On Local Charities day we're putting the spotlight on some of the regional organisations making waves in their communities. Here, Nicola Arnold tells us about the incredible work done by Action for Happiness, and why volunteering means so much to her
What happened to living life on purpose - not that of the post you saw yesterday and trying to fit into it like a square peg in a round hole?
Isn’t the point of being authentic to live life through our own values and be who we want to be? Following our own dreams and goals and taking our lives in the direction that works for us.
When was the last time you took a moment and asked yourself 'what matters to me?' It’s a question I pose to people I work with as a resilience coach and also as a volunteer for the organisation Action for Happiness (AfH).
Last year I completed the Action for Happiness 'Explore what matters' course and found it gave me new perspectives, time for myself and a new outlook on life. In fact I enjoyed it so much that I have just announced dates for my fourth course as a volunteer course facilitator on behalf of AFH running a course in Farnborough, Hampshire.
Volunteering and supporting charities is an important part of who I am. As a Brownie guider, having received my 20 year service award last year, I’m no stranger to hard work, dedication and putting in the hours. For me it’s about making a positive impact on other people’s lives and encouraging community spirit. The Action for Happiness charity organisation is a movement of people committed to building a happier and more caring society. They see a fundamentally different way of life - where people care less about what they can get just for themselves and more about the happiness of others.
The course is backed by the Dalai Lama and analysis of the course has been found to have a profound impact on participants.
The course is based on the latest scientific evidence and is intended for people of all backgrounds, particularly those who would like to see a more positive and caring society.
Each session has a theme, based on a 'big question', such as what really matters in life? What actually makes us happy? and How should we treat others?
The course is run over 8 sessions, which take place weekly and last for 2 hours. Each session follows the same format, which has been designed to be inspiring and interactive, including:
- Tuning in: simple activities that are great for wellbeing (e.g. mindfulness exercise)
- Expert view: an inspiring 15 minute TED-style video/talk from a leading expert (including Richard Layard, Ed Diener, Jon Kabat-Zinn, Karen Amrstrong, Brene Brown, Shawn Achor)
- Personal view: a chance for people to reflect on their own experiences
- Did you know?: fascinating and surprising research findings relating to the theme
- Group discussion: sharing ideas in groups and listening to each other's perspectives
- Action ideas: everybody comes away with an action they hope to take as a result
The Weekly themes:
Creating awareness of self worth and feeling happier in our own skin is something that is very important to me. Being able to share the AfH principles, meet new people and create new connections in such a positive environment is fantastic. The course platform leads for some rich and diverse conversations and many of the participants have continued to stay in touch with each other and form lasting friendships.
In September 2016 along with some of the graduates from the course, we launched the Hampshire Happiness Hub to create a longer lasting impact on the community. It provides those that have attended the course an opportunity to continue their mindset work and meet up with likeminded people to support each other.
So far we have held four stand alone evenings to build up the Hampshire Hub community. These have focussed on channelling gratitude, introducing mindfulness, building resilience and building a kinder society. The community is growing by the month and other members are now contributing to the evenings which really strengthens the bond of the forty strong group.
Sophie joined one of my courses with an aim of wanting to feel more alive and less frustrated with life in general. She was open to admit that she struggled with connecting with positivity and wanted to foster better relationships with the ones she held close to her heart. What was beautiful to witness was how the whole group supported Sophie with her perceptions and without judgement encouraged her to try new perspectives and small changes that would help her to embrace who she was without all the rules she was placing on her life.
The result? The most beautiful soul who came alive, channelled a gratitude attitude and strengthened the relationships with her loved ones.
Annie joined one of the courses with an aim of wanting to discover more of what life meant to her. She brought honesty and bravery to the room with her honest admissions about what why she was on the course and offered some really thought provoking contributions to the discussions. Again, the group held her where she needed to be and she too offered such support to other members as they shared what was on their minds too.
The result? A lady who has embraced self compassion. Who has rediscovered a love for the things that make her smile and a new found strength to go out and there and take small steps to create the life she wants.
Together as a group both these participants learnt that art of saying no to aspects of their lives which didn’t serve them; and yes to embracing self love, kindness and that happiness is most definitely a choice. All of this was born through providing a safe space for the group to share their thoughts, explore what mattered to them and connect with courage to take small actions to increase their happiness.
So for me – it’s my opportunity to awaken the community to this and remind people that they matter.
Find out more about Action for Happiness on their website.