The Happiness Course has been getting some great attention recently. We were written about in the Telegraph and a great response came from Jim McManus. A few weeks ago the FT published two articles on Happiness as well (The Pursuit of Happiness in the Workplace and The Positive Returns of a Happy Workforce). It’s certainly a popular topic at the moment!
We’re being asked a lot of questions about happiness, so here are some of our answers!
Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? What’s more important than that? ‘Happiness’, like ‘love’ is often trivialised. But as the course explains, there are various ‘levels’ of happiness, from material ‘pleasure’ to the deeper reaches of relationships and meaning. The Bible too speaks of ‘happiness’ (think of Psalm 1 and the Beatitudes) and points us to those deeper levels. God certainly wants people to enjoy life (see Matthew 11:19 and 1 Timothy 6:17), but makes it clear that this involves much more than just pleasure and material comforts! 1 Timothy 6:6-8 gives us some clues.
Why is Livability doing this?
As a charity, Livability (and previously as the Shaftesbury Society) has always looked around society for challenges and dark spots – places where we feel called to make a difference. In the past we’ve worked in education, unemployment and homelessness. Today we concentrate on disability and community development.
Over the past few years we’ve seen a new growing need – hopelessness. Anxiety, despair, pointlessness – it affects people from all communities and in all walks of life. We want to help the church respond to this issue.
What do Christians have to say about happiness?
In the past, Christians have been accused of having a ‘pie in the sky’ approach – simply endure this life for a reward in the next. But we believe that Christians are called to spread Good News about the here and now, which affects everyday life.
When we look at important ‘ingredients’ of a happy life, they include things that are deeply embedded in our faith – gratitude, forgiveness, the importance of relationships, a sense of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Familiar concepts to Christians, but universally acknowledged as keys to happiness.
What about the science?
There’s a growing, well-respected area of psychology known as positive psychology. It concentrates not on fixing things that are ‘wrong’ with people’s minds, but studying how to improve mental wellbeing for everyone. Scientists are presenting credible research findings which uncover which factors are directly linked to happiness.
Far from being a threat to our faith, the latest research from secular scientists tells us that happiness is deeply linked to our personal and community relationships.
What is the Happiness Course?
Over four sessions we link the science of happiness with ancient wisdom and real-life experience to give people practical tools to improve their own happiness. Happiness is personal, so we give people time to reflect on their own lives, and the opportunity to share with and encourage each other.
What does the course cover?
We start by asking the simple question, ‘What makes you happy?’. We examine the different kinds of happiness – pleasure, success, relationship and meaning. In every session we talk about our experiences, examine what science tells us, and then explore practical tools that we can use during the week.
How ‘Christian’ is the course?
The Happiness Course is deeply Christian – it comes out of our belief that Jesus brings good news that is for all people. However, in the course materials, faith is implicit, not explicit.
Where did the course come from?
The Happiness Course was written by Livability team member Andy Parnham, who has a background in both medicine and church leadership. He has developed the course over a number of years, running it over 35 times in a wide variety of settings.
Can I come on the course?
We’d love you to join us. Details of upcoming courses will be available on our website shortly.
Can I run the course in my church?
Yes! Over the coming months we will be running a training course to prepare people to run the Happiness Course in their own neighbourhood. More information will be released in the next few weeks, but if this is something you would be interested in, please do get in touch and we will put you on the mailing list.
How do I find out more?