“The intuitive mind is a sacred gift and the rational mind is a faithful servant. We have created a society that honors the servant and has forgotten the gift.” Einstein.
I've been plunged back into the world of London Public Health and sitting on the train home, I am delighted to take a moment to digest the developments that are occurring around wellbeing in the UK. It's all been happening! Mental health is becoming recognised as the key source of ill-health in the UK. In fact, as Lord Layard, the catalyst for 'Action for Happiness' stated at a recent LSE conference; Mental ill-health accounts for half of all sick days off and for almost half of all disabled people on incapacity benefit.
The Happiness/Well-being agenda has been bubbling away in England for the last 10 years. Back in 2001, the Department of health said “How people feel is not an elusive or abstract concept, but a significant public health indicator; as significant as rates of smoking, obesity and physical activity”
It's a powerful statement that has taken several years to really embed itself within the culture of public health. To be honest, we still have some way to go; but, hats off to the UK on this one. I am proud to see that we are making strong steps in the right direction.
After becoming involved in the Three Principles around 5 years ago, I began to recognise the impact that low quality thinking was having in every sphere of my life. In the office I noticed insecure conversations masked as authority. Working in community development I would frequently engage in conversations that, on the surface, appeared full of conflict and defense, but were actually fueled by fear. In my personal life, I began to discern between genuine conversations and those in which I was fixated on my own agenda or issue. I began to grow an awareness of those conversations which were ultimately limited in scope and clarity, due in part to my own limited listening in that moment. Like I've mentioned before, this is mental health. The fluctuating nature of our thinking is something we all confront on a daily basis. Thanks to my understanding of how the three principles of Thought, Mind and Consciousness work, I am more aware than ever of when I have clarity versus cloudy mental health.
England is currently a hotbed for well-being and mental health pressure groups. Lord Layard is currently appealing for a minister for Mental Health. He calls it the 6th pillar to our Welfare State. Given our current cuts and reform, this topic is a political minefield. However, I thoroughly support his view of illuminating the importance of Mental Health for our nation. By doing so, it also begins to dispel the stigma associated with Mental Health. Importantly it also offers a platform for respectful discussion around the importance of our subjective experience. At last we can openly discuss and value our inside world and how it impacts upon our day to day lives.
Our subjective world creates meaning for us through the power of our thought. We humans are thinking creatures and as an early Buddhist text explains 'We are what we think; All that we are arises from our thoughts. With our Thoughts We Make the World'. So our thoughts, our subjective experience, have huge implications for how we navigate our daily life choices. For an English National, these discussions offer the green flag to take our happiness seriously. For our International readers, it may be worth me reminding you of the 'stiff upper lip' for which we Brits are famous. For the most part, try asking a Brit from the elder generation (i.e. the purse string holders!) if they are happy and they'll likely look at you as if you are mad, while replying with a stiff face, "Of course I am". The topic of happiness often becomes like a game of Chinese Whispers, where a genuine and caring question sounds more like an interrogation into how much money someone earns or an attack on how someone is living their life. Or at least this is often my experience. With all this talk about happiness, I've actually felt that there isn't much understanding about what happiness actually feels like. Therefore how can we really know if we have it?
So now, thanks to these people like Layard who are translating Happiness into Economic impact. We have a conversation about happiness that people have to take seriously. If you don't think you are worth being happy for, then be happy for your country! This may be a much more motivating message. And the how to? Well that's here as well thanks to the New Economics Foundation we have the Five Ways to Well-being; CONNECT, KEEP LEARNING, GIVE, BE ACTIVE and TAKE NOTICE, Thanks to the South London and Maudsley Mental Health Trust’s (SLAM) Well London Project; DIY Happiness we have a project which can gently lead people toward activities that remind how it really feels to connect with our felt-sense of happiness. So it's all there for us Brits, the momentum is building, which I find very exciting. I am sure that reconnecting with that felt sense is half the battle. It's the reminder of what's there for us when we loosen our grip on our thoughts and instead go with our felt experience.
At the end of the Layard conference a colleague from SLAM asked a wonderful question, paraphrased as "...Are you concerned with the quality of our thinking during these stressful times" Listening to the podcast earlier today, I applauded her. His answer pointed mostly toward meditation to soothe the mind. But most importantly, it seems to me that this Happiness movement is creating fertile and safe grounds to explore how our intellectual thinking minds may these days be overly dominating our felt, intuitive intelligence. Einstein would be proud.