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Movement launches with free hugs and love

13 Apr 2011 | Guardian

As drivers angrily beeped their horns and cyclists weaved impatiently through London's traffic, Amandeep Hothi stood cheerily on the pavement holding aloft a sign offering, in pink letters, "Free Hugs".

Hothi is part of a new group called Action for Happiness, whose members aim to boost the net amount of joy in the world by being kind to others and countering "an epidemic of loneliness and isolation".

The movement was launched yesterday at Jerwood Hall in the City of London, where the movement's co-founder told attendees - who wore badges with slogans such as "Love more!" and "I'm up for more happiness!" - that they could "turn the rising tide of excessive individualism".

"Despite the fact that we are getting richer, after 60 years we still haven't managed to produce a happier society," said Professor Richard Layard, head of the wellbeing programme at the London School of Economics. "We are asking people for an individual commitment to aim to produce more happiness and less misery.

"The time is right. There is a worldwide hunger for something better, and we believe we can harness it," he added.

The movement's supporters say it is not just about fluffy slogans or interfering do-gooders. Founded last year, it requires members, who can sign up via a website, to set up action groups to promote happiness wherever possible: at work, at home or in the community.

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