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Can mindfulness change the world?

05 Jun 2017 | Florence Scialom

Last week I attended an Action for Happiness event called From Mindfulness to Action, featuring the renowned author and Emotional Intelligence expert Dan Goleman.

The World Is Changed By Your Example (wide)

The theme of the event was the relationship between mindfulness and social change; or how our personal happiness connects to the influence we can have on the wider world. 

Dr Goleman has plenty of authority in this area. He is an internationally recognised psychologist and bestselling author, and his books include A Force for Good, written with The Dalai Lama. His more recent work has focused on the potential of mindfulness to change the world.

Af H Team With DG Small
Daniel Goleman (2nd from left) with (from left to right) Professor Richard Layard, Dr Mark Williamson and Alex Nunn from Action for Happiness.

Why practice mindfulness?

Goleman is a strong advocate of mindfulness, saying it offers us "a workout in the mental gym". In the same way that we exercise our bodies for good health, we should also exercise our minds through mindfulness practices, he argued.

Mind Full Or Mindful

The benefits on offer are vast: Mindfulness has been proven to strengthen our cognitive control, improve our memory and helps us to switch more rapidly between tasks. Plus, Goleman highlighted that in our age of smart technology it has become even more important to maintain and strengthen our attention spans.

There is a wealth of evidence on offer showing the benefits of mindfulness for our personal health and happiness, but what relevance does this have in the wider world?

We can all be agents of change

Through his work with the Dalai Lama, Goleman highlights that taking mindful care of yourself is actually just one step of a wider, yet integrated process. Mindfulness is actually more effective if practiced with a sense of compassion, built upon empathy for others and for the natural world.

Afh Goleman 1

There are many challenges in the world today, and change is needed in many areas, including our economic systems and the way we care for the environment. Yet, although we are bombarded with negative headlines each day, there are also many people working towards positive change.

"Acts of kindness far outweigh hostility every day of the year", Goleman said. If we practice mindfulness with compassion it offers us a wider awareness of the possibilities for change, and can strengthen our ability to act.

Afh Goleman 3 

"We can all be positive agents of change; the important thing is to act", said Goleman. The event closed with a wider discussion about how we would each like to act to change the world. There are thousands of ways that each of us can act to create positive change, and Goleman encouraged us that no change is too big or too small.

People then shared a wide range of pledges for action, from taking the time to listen to people with differing views, to adopting a more vegan diet.

Overall the evening highlighted that having compassion for ourselves through mindfulness can be extended outwards in empathy and compassion towards others. If we are able to act from this understanding we can change the world, even if this starts in small, yet significant, ways.

Afh Goleman 2


Let's build wellbeing together

Acknowledging the connection between personal happiness and wider wellbeing in society and the natural world is central to our work at the Network of Wellbeing (NOW). We believe that people's happiness depends in part on the health of the communities in which they live and the health of the natural world on which we all depend.

In September 2017, we are running a Building Wellbeing Together Weekend at the beautiful Hawkwood College in Stroud UK, exploring how we can work together to create more wellbeing. The event will feature a workshop from Action for Happiness and from other inspiring projects, such as Museum of Happiness and the Gross National Happiness Centre.

So, if you feel passionate about how we can build wellbeing together; in our own lives, in wider society and in harmony with the natural world, then you can learn more and book your ticket today!


Dalai Lama

"Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions".

- Dalai Lama


Live life mindfully

Awareness 200

A Force For Good

Dan Goleman's fantastic new book about the Dalai Lama's vision for our world.

A Force For Good

We are honoured that the work of Action for Happiness features in the book as an example of his ideas being put into practice.

Book: Ten Keys to Happier Living

Ten Keys Book Packshot

Order your copy of our inspiring, science-based book and discover how to live a happier life and help create a happier world.


Download our Keys to Happier Living posters for children

Giving Extra Small Relating Extra Small

Exercising Extra Small Awareness Extra Small


The Keys to Happier Living toolkit is a fantastic set of teaching resources designed for use with 7-11 year olds

Cover Toolkit Small


Afh Gathering 2

Check out the latest news on the roll-out of our "Exploring What Matters" course in communities across the UK and beyond

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