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Pursuit of happiness

20 Sep 2011 | The Guardian

I am sitting across a table from my sister-in-law, outside a small Italian restaurant, reading her a letter. As experiences go, it's toe-curling. I am telling her everything I'm grateful to her for. It's like a bad episode of Oprah. Surely us Brits aren't built for this stuff?

But according to Action for Happiness, little things like this can really improve our lives. The movement, founded by LSE professor Richard Layard and Dr Anthony Seldon, aims to create positive social change, and comes as the government prepares to publish findings this autumn on its proposed happiness index.

The movement's core idea is that we should all try to create more happiness. Or, to paraphrase the Dalai Lama, happiness doesn't just happen to you, you have to work at it. To this end, a list has been drawn up of 50 activities, from getting to know neighbours to unplugging from technology, that can make positive changes to our lives. But can they work? I spent a week finding out …

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