My Musings from the Happiness Conference


The problems of today are because there is too much self-centeredness – His Holiness The Dalia Lama

While money and material things can add comfort and a degree of security to our wellbeing, they are not the basis for wellness or happiness.  The important things in life involve our relationships with both ourselves and other people.  As Stephen Covey said in his book, The 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, “No one every laid on their death bed and wished they had spent more time at the office”.

The Happiness Conference in Brisbane presented a number of amazing speakers including Buddhist monks – The Dalai Lama being one of them!, and eminent researchers in brain science, anthropology and sociology from around the world.  They presented convincing evidence on what influences our perception of happiness and how we can become happier.  So, what is happiness and how can we achieve it?

Keynote speaker Matthieu Ricard says that “happiness is not limited to a few agreeable sensations, intense pleasure or a burst of joy.  Rather, it is a way of being and of experiencing the world; a profound fulfillment that suffices every instant of life and endures despite the inevitable daily hazards we encounter” (2011).

Nobody wakes up in the morning and wishes for more unhappiness or suffering – we all seek to find a true sense of happiness, which for some people seems easy and for others it seems quite elusive.  A lot of people tend to look outside themselves to find happiness which often fails.  Genuine happiness is feeling deeply fulfilled, which arises from cultivating a healthy mind and body – a way of being that pervades all emotional states which is built on resilience and provides us with the inner resources to deal with whatever comes our way.

Here are some of the major take-away’s from the keynote speakers (in no particular order):

  • Science and spirituality are having dialogue that places them closer together than previously thought.
  • Compassion, love, altruism and kindness are the cornerstones of highly functioning happy individuals, groups, communities and beyond.
  • These attributes can be learned and cultivated.
  • The more kindness and altruism that occurs the more kindness and altruism occurs – it is an evolutionary phenomena that reduces selfishness of a group over generations.
  • Mirror neurons provide a hardwired mechanism in our brain to develop compassion, kindness, love and altruism whereby people can learn these attributes through imitation.
  • Sugar is a kind of “sweet poison” that increases our body fat, creates illness and reduces dopamine and serotonin receptivity in the brain – thus reducing our ability to feel naturally happy and sated. (See IMPACT’s Newsletter August 2010).
  • Our children are being marketed to from birth.  The media and marketing they are exposed to contains violence, degradation and sexualising children which is not OK.  As adults we need to help our children make healthy choices and reduce their exposure to these things as it is affecting their mental well-being.
  • We have a global responsibility and stewardship of our planet and we need to take action now to reduce the global degradation of natural resources and habitats that house our biodiversity, to reduce stress and hopelessness children are feeling about the planet they are inheriting.
  • Altruistic happiness recognises and respects our interdependence and interconnectedness and is developed through empathy and loving kindness to others.
  • Bee colonies have systems that suppress selfish behaviour for the good of the group.
  • Having unsatisfied expectations or comparing oneself to others can reduce life satisfaction.
  • People living in the slums in Calcutta rated their overall life satisfaction higher than people living in USA.
  • To foster happiness:
    • Identify your purpose, goals and values
    • Do random acts of kindness (see IMPACT’s Newsletter October 2010)
    • Practice mindfulness
    • Focus on your strengths, and the strengths in others
    • Practice gratitude
    • Practice forgiveness
    • Develop social networks – family, friends, community, citizenship
    • Look after your physical wellbeing – sleep, exercise, nutrition.
  • The root of happiness across the globe seems to be about bringing people together and doing things together.
  • Everything we do affects everyone else – (the quantum nature of things).
  • Resilience is the key to maintaining happiness  (see IMPACT’s Newsletter July 2010)
  • For true happiness and wellbeing we need to have the unconditional love of at least one other person.
  • Having a cup half full cognitive style (personality) helps us feel happier.
  • How we filter data in our brain produces attention biases, which influence what we pay attention to – do we see the positives or negatives in something?
  • We can develop choice in how we react to things.
  • Being present with other people reflects mindfulness in the moment (turn off mobile phones!).
  • When we change our relationships from transactional to meaning we create greater depth of purpose and fulfillment.
  • We all need someone/something to love, something to do, and something to look forward to.
  • Being in nature can be extremely uplifting and inspiring – notice noticing nature and appreciate the moment.
  • We need a system of health care and social care to support the healthy development of young people.
  • Everything exists in relationship to everything else – nothing exists in a vacuum.
  • The greater the introspection, the greater the clarity we get – continue to observe your thoughts.
  • To think like Leonardo Da Vinci:
    • Be curious and develop an insatiable quest for knowledge and continual improvement
    • Develop independent thinking and learning from experience
    • Sharpen your senses to notice everything
    • Manage ambiguity and be flexible to change
    • Utilise whole-brain thinking
    • Be physically fit and strong
    • Think systems thinking. (IMPACT runs a program that explores the Da Vinci facets of creativity – go to for more information)
  • Positives can be found in all adversity – it is a choice – even in 9/11.
  • Music is a universal bond that creates happiness.
  • Resilience is built by:
    • Building a social network
    • Finding your passion
    • Balancing your lifestyle – work, play, mind, spirit, health, relationships
      • Having a plan to build resilience.
  • Genuine happiness comes not from what we get from the world but from what we give to the world.
  • Happiness leads to success not the other way round.

“We must realise that in the deepest part of ourselves, we do not want to suffer;

we want to be happy.  Once we have recognised this aspiration, the next thing we

must do is realise that all beings share it”  Matthieu Ricard, 2011.

The conference provided some great affirmation of what I am doing in my own life and with my clients to foster happiness.  One of the strategies I share with my clients in the 90 Days to Success Program is to ensure they build the following habits by undertaking them every day.

    Tick                        Task                                        Comments

  •          I read my goal morning and night       ­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­­___________________
  •          I read/listened to an inspiring teacher  ___________________
  •          I meditated for 15-20 minutes              ___________________
  •          I focused on what I wanted                  ___________________
  •          I used positive language                       ___________________
  •          I laughed and had some fun                ___________________
  •          I affirmed myself and others                ___________________
  •          I exercised and ate well                        ____________________
  •          I completed my gratitude journal        ___________________

I would be most appreciative if you would share your thoughts, feeling and strategies for happiness with me.  Please click this link to go to the Happiness Survey – which will only take a few minutes to complete –  I will let you know the results for the survey next month.

Posted in On Happiness