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The pursuit of happiness

06 Apr 2011 | The Guardian

How do people "bounce back" after a period of adversity in their lives? It's a question hundreds of women in community centres across London have been grappling with in recent months.

In all, 320 women in 20 boroughs volunteered to take part in a series of eight workshops with the alluring title of "DIY Happiness". The workshops were run by Well London, a £9.6m, three-year project funded by the Big Lottery and overseen by the London Health Commission. Its ambitious remit is to "build stronger local communities by getting people working together to improve their neighbourhoods and their health and wellbeing". 

Mental health practitioners and researchers only began relatively recently to focus on promoting mental wellbeing rather than on "treating" individuals with mental illnesses. With proof that good mental health benefits the economy and the population at large, politicians both locally and nationally have begun to take more interest in the topic.

A key breakthrough for this approach in the UK was the Foresight Mental Capital and Wellbeing Project  report, published by the Government Office for Science in 2008. This concluded: "Mental health and wellbeing are fundamental to flourishing individuals, families and communities and to national economic productivity and social cohesion." 

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Action for Happiness

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