Quest to happiness


What are the things that can make a person’s life happier? These include smiling at strangers and cutting television viewing by half.

In an unusual three-month experiment, six specialists from a variety of disciplines worked to improve the happiness levels of a typical British town. The experts tried and tested 10 simple measures on the quest to happiness and found that successful strategies included nurturing a plant, smiling at strangers and cutting television viewing by half. A four-part observational BBC documentary series, Making Slough Happy, follows the team and their progress.

The happiness team includes psychologist Richard Stevens, psychotherapist Brett Kahr, work place specialists Jessica Pryce-Jones and Philippa Chapman, social entrepreneur Andrew Mawson and Richard Reeves, whose expertise spans philosophy, public policy and economics. During the series, they take 50 volunteers from Slough, with the aim of planting the “seeds of happiness” among these people, who will then spread their cheer to others in a ripple effect.

Stevens explained: “The volunteers will take their newfound skills and attitudes out into the community, and in this way we will begin to change the psychological climate of Slough.” Based on best knowledge and research, the team came up with a 10-point plan for happiness. The experts measured the happiness levels of the Slough volunteers before, during and after the end of the project to assess if their methods were effective.

Throughout their experiment, the expert team faced the challenge of selling their science to a potentially sceptical public, unprepared for their unconventional approach — from dancing in a supermarket aisle, to a spot of graveyard therapy and tree hugging.

The top 10 reasons that make people happy are:

• Plant something and nurture it

• Count your blessings — at least five — at the end of each day

• Take time to talk — have an hour-long conversation with a loved one each week

• Phone a friend whom you have not spoken to for a while and arrange to meet up

• Give yourself a treat every day and take the time to really enjoy it

• Have a good laugh at least once a day

• Get physical exercise for half an hour three times a week

• Smile at and/or say hello to a stranger at least once each day

• Cut your television viewing by half

• Spread some kindness

— do a good turn for someone every day.