I spent my Saturday, shoulder to shoulder with 1000 like-minded people at the UK’s first Festival of Happiness, held in Manchester. This was the brain-child of a remarkable lady, Shonette BasonWood (her details here) who is truly a force of nature and one of life’s genuine happy people. She simply shines and as I listened to her, I wished there were more people like her in the world.
Shonette partnered with one of my heroes, the amazing Andy Cope (find him here) writer of The Art of Being Brilliant and Shine (to name a few). Both of these books have had a positive impact on my life. Together with some other friends, including an incredible rhythmic poet by the name of Rhythmical Mike; Shonette and Andy produced the most magnificently motivational and inspiring day.
I loved Andy’s session. I have been engaging with him for several weeks as he has endorsed my forthcoming book, ‘Enough’, so it was a joy to finally meet him in person and share a seven second hug. Andy describes himself as ‘Doctor Happy’ which is pretty accurate given he has a PHD in positive psychology, which essentially means he is incredibly clever and studies happy people (How cool is that job?). Thankfully, he uses language us ‘non-PHD’ types can understand and despite his academic brain, he’s a down to earth guy from Derby with a penchant for wearing t-shirts with ‘HAPPY’ written on the front.
Andy pointed out how the media contributes to us never feeling like we are good enough by regularly bombarding us with ways we can be better. He brought this to life by showing magazine covers advertising 252 ways to improve your life or 365 tips beauty tips to make you look fabulous. I’d never noticed this happens before which is probably why I spent too many years thinking I wasn’t enough. Now I can look at these articles through the lens of self-improvement, knowing that I can take it or leave it as I’m ‘Enough’ just as I am.
There was a reminder that we get roughly 4000 weeks on the planet. 4000! It’s nothing is it? And yet many of us spend lots of this time waiting for Friday, wishing it wasn’t Monday or hoping the next ten weeks will pass so we can hit the sun-loungers on our Summer holidays. With so little time at our disposal, is it right to be wanting it to disappear without us making the most of it? Are we wishing it away because we aren’t doing the things that would put fire in our bellies or wind in our sails?
Andy explained the difference between what he calls the 2%ers and the mood-hoovers. 2%ers have a natural disposition for positivity and they choose happy most of the time whereas mood-hoovers, and we all know one, suck the energy from you in a heartbeat. Mood-hoovers find the cloud in every silver-lining and will be the ones saying ‘it will never work’ in a droning voice when you pitch a great idea.
Shonette describes mood-hoovers as lemon-suckers and in her session she had us write the names of known lemon-suckers on a piece of paper, screw the paper into a ball (or metaphorical rock) and throw it into the metaphorical sea (the stage) whilst singing ‘Let it Go’ from Frozen. It was quite a moment. Those who follow me and know the amount of trolling I receive will not be surprised to hear that the word ‘TROLLS’ was written on my rock!
‘Choosing happy’ was a key message echoed by most of the speakers, including Gavin Oattes (co-author of Shine and total legend). Gavin encouraged us to ‘be the milk’. He talked about the impact milk has on a boring bowl of Rice Krispies, creating the snap, crackle and pop. If we want snap, crackle and pop, our attitude, choices and behaviours can turn the mundane in our lives into something wondrous. We can be the milk, but, and we shouldn’t forget this, if we don’t act quickly, the snap and crackle can turn to a soggy mush.
The idea of choosing happy is one I have grown fond of over the past year or so. In the past I have been known to say ‘you’re not making me happy’ to others when actually I now realise ‘I wasn’t making me happy’. I was expecting happiness to come from an external source but I now know that the key to happiness lies within me.
I have learned that genuine happiness comes from owning my story, not hiding it, not pretending it didn’t happen and certainly not, which I did for too many years, being afraid of what people will think. Owning my story means I show my true authentic self rather than acting the way I think people expect me to act. I no longer edit, omit or limit myself. I don’t hide behind the wall of shame. It was exhausting and it left little energy for anything else. Retiring the actress has given me the energy to face into who I am, and why I am who I am. I work on the things that require healing, whilst being self-compassionate and accepting and I choose to adopt a state of mind that is positive. I am, a result, happier. It doesn’t mean I never have bad days or regress back to a former way of working, but I am quick to remind myself that I’ve moved on from those patterns and I choose happy & positive again.
Happy people really do decide to be happy. The 1000 people who were in the room with me on Saturday had made a choice to go to a Festival of Happiness. We danced, we sang, we squatted (yes really), we practiced laughter yoga, we felt the force of polo mint pendulums and we hugged strangers for seven seconds (optimum time required to transfer happiness). And, we did ALL of this without any eye rolling whatsoever.
Because we’d decided to be happy and we were surrounded by like-minded people who felt the same way. We embraced the learning, lived in the moment and did it all like nobody was watching.
One of the final tasks was to choose our personal anthem, the song we can play on the way into work or when we need revving up. Something that will light us up from the inside. As many of you know, my motto is ‘I can and I am’ and now, I’ve found the perfect anthem to accompany it; The White Stripes, Seven Nation Army (listen here). If that doesn’t get me in the mood to smash the day, nothing will!
Andy asked a question which was thought provoking. ‘If you had one week left, how would you spend it?’ Ask yourself..
The truth is, we don’t know how long we have left, so lets stop holding back, editing, moaning, or getting caught up in stuff that really doesn’t matter and let’s CHOOSE HAPPY! We’ve even bought the t-shirts.