In my last post, I mentioned a television series called Making Australia Happy, and promised that I’d introduce you to the ideas behind the show. This link leads to the web site attached to the show, as well as to a self assessment Happiness Test. You'll also find suggested guidelines for worksheets, links to the episodes, and the research behind the show. If you're think you could be depressed please seek professional support - if you don't know where to start, try Beyond Blue (link), Lifeline (link) or your local GP (General Medical Practitioner).
Whilst I found the format of the show a bit gimmicky in that it mirrored the games show format of ‘The Biggest Loser’ etc. I stuck with it because of the calibre of the presenters and quality research behind the programme. Normally I’d turn this kind of show off because I’d be very critical of, and skeptical about the validity of the content.
Eight people were selected from a miserable inner city suburb near Sydney. The promotional blurb states “Hoping to find greater fulfillment and meaning in their lives, they’ve signed up to an eight-week happiness program ... they discover that the road to happiness is tough, but that the rewards can be immense…”
They found that happiness changed their biology and the functioning of their brains in a very positive way.
Three professionals from different walks of life explained how their particular intervention would work and how it interlinked with the other two. It is known that each alone is beneficial, but the idea was to encourage each volunteer to adopt all three because of the positive gains when they’re used in combination.
1. Mindfulness was introduced by Dr Russ Harris. When I realized he was one of the presenters I was confident the show would be reputable. Russ trained me in the Mindfulness technique called ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy). I found him to be honest, trustworthy and he acts with integrity. I figured that if he was on board, the quality of the other techniques presented would be equally as good.
Dr Russ Harris taught the eight volunteers some simple, evidence-based techniques for cultivating mindfulness. These were taken from a model called ACT which teaches mindfulness skills through quick, simple exercises rather than the more traditional method of meditation.
The promotional material goes on to say that Mindfulness means paying attention with openness, curiosity and flexibility. The technique (along with other meditation techniques) is gaining the attention of leading medical researchers, psychologists and neuroscientists who are studying the long term benefits for stressed people.
2. Positive Psychology focuses on the value of positive emotions, character traits and environments. The ideas behind Positive Psychology were pioneered by Dr Martin Seligman, and are based on a model of wellness and positive human functioning. A lot of research has been done which supports the benefits of this model. Dr Tony Grant introduces this section.
3. Physical health. A huge amount of research has also been done into the importance of improved physical health to support happiness. A physiotherapist, Anna-Louise Bouvier worked with the participants to look after their bodies, sleep patterns, diet and exercise. As the blurb says “in order to get the most out of their mental training, it was vital for the volunteers to be in good physical shape".
Check out the links, take the test if you want, and have a look at the show if you have time. There's a huge amount of good information and things to do.
Next I'll have a look at other strategies to support those recovering from bullying. I'll revisit ACT and mindfulness later on.