha Lambert Climber & sailor
This teenager from the Isle of Wight defied cerebral palsy to scale Pen Y Fan peak, as well as sailing single-handedly around England’s south west coast to Wales and the Channel from France to England. Although labelled disabled, Natasha is determined to prove she is 'able' to achieve her dreams. Photo credit: Ken McKay/ITV/REX
57/96 Neil Laybourn Good Samaritan
When schizophrenia sufferer Jonny Benjamin went to London’s Waterloo Bridge to jump to his death, passer-by Neil from Berrylands, Surrey convinced him to reconsider by assuring him he would overcome the illness. Jonny tracked down Neil six years later and the pair now work with Rethink Mental Illness to raise awareness. Photo credit: Rethink Mental Illness
Rethink Mental Illness
58/96 James Light Kindness spreader
A film-making whizz from Ringwood, New Forest, who spends his spare time making brilliant videos to promote The Kindness Offensive, a non-profit London-based organisation which performs Random Acts of Kindness. James was instrumental in helping to deliver a record-breaking number of Christmas presents to disadvantaged children across the UK.
David at Kindness Offensive
59/96 Detlef Lorenz Entrepreneur
For the last 14 years, this retired businessman from Dollar, Clackmannanshire has helped dozens of disadvantaged young people start their own companies in his role as a mentor for The Prince’s Trust. His nominee called Detlef "Wise and adored, he goes the extra mile to help get them up and running.”
60/96 Fred Marquis Good Samaritan
Fred helps to run The 999 Club in Deptford, London which has an open door policy for anyone feeling desperate or lonely with no one to turn to. Entirely funded by donations, the club receives 1,375 visits every week and offers immediate support, friendship and links with professional agencies.
61/96 Ann Maxwell Charity founder
When Ann’s son Muir was diagnosed with a rare form of epilepsy, she set up charity The Muir Maxwell Trust from her Midlothian home. Despite battling against bone cancer, Ann now runs the biggest charity for paediatric epilepsy in the UK, raising over £8million, and distributing more than 3,000 free epilepsy alarms.
62/96 Ted McCaffery Hospital fund-raiser
Before undergoing open-heart surgery, six-year-old Ted from Stockton Heath discovered his TV in Alder Hey Children’s hospital was not working. Just nine weeks after the operation Ted completed a mini-triathlon to raise funds so that other children in hospital wouldn’t feel ‘bored’, and has since raised £20,000. Photo credit: Mirror Pix
63/96 Carmel McConnell Breakfast giver
Carmel remortgaged her north London home to set up charity Magic Breakfast, delivering the first meal of the day to more than 443 primary schools in deprived areas. Six million have been handed out so far. She also founded social enterprise Magic Outcomes to help the neediest schools form community and business partnerships. Photo credit: Justin Sutcliffe
64/96 Betty McGlinchey Foster mum
After her friend Lily Martin died, Betty didn’t hesitate to take in and raise her two young daughters. She and husband Seamus, who live in Coventry, have since fostered more than 1,200 youngsters over four decades and continue to do so. They include victims of child labour and unaccompanied child asylum seekers. Photo credit: Nicholas Bowman / Daily Mirror / Mirrorpix
Nicholas Bowman / Daily Mirror / Mirrorpix
65/96 Danielle McGriskin Charity Ambassador
Four years ago doctors diagnosed Danielle from Lisburn, Northern Ireland with a brain tumour and water on the brain, ailments she nicknamed ‘Annie and Heidi’. Soon after Danielle underwent the first of many operations she became a Young Ambassador for The Brain Tumour Charity, and has since raised over £100,000 for research.
66/96 Errol McKellar Survivor
Hackney mechanic Errol survived prostate cancer and went from being ashamed to mention his illness to speaking to 100 people about it every day. He offers discounts to customers who promise to ask their doctor about getting tested, and as a result 26 men have been diagnosed with the disease. Photo credit: Nils Jorgensen/REX
67/96 Fred and Vivian Morgan Youth rescuers
After hearing about a bullied schoolgirl who committed suicide, Fred and Vivian (aged 94 and 72) decided to devote their retirement to preventing further tragedies. The grandparents converted their ten-bedroom home in Hatton, Warwickshire into a school for troubled pupils and have since helped 20 youngsters recover from torment, with many going on to college.
68/96 Ruairidh Morison Fundraiser
Ru lives in Shinewater Court, a specialist accommodation for adults with physical disabilities in Eastbourne. He is committed fundraiser for #ConnectAbility, The Disability Trust’s appeal to buy specialist communication technology which would give Ru and his fellow residents more independence. “He never stops smiling and makes everyone else happy,” says Ru’s nominator.
69/96 Sue Moss Girl guider
After decades as a much-loved Girl Guiding leader in Kidlington, Oxfordshire, Sue now mentors younger leaders and helps struggling groups. She also runs the local Trefoil Guild, which keeps older members in contact with Guiding and undertakes cycling challenges to fundraise to rebuild the Guide Centre after it fell into disrepair.
70/96 Evie Murray Gardening champion
Single mum Evie founded Leith Community Crops in Pots, a project to encourage people to grow vegetables in urban spaces. It now involves hundreds of members, including gardening clubs for toddlers and schools. Evie is credited with “making people get involved in their community and believing in our power to change the world”. Photo credit: Rachel Hein
71/96 Brian Nolan Conservationist
Nature lover Brian loves birds so much he spent several days dressed as a Blue Tit to raise money for his local Royal Society for the Protection of Birds group in Castle Douglas, Scotland. He also organizes monthly talks throughout the year and acts as an ambassador for protecting wildlife. Photo credit: © Majdanik Photography
© Majdanik Photography
72/96 Nazek Ramadan Migrant empowerer
Having come to Britain as a refugee from Lebanon in the 80s, Nazek launched the New Londoners newspaper in 2007 to publicise migrant and asylum issues. Three years later she founded campaign Migrant Voice to address the lack of migrants in the media, and fought xenophobia in this year's election campaign. Photo credit: Teri Pengilley/The Independent
Teri Pengilley/The Independent
73/96 Alan Richards The chick man
Retired taxi driver Alan worked with charity Equal Arts to help develop HenPower, a project that allows Gateshead residents to look after chickens to reduce social isolation. Alan and the rest of the team of ‘Hensioners’ (all aged over 70) put on regular ‘hen roadshows’ where they take the poultry into care homes and primary schools. Photo credit: David Charlton photography
David Charlton photography
74/96 Nicola Richardson Campaigner
Ever since the death of her 17-month-old son Alexander in 2007, Nicola, from Sheffield, has fought to raise awareness of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome. As well as blogging, fundraising and lobbying the government, she is a ‘parent befriender’ for The Lullaby Trust charity, providing a lifeline for other grieving families.
75/96 George Rogers Waterways saver
Derby man George is a canal restoration volunteer for Waterway Recovery Group (WRG) who has worked on more than 500 miles of UK waterway restoration schemes. Inspired to join WRG after doing a summer canal camp five years ago, George now teaches the skills necessary to maintain our waterways as a ‘canal camp’ leader. Photo credit: Gemma Bolton / firstname.lastname@example.org
76/96 Robert Sayers Gardening advocate
Robert volunteers with Putting Down Roots, a London gardening group for the homeless run by St Mungo’s Broadway. Not only does the work help improve their mental and physical health, Robert guides them towards achieving horticultural qualifications as part of the programme, giving them skills to find work and live independently.
77/96 Emily Smith Environmentalist
The Plastic Challenge saw Londoner Emily give up single-use plastic for 40 days, raising awareness of the harmful impact our throwaway culture has on the oceans. As a volunteer for the Marine Conservation Society she has also helped remove tonnes of litter from UK beaches and campaigned for protected areas.
78/96 Helen Smith Volunteer
Helen from Bromley has supported IODR (Indian Ocean Disaster Relief) since it was founded to provide emergency help in the aftermath of the 2004 tsunami. A committed Cub leader, Helen dedicates her time to organising fundraising events to help children, whether they are those affected by natural disasters or those living in poverty the UK.
79/96 Solomon Smith Homeless feeder
Two years ago, this youth support worker founded the Brixton Soup Kitchen. Since then, thanks to Solomon’s energy and money, it has served more than 10,000 meals, and run CV workshops, and given advice on getting jobs, housing, and benefits. Once diagnosed with dyslexia, Solomon recently earned a degree in marketing.
80/96 Oliver Speight Charity founder
After the tragic death of his son Mark Speight, the BBC children’s TV presenter who committed suicide in 2007, Oliver set up Speight of the Art, to help children through art. Oliver, from Newcastle, sold his house to finance the charity, which has expanded to work with the elderly and hospitalised, reaching over 15,000 people.
81/96 Richard Spindler Super-volunteer
This year marks Richard’s 50th year of service with the Royal National Lifeboat Institution in Weston-super-Mare. As a volunteer he has helped save hundreds of lives, specialising in swimming off the boat in especially treacherous rescues. Although now retired he continues to fundraise and run local education projects.
82/96 Gordon Taylor Youth mentor
Whether it's helping a young person prepare for a job interview or guiding them through a personal crisis, longstanding Centrepoint volunteer Gordon, from west London, is described by one mentee as "a guiding light". He also took part in the youth homelessness charity's Big Sleep Out, raising over £12,000.
83/96 Jenni Thomas Family supporter
A nurse who pioneered counselling and help for families of children who had died, in 1994 she founded Child Bereavement UK in a bedroom at her Buckinghamshire home. Since then, it has grown, got its own headquarters, and, thanks to grandmother Jenni, helped huge numbers of families.
84/96 Margaret Thrush Fund-raiser
This Mumbles woman has been rattling a charity collection bucket under the noses of pub-goers in South Wales for an astonishing 60 years. In that time she has raised a sum which is now heading towards £2m – including, recently, more than £150,000 for Macmillan Cancer Support.
MacMillan Nurses c/o David Nicholson
85/96 Audrey Tibbles First aider
Starting in 1943, Audrey was a British Red Cross first aid volunteer for 57 years. She was on duty at the Coronation and at Winston Churchill’s funeral. Since 2000, the Beckenham woman, now in her late 80s, has served the Red Cross on committees and by raising more than £55,000. Photo credit: Robin Stanndard
86/96 Henry Timms Mega giver
This is the man behind the international movement Giving Tuesday, encouraging everyone to do one thing for charity on the first Tuesday of December. Henry, who now lives in New York, developed it as a reaction to America’s Black Friday sales. Now people in over 60 countries come together to celebrate generosity. Photo credit: Susannah Ireland
87/96 Alan Toogood Samaritan
Alan joined the central London Samaritans as a volunteer in 1964, and was trained by the charity’s founder Chad Varah. During 50 years of service Alan, who lives in Harrow, has taken approximately 9,000 hours of calls from the public and helped to implement Samaritans prison listener scheme in Holloway prison. Photo credit: © Frantzesco Kangaris
© Frantzesco Kangaris
88/96 Andrew Ward Farming Saviour
Farmer Andrew of Leadenham, Lincolnshire set up Forage Aid to help fellow farmers hit by massive snowstorms in 2013 and last year’s Somerset floods. The scheme quickly delivered thousands of tonnes of donated hay and animal food, and organised temporary homes for livestock, helping devastated farms survive the extreme weather. Photo credit: Farmpress
Farmpress / c/o Peter Hill
89/96 Roger Watkins Charity builder
For 20 years Roger, a business consultant from Tonbridge, Kent, has worked with the Cranfield Trust, bringing in volunteer management experts to help charities better develop and handle their affairs. His nominator says his help has made a vast difference to the more than 500 charities he has assisted.
90/96 Barbara Wesley Fundraiser
After her grand-daughter was diagnosed with a rare liver disease, Barbara, from Worthing, got involved with the West Sussex branch of the Children’s Liver Disease Foundation. She is now chair, and has helped the group raise more than £200,000 for the Foundation. And her grand-daughter is now a nurse.
91/96 Jo White Music bringer
With her organization Wishing Well, Jo has pioneered bringing music to patients in East and West Sussex hospitals. She and fellow musicians create soothing sounds in special care baby units, and cheering ones in children’s and dementia wards, where patients love to join in where they can.
92/96 Fiona Willetts Victim helper
Fiona, of Bewdley, Worcestershire has been a volunteer with Victim Support for almost five years. Her nominator says: “I’ve lost count of the victims who have said she is the reason they have managed to cope.” One said: “If it wasn’t for Fiona, I would not be here. She deserves a medal.”
93/96 Mark Wilson and Ali Ghorbangholi Life savers
London’s Air Ambulance doctor Mark from Wapping and IT guru Ali from west London co-founded the GoodSAM smartphone app. When there is an emergency, the app alerts nearby medically trained ‘Good Samaritans’ who have signed up. With over 7,000 registered users to date, it enables faster medical intervention, increasing the chance of saving lives.
94/96 Howard Wood Conservationist
This diver from the Isle of Arran co-founded Community of Arran Seabed Trust, which has done much to fight over-fishing and dredging, and conserve the marine environment. It was successful in establishing Britain’s first ‘no-take’ zone in 2008, and, as a result, species like scallops are now recovering well. Photo credit: Goldman Prize
95/96 Robert Worsley Countryside saver
A shining example of someone who values his neighbours and landscape far above wealth. Robert rejected an offer of £275 million for his 550-acre farm in Twineham, West Sussex from developers who wanted to build 10,000 homes there. He said: “We are a rural community who don’t want to see Sussex ruined.” Photo credit: Invicta Kent Media/REX
Invicta Kent Media/REX
96/96 Mohammed Zafran Community activist
After his brother-in-law was fatally stabbed, Zaf, a liaison officer at a Birmingham college, set up All 4 Youth and Community academy to reach out to young people through sports activities. It has got local firms and football clubs to join in helping nearly 8,000 youngsters, including 2,000 young Asian women.
The big threat to happiness is social fragmentation, which industrialization and globalization of course can contribute to. We don’t find much difference in happiness levels based on economic structures of society. We do find them based on the depth of social connection.
I’ve worked with farmers in Zimbabwe who’ve lost their lands. I’ve worked with people in Venezuela, under threat of kidnappings, whose external world is unstable. But they have very strong social connections with their family and friends. And as a result, they’re able to maintain a greater level of happiness and optimism than I’ve seen from bankers, consultants, or salespeople who are on the road all the time, who follow jobs separated from their families, and, as a result, find themselves missing out on the happiness that comes from those very connections that they severed.
Q: But so many people think that happiness isn’t something you get now but something to earn later, after you’ve become successful. How do you make the case that happiness matters?
Achor: Happiness is such an incredible advantage in our life. When the human brain is positive, our intelligence rises, we stop diverting resources to think about anxiety.
Our creativity triples. Productive energy rises by 31 percent. The likelihood of promotion rises by 40 percent. Sales rise by 37 percent. These figures are all from studies we’ve done in places like Nationwide Insurance, UPS, KPMG.
Most people keep waiting on happiness, putting off happiness until they’re successful or until they achieve some goal, which means we limit both happiness and success. That formula doesn’t work.
If we flip around the formula, investing in happiness now reaps an incredible dividend. The greatest competitive advantage in our modern economy is a positive and engaged brain.
I think that’s so important, because that gets companies to invest in happiness. It incentivizes us to choose happiness for our kids, and to choose it in our own lives, instead of continually pushing off happiness, hoping it will happen to us based upon our successes.
Q: So what can readers do to create more happiness in their own lives?
Achor: I’ve been looking at five habits that are akin to brushing your teeth. Very short habits that if you do them every day, will improve your health, but also improve your levels of happiness.
1. Three Acts of Gratitude
Spend two minutes a day scanning the world for three new things you’re grateful for. And do that for 21 days, The reason why that’s powerful is you’re training your brain to scan the world in a new pattern, you’re scanning for positives, instead of scanning for threats. It’s the fastest way of teaching optimism.
I was working with a large financial company, and we got them to think of three things they were grateful for for 21 days, and it didn’t work. The reason why is they were always grateful for the same three things: their health, their work and their family. So they weren’t specific. And they weren’t scanning the world for new things.
So this only works if you’re scanning for new things and you’re very specific. So if you say, “I’m grateful for my son,” it doesn’t work. But if you say, “I’m grateful for my son because he hugged me today, which means I’m loved regardless,” that specificity actually gets the brain stuck in a new pattern of optimism. It works with 4-year-old children and 84-year-old grumpy old men.
You can take them in a 21-day period from a low-level of pessimism to a low-level of optimism. There’s nothing magical about 21 days. We stole it from Alcoholics Anonymous. But after 21 days, the hope is, the path of least resistance in the brain tilts toward the habit, rather than away from it. So the hope is, it becomes not just a daily habit but a life habit.
It’s really getting people to feel like the change is possible. The habit seems to matter less than the fact that they’ve dedicated time to choose happiness.
2. The Doubler
For two minutes a day, think of one positive experience that’s occurred during the past 24 hours. Bullet point each detail you can remember. It works, because the brain can’t tell the difference between visualization and actual experience. So you’ve just doubled the most meaningful experience in your brain. Do it for 21 days, your brain starts connecting the dots for you, then you have this trajectory of meaning running throughout life.
I did this with the National MS Society. Previous research from the University of Texas found that if you have a chronic neuromuscular disease, chronic fatigue and pain, and you do this for six weeks in a row, six months later, they can drop your pain medication by 50 percent.
3. The Fun Fifteen
15 minutes of cardiovascular exercise a day. It’s the equivalent of taking an anti-depressant for the first six months, but with a 30 percent lower relapse rate over the next two years.
This is not a repudiation of anti-depressants. It’s an indication that exercise works, because your brain records a victory, and that cascades to the next activity.
We did this at Google. We had them take their hands off their keyboards two minutes a day. And go from multitasking, to simply watching their breath go in and out. This raises accuracy rates. Improves levels of happiness. Drops their stress levels. And it takes two minutes.
5. Conscious Acts of Kindness
The final habit is the most powerful that we’ve seen so far. For two minutes each day, start work by writing a two-minute positive e-mail or text praising or thanking one person you know. And do it for a different person each day.
People who do this not only get great e-mails and texts back and are perceived as positive leaders because of the praise and recognition, but their social connection score is at the top end of the scale.
Social connection is not only the greatest predictor of long-term happiness – the study I did at Harvard is 0.7 correlation, which doesn’t sound very sexy, but is stronger than the connection between smoking and cancer.
Q: Can these little, two-minute habits really make a difference?
Achor: So many people are struggling to create happiness while their brain is inundated by noise. If your brain is receiving too much information, it automatically thinks you’re under threat and scans the world for the negative first. Because the brain is limited, whatever you attend to first becomes your reality.
Same thing happens with the lack of sleep. If you sleep eight hours, you can remember positive and negative words around 80 percent of the time 24 hours later.
But with five hours of sleep, you remember 70 percent of the negative words, and 20 to 30 percent of the positive. So your reality literally shifts based on whether or not your brain feels overwhelmed.
So I find that we either make happiness seem too hard, thinking we need to go on an 80-day vacation around the world, when really, thinking of three things you’re grateful for while you brush your teeth, or smiling at a stranger in a hallway, can not only boost your happiness but help you to make that choice over and over again.
Q: So many people are inundated by the noise and feel overwhelmed, anxious or depressed. You’ve talked about your own struggles with depression. How did you cope?
Achor: Depression is crafty, because it tricks you into thinking that you have no control over it, and that it’s permanent. Having gone through depression, while I was at Harvard, and using these positive habits to pull myself out of it, I realize those are both lies. That depression is not the end of the story, and that we are not just our genes, environment and neurochemicals. Our daily choices can help us trump all three of those.
Q: What are the happiness habits you use?
Achor: My wife and I are both happiness researchers and we’re on the road more than 200 days a year. So we have to put this happiness research into practice, especially with a 1-year-old.
When I first started the research, I decided to move to the same city as my sister, so we could not only be connected but also so our children could know each other.
I do these gratitudes when I’m starting to feel negative. I journal every day, especially when I’m on planes. I exercise every day. The first thing I do when I get to a hotel is go to the gym. I actually look forward to it. I actually look forward to planes. I make it fun by listening to positive or fun books on Audible.
I do something called social investment. I’m constantly investing in people around me, especially when I feel stressed, sad or lonely, instead of doing the opposite, which is what most people do. So I’ll write a positive e-mail. I’ll meet up with a friend. If I’m going to a new city, I’ll e-mail somebody I know who’s there to have drinks.
What we’re finding is that it’s not the macro things that matter, but it’s the micro choices for happiness that actually sustain happiness the best.
©The Washington Post
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