Sunday, 26 February 2017

Consciousness explained (!)

Louie and I are continuing at a pace with our conversations as part of The Existential Files. Available on iTunes and YouTube. Some of these conversations take place while I find myself in a room with a whiteboard, and so I make a few notes. 

Below are my notes from a podcast conversation last week (in fact, it was split across two episodes) in which we were joined by Peter Hankins who, among other things is the author of a blog called Conscious Identities. Not surprisingly, our focus of this podcast was on 'consciousness'. That old chestnut. You can get a sense of how these notes emerge by listening here and here

 


Friday, 24 February 2017

Lee Mack on a cloud (as though in a panto)

As part of a course we are currently running at the University, we asked the students to keep a dream diary for a week. The idea was that we, the tutors, would also keep the cream diary so that we had dream report to share at the next teaching session.

Of course, for the first three days of the week, I completely forgot. By the fourth day I endeavoured to remember that night's dream* and make a note of what I could remember in the morning. It turned out to be the only dream that week that I remembered and was simply noted in my dream diary as 'Lee Mack on a cloud (as though in a panto)". That's all that I could remember. Hardly profound, and I don't know what Freud would have made of it ("Who ze fuck ist Lee Mack...?!").

In preparation of writing this blog post, I thought I'd ask a certain Dr Savva (who is a dab hand with PaintShop), to mock up a pic of Lee Mack on a cloud (as though in a panto). He duly did. And what I love about that is when I typed the request into Whatsapp, he simply responded, "yeah, sure". No questions asked. 

Lee Mack on a Cloud (as though in a panto) 
* I'm toying with the iPad's facility for turning voice to text as a supposedly quicker way to write some of these blog posts. Of course it doesn't always hear quite what you say. For "night's dream" it changed it to "night stream". Perhaps a good analogy for a dream? A night stream? Please yourself. 

Sunday, 19 February 2017

Learn colours with Bing

In a slight departure from the usual intellectual discourse on this blog (!), I post here a never before seen piece of footage of Freya and Connie learning colours with Bing (think slightly slow but loveable bunny character who wears dungarees). If you need some kind of justification, you might consider this as a critical commentary on modern society and the nature of user-generated content on the web and what kids these days will happily watch for hours on end. Or you could just watch quietly and learn your colours. Up to you. :-)



Saturday, 18 February 2017

It's a love thang...

A belated happy Valentine's Day! Earlier in the week I, perhaps foolishly, spent a chunk of my Valentine's Day chatting to Dr Savva. We recorded a couple of podcasts exploring 'love'. Louie, being the efficient person that he is (and because he has bugger all else to do... joke, Louie, joke*), uploaded these quickly. You can listen on iTunes here (episodes 17 and 18).

As I found myself in a room with a whiteboard (gotta love a whiteboard!), I made a few notes:

 
*He really does have bugger all else to do.

Thursday, 2 February 2017

The Existential Files on iTunes!

My partner in existential crime, Dr Louie Savva, has been busy cutting and uploading recordings of our podcast conversations and submitting to iTunes. Good man, Louie! As of today episodes 1-10 available. More on their way...! You can also listen via YouTube




It's Groundhog Day!

From the archives :-)
Every year, on February 2nd, the world's media (or rather a small proportion of it) turns its attention to the small town of Punxsutawney in Pennsylvania, USA. In particular they go there to observe a character called Punxsutawney Phil. Phil is a groundhog. But not just any groundhog... Phil is a special groundhog, because legend has it he has an uncanny ability to predict how long winter is going to last. According to his very own website, http://www.punxsutawneyphil.com/:
"At sunrise, Phil will emerge from his burrow at Gobbler's Knob, and his handlers will announce whether or not Phil has seen his shadow. If Phil sees his shadow, legend has it that we can expect six more weeks of winter weather. No shadow indicates an early spring."
Back in 2001, one guy, an economist, even undertook some kind of analysis of Phil's forecasting data and concluded that over the years he had been around 70% successful and predicting either an early or late Spring.

That's all very well, but the thing that actually interests me about this rather strange tradition is the 1993 movie Groundhog Day that's based around this rather quaint annual event. In the film Bill Murray plays TV weather forecaster Phil Connors who is assigned to cover the event for something like the third or fourth year running. Connors is, to say the least, fairly cynical about the whole thing and can't wait till the piece is done so he can get the hell out of Punxsutawney and back to civilization. The trouble is, a blizzard means that all routes out of Punxsutawney are blocked and so he has to stay there for a second night. The next morning he is woken up at 6am, just like the morning before, by the same song on the radio (Sonny and Cher's I Got You Babe). He initially thinks that the local radio presenters must have simply forgotten to change the script from the previous morning, but slowly as he goes about his day he realizes that he is actually living the previous day again. It's still Groundhog Day! Eventually the end of the day comes again and he's back in his hotel bed (because just as with the previous day a blizzard prevents him from leaving town). At 6am the next morning he wakes again to the same song on the radio! And so it goes on... every morning he awakes only to relive Groundhog Day. Imagine that! Imagine having to live the same day over and over and over again. Once the realization sets in that no matter what he does, Phil Connors is going to relive the same day again and again he even tries a variety of ways of killing himself... only to find himself waking up at 6am on Groundhog Day to the sound of I Got You Babe. There's no way out.

Eventually Connors resigns himself to the fact he is going to have to relive Groundhog Day ad infinitum, and so starts throwing himself into his recurrent daily activities. By doing this he finds he actually enjoys having the opportunity to relive the events of the day again and again and discovers that he can learn from his earlier encounters with the day's events. The question is, will he ever live to see the day that follows Groundhog Day or is he destined to remain in this day for ever? And do you ever get that feeling you've been here before?

Monday, 30 January 2017

Scare away the dark

A song that is being played on a fairly regular basis at Smith HQ is Scare Away the Dark by Passenger. Here are the lyrics reproduced (without permission) from genius.com:

Well, sing, sing at the top of your voice
Love without fear in your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark

We wish our weekdays away
Spend our weekends in bed
Drink ourselves stupid
And work ourselves dead
And all just because that's what mom and dad said we should do

We should run through the forests
We should swim in the streams
We should laugh, we should cry
We should love, we should dream
We should stare at the stars and not just the screens
You should hear what I'm saying and know what it means

To sing, sing at the top of your voice
Love without fear in your heart
Feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark

Well, we wish we were happier, thinner and fitter
We wish we weren't losers and liars and quitters
We want something more not just nasty and bitter
We want something real not just hashtags and Twitter

It's the meaning of life and it's streamed live on YouTube
But I bet Gangnam Style will still get more views
We're scared of drowning, flying and shooters
But we're all slowly dying in front of fucking computers

So sing, sing at the top of your voice
Oh, love without fear in your heart
Can you feel, feel like you still have a choice
If we all light up we can scare away the dark

And oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh no
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh no
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh no
Sing it out now
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh no
Sing it out now
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh no
Sing it out now
Oh, oh, oh oh, oh, oh no

Well sing, sing at the top of your voice

Love without fear in your heart

Feel, feel like you still have a choice

If we all light up we can scare away the dark


These are the lyrics as the song appears on the album Whispers, and it is a rousing anthem to play on a Monday morning (or indeed any time of any day). To give you a sense of how the song sounds, I hereby embed the official video for the song:



This version is good, though not quite as good as the album version (as represented by the lyrics above). Can you spot the difference? 

Friday, 27 January 2017

Butterflies and bunnies are awake all night

 See that picture? As you can see it is the front cover of a book. It is one of Connie's books and she refers to it as her 'clever clogs' book (Connie is 3) . She was just reading the title to me. Whereas you or I might think that the book seems to be called the Usborne First Illustrated Science Dictionary, Connie has just read those words to me. She tells me that it says Butterflies and Bunnies Are Awake All Night. So there you go. 


 

Tuesday, 24 January 2017

The Existential Files

It is a little known fact that this blog, in its earlier incarnation as The Diary of a Spiritual Junkie, was at least partly inspired by the blog of my friend and colleague, Louie Savva. His blog was, and still is, the brilliantly titled Everything is Pointless (www.everythingispointless.com). 

I'm sure, as time progresses, I will say more about the ideas that Louie, now Dr Louie Savva (yay!), has shared on his blog, however for now I want to say just two things. First, after a 9 year hiatus I am pleased to note that Louie has resurrected his blog and is now blogging again (yay again!), and second, this recent acitivity has led to Louie and I joining forces, as it were, to begin work on what some are calling a 'podcast'. And so, I am proud to share here a link to an emerging playlist of said podcast that is going under the title of The Existential Files:



As will become apparent, if you choose to listen, we will use the conversations to explore a wide range of topics that might broadly fall under the heading of 'existential' in nature. These might include: the nature of existence; why we are here; how we decide what is 'worth' doing; evolution; science; philosophy; religion; and most importantly the artistic merit of if the TV sitcom Birds of a Feather. Anyway, it passes the time. :-)

I also feel the need to say please be aware that we are talking about topics that matter to us both dearly. This means at times we may find that we censor our language less than we might. I am aware that in at least some of the episodes there is swearing that, at the time of writing, we have not edited out. In fact, we do eventually record a conversation about the idea of 'offensiveness'. I'm not sure if that will become an episode in its own right or if it will simply be a conversation that has allowed Louie and I to openly explore this side of things.  Either way, please note that this is something that we are acutely aware of (or at least I am!). 

By the way, during this first episode you hear me mention I begin to jot down on a whiteboard some of the topics as we discuss them. This is what it looked like at the end of the recording: 

whiteboard 

Sunday, 22 January 2017

Sit Down Sunday

You must be tired after all that standing up yesterday? Time to take a rest on what the cooler kids are calling 'Sit Down Sunday'. Feel free to interpret as you wish... you might see it as the invitation to pause a while in that comfy armchair of yours and watch the world pass by. You might also interpret this in the way the popular music combo James did in their song that reached number 3 in the Hit Parade:


Saturday, 21 January 2017

Stand Up Saturday

Continuing what is becoming a theme. Let's make today 'Stand Up Saturday'? A day to Stand Up for what you believe in. A day to Stand Up for what you feel in your heart to be right. A day to Stand Up for Yourself.
 
There is plenty already happening around the globe today along these lines. What will you do? 
 

Friday, 20 January 2017

F**k It Friday

One week on from Friday the 13th (unlucky day, aggh!) and at the end of the week that brought us 'Blue' Monday (unhappy day, boohoo!), we have F**k It Friday. 

If you need some rules explained, then carry on as you were. The rest of us, you know what to do. Enjoy and share if you wish! #FkItFriday (apparently #F**kItFriday don't work :-/). 
 

Wednesday, 18 January 2017

Fart in a Bucket Tuesday!

After Friday the 13th last week, and Blue Monday, yesterday was a far more uplifting day. It was a day that free from superstition, PR spin, and pseudo-scientific equations. 

 
It was, of ourse, Fart In a Bucket Tuesday! (#FIBT). The only rule of #FIBT was to play from your heart. Say it how it is. Be true. And spread the love. Or in the words of one key person of influence, a day of saying F**k It Big Time!

Update 18 Jan 2017: Here at #FIBT HQ, we were pleased to see the sentiment of #FIBT spill over to the following day. Remember, saying it how it is is not just for Tuesdays. It's for any day of the week!
 
 

Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Parallel Worlds

As I return to this blog, I discover a small number of draft posts that I made a start on and then left. Like so many 'projects', they don't get finished. I was drawn to one post under the title Parallel Worlds. It had one sentence:


I really don't enjoy marking. Especially when the weather outside is so gloriously warm and sunny

Just that one sentence. Followed by clip below from a brilliant documentary called Parallel Worlds, Parallel Lives. In fact, it appears to be the first part of what I remember was an hour long documentary. The date of the draft post was 25 May 2012. That was my mum's 72nd birthday.

Friday, 13 January 2017

Smoke or don't smoke

 

Some years ago, in what feels like a previous lifetime, I used to smoke. In fact, in the archives/annals/bowels of this blog you will find a blog post or two noting this. Whilst there were times when I really did enjoy a cigarette (such as after the first sip of a pint of beer...), by and large I wasn't a 'natural' smoker. I smoked, but I felt I perhaps shouldn't smoke. I knew it was bad for me, it cost money I couldn't really afford, and it made my hair and clothes smell. But still I smoked.

A dear friend of mine then said, "smoke, or don't smoke...". I asked him to say more. "Smoke, or don't smoke... it's  a choice.  But, if you choose to smoke, don't feel guilty. Either smoke and be OK with it, don't smoke and be OK with it." Years later, it is a phrase I find I am using in a range of contexts.

Mystery solved... Kinda


 

It was over a year ago that I had noted that a bank near me, or at least someone who worked at the bank, seemed to place a card in the window each morning. I didn't know why. Yesterday, I found out why. Kind of.

After many months of walking past the bank and feeling reassured that there would be another card in the window, I decided to finally give into my curiosity and enter the bank. I'm normally walking past at a time before the bank has opened, but yesterday I was walking past just as it turned 9:30. Opening time. 

There was no queue. Straight up to the bank desk.

"Morning...", I fumble as the bank clerk makes eye contact, "...bit of an odd one this. I've been walking past the bank each morning and I notice that a different playing card appears in the window every day. I was just wondering, well, why...?". Silence. The bank clerk stares back at me.

"Er..." her eyes soften as she thinks what to say. Maybe she doesn't know. Maybe she neither knows nor cares. She sheepishly looks to her left to her colleague who is emptying bags of cash into the drawer in front of her (or whatever bank clerks do first thing of a morning). This one also stares back at me. But she's more decisive.

"It's part of our security processes. That's all we can say." And she flashes a quick smile before the steely look returns. And with that, I feel suitably ushered out. 

So mystery solved. Kind of. It's part of our security processes. But what does that mean? Does each card have a different meaning? Who puts it up? Whatever it means, it feels a bit low-tech doesn't it?

Thursday, 24 December 2015

The mystery of the card in the window...

...continues. I mentioned in a couple of previous blog posts back in September (here and here) that I had noticed a playing card appearing in the window of a local bank each morning when I walked past.

Well, some recent walk pasts have revealed that the cards have appeared again. On some days, the Queen of Spades. And on another day, the Five of Diamonds.

Still not figured out why. Just felt I should tell you... :-)



Wednesday, 23 December 2015

Go Luck Yourself! Session 6

And so we arrive at session 6 of Go Luck Yourself! In this final session, we essentially bring together the ideas from previous sessions and add a few more for good measure. The aim is that by the end of the session, you are left with all you need to, well, 'go luck yourself!'. There are two parts to the session. After part b, if you completed the online questionnaires prior to the first session, you are invited to complete these measures again now. In part b, you'll hear me say that the link will be emailed to participants one week after session 6... For ease, I have simply included the link below the session 6b video.

[If you have stumbled here without having watched sessions 1-5, then you should take a look here to be suitably introduced to the Go Luck Yourself! project.]





And with those deeply wise words (!), all that is left for me to do is point you to the questionnaires for you to complete if you wish (and if you completed them prior to watching session 1)... They can be accessed here.

And you're done! Thank you for sticking with it. Do let me know if, and how, the project has had an impact. That might be through a Luck Journal you have kept, or you can email me, or simply through a comment here on the blog. I look forward to hearing from you :-)

Wednesday, 9 December 2015

Go Luck Yourself! Session 5

If you now find you are 'going with the flow' more than you have ever before, have you found this has had any impact on your experience of 'luck'? Please would let me know and tell me how you're getting on using the comments section here on the blog?

In the meantime, it's time to take a look at Session 5, which is cryptically entitled 'Stercus Accidit', the meaning of which you will soon discover when you watch the first part. The focus here is about how we might use psychological ideas to help us deal with 'bad luck'. There are a total of 3 parts to the recording, plus an additional (and powerful) clip of an interview with somone called Martine Wright.

[If you have stumbled here without having watched sessions 1-4, then you should take a look here to be suitably introduced to the Go Luck Yourself! project.]



 

And so to the clip of the interview Martine Wright... A phenomenal and inspiring story. If the clip below is the only one you watch from your time spent on this blog, then your time will not have been wasted. It's not an easy watch, but one you will value...



Session 6, the final session of Go Luck Yourself! will be posted on Wednesday 23rd December 2015. Give yourself an early Christmas present and come back then as we bring it all together and explore some final thoughts. Until then.

Wednesday, 25 November 2015

Go Luck Yourself! Session 4

As we delve into the second half of the 'Go Luck Yourself!' project (remember there are a total of 6 sessions), we are again building on what we have explored so far: embracing luck, the 'good luck mindset', and noticing and creating opportunities. Have you started to notice any changes in your experience of 'luck'? Please use the comments section on any of these blog posts to share your experience.

[If you have stumbled here without having watched sessions 1-3, then you should take a look here to be suitably introduced to the Go Luck Yourself! project.]

In this session, which you'll see is in 3 parts, we look at the value of 'going with the flow'. It sounds rather glib, but the idea is that adopting this approach to many things in our lives may be one of the most powerful ways to allow ourselves to be influenced by luck, chance, and unplanned events. Anyway, let's see what he man in the black shirt has to say...


...and when you're ready, here's part b:


Please take a moment to listen to this mindfulness practice after you have watched Session 4b and before watching Session 4c. You are encouraged to also try listening to some or all of the other short mindfulness practices offered by the counselling service at Bucks New University here.


...which brings us to the end of Session 4! Thoughts? Please feel free to post comments here on the blog, and if you're keeping a Luck Journal then #DFYLJ!

Session 5 will be available from Wednesday 9th December. Follow the blog to get an update when it goes live :-)

Wednesday, 11 November 2015

Go Luck Yourself! Session 3

And so we reach session three of the Go Luck Yourself! project... where the fun really starts. Session 1 invited us to first note the role that luck plays in different parts of our lives, and in Session 2 we were encouraged to adopt a 'good luck mindset', one that is characterised by gratitude and optimism. You might have found those quite easy, or a bit of challenge. Either way, when are you aready to move forward, Session 3 builds on this and look at how we might start to notice and create the kinds of opportunities that allow luck to show itself. Start with Session 3a and then, when instructed to, pause the session to watch the 'selective attention test' below.

[If you have stumbled here without having watched sessions 1 and 2, then you should take a look here to be suitably introduced to the Go Luck Yourself! project.]

Please watch this short video when instructed to do so in Session 3a. You should pause the recording of the session above while you watch this clip.  As an added extra, (or if you have seen the video before) afterwards you might also want to take a look at this one.


When you have watched the short clip above, return to watch the rest of session 3a. As that part ends, you are encouraged to take a moment to pause and listen to the short (5 min) mindfulness practice called 'a new page' available here. When you have had a chance to do that, continue with Session 3b below in your own time. If you would like to sample some more short mindfulness resources, you can try listening to some or all of the other short mindfulness practices offered here.

So, until next time see if you can put the ideas discussed here into practice over the coming weeks and see if they help you to both notice as well as creat opportunities. If you are keeping a Luck Journal then please note your experiences there (i.e., #DFYLJ!), and feel free to share here on the blog.

Session 4, where we will look at the value of 'going with the flow' and the importance of trusting in unplanned events, will be posted in two weeks on Wednesday 25th November 2015. Follow the blog to get an alert by email when the Session 4 post goes live.

Wednesday, 28 October 2015

Go Luck Yourself! Session 2

Those two weeks went pretty quickly didn't they? If you are now finding you are embracing the role that luck (or 'luck' if you are a bit of purist) plays in your life then I think you are ready to jump into Session 2, the focus of which is the 'good luck mindset'. As you'll discover, part (a) introduces the idea of the good luck mindset and explores the importance of gratitude, and part (b) extends this to look at how an optimistic outlook might be cultivated. Combined, they form the basis of what I'm calling here a 'good luck mindset'.

If you're still having a hard time appreciating the role that luck, in terms of unplanned events, chance encounters, and so on plays in your life then by all means spend a little longer with this and even watch Session 1 again. Similarly, if you have found your way here through some way other than having watched Session 1, then please take a look here first.




Take a moment note just three things (or more if you want to!) that you are grateful for, before moving on to watch part b:


So, what do you think? Will you give it a try? Would you see if and how adopting a 'good luck mindset' over the coming weeks has any impact on your experiences of 'luck'? Please use the comments section to tell me how you get on!

Session 3, where we look at some important ideas linked with noticing and creating opportunities (central to that age-old idea of "making your own luck"!), will be posted in two weeks on Wednesday 11th November 2015. Follow the blog to get an alert by email when the session 3 post goes live.

Wednesday, 14 October 2015

Go Luck Yourself! Session 1

Welcome to the Go Luck Yourself! project...

For a little more background to the project, click here. If you have already done that, or you just want to jump straight in, then by all means click on Session 1a (Overview) to get started and then Session 1b and 1c to hear more about 'embracing luck'. Enjoy!






So that, my friends, is session 1... Exciting stuff eh? Please take some time to reflect on the role of 'luck', or unplanned events, in your life to date. In the weeks to come, make a point of noticing how so many events, some seemingly quite trivial, and some more obviously significant, are down to 'luck' in the way we describe it here. And feel free to leave a comment on the blog telling me what you notice! Remember, you can get in touch to ask for a hard copy 'Luck Journal' if you would like one, or just keep your own in a handy notebook. (In the clips, you may hear me referring to an online version on 'Blackboard'... this was something we only used the first time the project ran.)

Session 2, exploring the 'good-luck mindset' will be posted on Wednesday 28th October 2015. Follow the blog to get an alert by email when the session 2 post goes live.

Monday, 12 October 2015

Introducing the Go Luck Yourself! project

A cursory browse through the archives of the blog would reveal more than a passing interest here in the concept of luck. To be more precise, my interest is in the psychology of luck. That is, how we tend to think about luck and how this impacts upon how we deal with those kinds of experiences we typically attribute to luck. With this in mind, last year I put together a little research project to explore how ideas drawn from positive psychology might impact upon people's experiences of 'luck'. The project consisted of six sessions, under the title of 'Go Luck Yourself!'*, and was very much inspired by Richard Wiseman's 'Luck School' as described in his book 'The Luck Factor' (which I've written about in a post some time back).

The project ran over 12 weeks, with a fortnightly session running on a Wednesday lunchtime on the campus of Bucks New University (where I work) and posted online later the same day. The reason I'm telling you all this is because I'm going to post these recordings, and associated materials, on this blog over the coming weeks in the hope that a few more people may access them and perhaps even contribute data. [Update (Dec 2015): All six sessions are now on the blog, and are designed to be viewed fortnightly. Feel free to work through all six sessions as quickly, or as slowly, as you wish!]

You will hear me talk about something that is excitingly referred to as a 'Luck Journal' (it is a book with the words 'Luck Journal' on the front...). I have a small number of these if you would like a hard-copy journal to write in. You can either email me your address at matthew.smith@bucks.ac.uk or leave a comment on the blog to tell me where you would like me to post it to.

You can access the first session materials here.

*I am indebted to Scott Cornwall for the project name. A couple of years ago, he suggested I should write a book called Go Luck Yourself!, or Luck Off!, or For Luck's Sake!, etc. You get the idea. The GLY! suggestion is the one that stuck as it really captured the idea behind this project... What things can you do to influence your own luck. Thank you Scott, I am indebted to you (though let me abolutely clear that this is in a metaphorical sense, not a financial one).


Saturday, 19 September 2015

Or was it this card?

I walked past the bank again yesterday. Queen of Spades this time. Any takers?

Friday, 18 September 2015

Is this the card you were thinking of...?

Five of diamonds? Anyone thinking of the five of diamonds? No? Oh well, I guess in time, if enough people read this post then at least one of you will have been thinking of the five of diamonds.

The reason I ask is that every so often I walk past a certain high street bank down the end of our road, and in the window of the bank is a playing card. Not every day, just some days. The other day it was the five of diamonds. So I took a picture.

I don't know why the card is there, I can only assume that somebody who works there (or a customer?) is putting the card there as some kind of set-up for a magic trick? Any other suggestions?

Friday, 14 August 2015

Learning for a Small Planet

One of the things that has brought me back to blogging is that I recently submitted my reflective journal for a Postgraduate Certificate (PGCert) in Technology-enhanced Learning (T-eL). This was, in part, supposed to capture my learning journey on the PGCert over the past year so don't tell anyone that I actually wrote (revised and edited) many of the blog posts in the month or so before I submitted it... If you're interested in T-eL, e-learning, or learning and teaching in general, please feel free to take a look.

It's clear that T-eL is now very much a central part of learning and teaching at all levels, and will only become more so in the years to come. Etienne Wenger-Trayner is a key theorist in this space (as they say) and it is from him I borrow the title of this post.

Sunday, 19 July 2015

Cough... splutter...!

That's the sound of a blog limping back to life. This blog has been in a bit of 'suspended animation'...  a 'hiatus' if you will, for well over a year. It's about time I attempted to breathe a little life back into it. What I'm saying is, my intention is that I will start blogging again. Big deal, you say. (Big assumption that there is a 'you' that is reading this!)

Ah well, that's the aim anyway. Time will tell. 

Thursday, 20 March 2014

How to be happy?

 

Today is the UN International Day of Happiness! That's right, 20th March is a day on which you are 'officially' encouraged to pursue happiness. You might not think you need the encouragement of an 'official' day to help you prioritise your own happiness, even for just one day, but many of us don't actually do this. Surprising, seeing as the one thing we would most want for our children is for them to 'be happy'!

With this in mind, it gives me great pleasure (dare I say it makes me happy!) on this day to tell you about 'positive psychology', a fast-growing sub-discipline within academic psychology dedicated to the study of what makes life worth living, optimal human functioning, and within this: happiness. I feel very fortunate to be involved with one of the few MSc Applied Positive Psychology (MAPP) courses in which students can study this subject at university at a postgraduate level. In fact, the course is one of only two MAPP courses in the UK, and one of only around ten in the world!  The students this course attracts are an impressive and diverse group who travel far and wide to take the course with a view to applying what they learn in their own personal and working lives. In fact, the 'word-cloud' above represents the 'language of positive psychology' as expressed by our students over the past week when capturing their thoughts in relation to the course.

One way in which we are marking the International Day of Happiness is through one of our MAPP students, Lesley Lyle, who (amongst other things) is the author of a new book Laugh Your Way to Happiness (published by Watkins books). Over the last year or so, Lesley has been sending out 'Laughter Buddies' (see picture) to encourage people to spend more time doing things they enjoy (with their Laughter Buddy or LB), photographing their LB mid-activity, and sharing these through a dedicated Laughter Buddies Facebook page.


On 20th March 2014, we are sending 10 extra special Laughter Buddies out into the world (well, High Wycombe...) with the instructions to their initial owners to do something fun (they love to have fun!), take a photo, post it on the Facebook page, and then pass their LB on to a friend they can trust to do the same. We will follow the travels of these Laughter Buddies over the coming year via the Facebook page until next year's International Day of Happiness. How far will they travel? And who will be touched by their uncanny ability to bring a little joy and laughter into people's lives?  In the meantime, if you would like to find out how you can get involved (of course you do!), then you can contact Lesley via the Laughter Buddies Facebook page.

Even without a Laughter Buddy by your side, there is plenty you can do on this Day of Happiness (or any day) to boost your own wellbeing. So, with thanks to leading positive psychologist and author of The How of Happiness, Sonja Lyubomirsky, I'll leave you with some quick tips on how to increase your happiness, all of which have been shown to have lasting effects upon levels of personal happiness:

1. Express gratitude: Encourage yourself to stop and think of three things for which you are grateful. Gives an immediate boost to your wellbeing! 

2. Practice acts of kindness: Go and do something nice for someone. It will make you both happier. 

3. Nurture social relationships: Connect with a friend. Phone one you haven't spoken to in a while and wish them a happy day of happiness! 

4. Increase 'Flow': Do something you love doing, where you lose all sense of time. Do it more often. 

5. Get yourself a Laughter Buddy: OK, I added this one and the evidence may not be there yet. But having a good laugh does release oxytocin in the brain, a neurochemical associated with trust and empathy. i.e., laughing is good for the soul.

Wednesday, 26 February 2014