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Exploring what matters – the Nottingham experience

02 Jun 2016 | Sarah Dale

When Diana Pasek-Atkinson and I volunteered to run the Exploring What Matters course from Action for Happiness, we didn't know quite what to expect. 

Afh Nottingham 1

We were enthused by the idea of a practical way to put into practice the Action for Happiness pledge: "I will try to create more happiness and less unhappiness in the world".

And we are both personally motivated by our own experiences of loved ones suffering from depression and unhappiness at times too. A local school, John Clifford School, was keen to support by offering us a venue (and a vital tea urn).

This feels to us like a very topical issue, against a backdrop of uncertainty for many of us in daily life, and news stories that often provoke fear and anger. What really matters? Is it naïve to think we can we create a happier family, community, world?

"I learned a great deal and am inspired to learn more and to put things into action"

Over twenty people signed up. We knew a handful of them but most didn't know each other, or us. Some travelled significant distances around the region to be there (through a tempest on one particular evening).

Both Diana and I are used to facilitating groups in our daily work but on that first evening, it felt a little daunting even so. What were people expecting? Who are these people? Will they get on?

The materials helped. The course is well-designed, with plenty of materials and references for following up and a familiar structure to each evening.

But the participants themselves were, of course, the main ingredient.

Afh Nottingham 2

Over the weeks, people shared inspiring stories of the actions they were taking - from random acts of kindness (somebody will still be puzzling over who paid for their petrol one evening), to new involvement with charities and community activities - including work with refugees, the elderly and lonely, the parish council.

People encouraged each other over job decisions, over difficult personal circumstances, over getting out for more exercise or to establish habits around mindfulness meditation.

The group is meeting again in a few weeks' time, and in the meantime at least three people are considering running the course themselves elsewhere. It looks as if we'll work our way to a regular group locally too.

"Thank you for such a life changing course" 

These people probably wouldn't have met each other had it not been for this course. But not only have the sessions themselves been interesting and uplifting and enabled conversations that don't often get much air-time, but friendships are also being forged.

One participant hasn't been out in the evenings as regularly as this for years as a result of illness and this represents huge change for her. Another didn't know anyone outside of their work.

Others are wrestling with life transitions - new jobs, or retirement, or wanting to change big parts of their lives.

This gave us all a place of safety and support - more so than most of us probably expected at the outset - to explore positive ways of dealing with these. 

"I'm being kinder to myself. It's a wonderful extra bonus"

I must admit, I'd wondered whether eight evenings of voluntarily committing to running the course would come to feel like a chore in an already busy life. It really didn't though. Whatever mood I'd gone out in, I always came home with more of a positive buzz at the end of the evening.

Thank you to all involved!

Afh Nottingham 3

Sarah Dale  @creatingfocus  www.creatingfocus.org
Diana Pasek-Atkinson  @AnaidMPA



Dalai Lama On Bbc

Watch BBC news coverage about the Exploring What Matters course, including support from our patron the Dalai Lama.


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Click here for full list of current courses.

In addition to the courses shown on the map there are many more planned and we hope these will be confirmed and added soon.

For this initial roll-out phase we are focusing mainly on the UK, but we also hope to see the course running in many other countries over the coming years too.

For questions about the course contact courses@actionforhappiness.org

Telegraph HHDL Article

Can you teach yourself to be happy in 8 weeks? (Telegraph magazine, 9 Oct 2015)


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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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