Childish ways to maximise happiness

img_7492The ancient Greek philosopher Plato believed that humans were born with perfect knowledge, but somehow forgot it all at birth. So acquiring knowledge later in life is actually recollecting things we already knew.
I remember thinking this was absurd when I first read it (at school where I appeared to be learning all sorts of things that seemed to be totally new). But, as time goes by, I increasingly think that he has a point.
I am currently working with an Indian media company. In the newsroom I saw a notebook with these words on the outside:

The creative adult is the child who survived.

This got me thinking. The amazing thing about the people who work in that newsroom is how incredibly hard they work. They are a business channel covering the ruckus of the Bombay Stock Exchange in a roller coaster of live output with flashing tickers, graphics and logos. Every moment there is a breaking “flash” as another company releases its results, or a stock price “tanks” or “spikes”. But despite working very long hours and under great pressure, they seem happy – childishly happy –  not that they are in any way childish themselves (they are utterly seasoned professionals). They are childishly happy in the way that a child is happy when totally engrossed in his or her play: demonstrating utter concentration and dedication, and a sense of fun and enjoyment. It’s wonderful to see.

So this article in Time 4 Ways to Live a Happier Life caught my eye when it popped up on my Twitter feed the same week. The author, Eric Barker, quotes the philosopher Nietzsche, echoing Plato’s theme:

A person’s maturity consists in having found again the seriousness one had as a child at play.

The article advocates smiling, laughing, touching and teasing as its 4 routes to happiness. These should all be easy to do, “child’s play” as the saying goes, because they are all things that kids do naturally. The article concludes, if you want to be happy:

resolve to approach life like a big kid.

When you think about it, it’s obvious: we instinctively know that it is correct …. and yet somehow we stressed-out adults have managed to forget that simple truth. Perhaps Plato was right after all.

Simple ways to minimise stress

Photo by "impure_with_memory" on Morguefile
“Three little birds … singing sweet song” [Photo by “impure_with_memory” on Morguefile]
Every project causes stress. It’s part of the challenge. But it’s easy to become obsessed about the small details, the milestones, the timeline and forget about the people.  If your team is too stressed, they won’t perform at their best, and your project will be at risk.

Need a simple solution?  Try this one, in a message I sent to the Victoria Derbyshire programme launch team on Happiness Day 2015, two weeks before launch, with tension rising …….


20 March 2015

SUBJECT: Happy Happiness Day

I’ve seen a lot of tired faces over the last week, and heard a lot of people saying “I’m really worried about ….”, “….. has been keeping me awake at night”, “I am so stressed about ….”

These last two weeks before launch will be tough and they will be scary because there are a lot of things still to do, and some things will go wrong. And that is exactly what we want because we will be pushing the boundaries because we want to know where the boundaries are.  And this is how every programme that was ever launched has been – the last few weeks are incredibly full-on.

So it’s really important that you all look after yourselves.  Make sure that, when you are not at work, you manage to relax.  Make sure you get enough sleep. Don’t worry about things you have no control over. And if (when!) the stress starts to get the better of you, recognise it (we are all human) and I recommend doing four things (you too Louisa and Barry!!):

  1. Stop and walk away.
  2. Smile at yourself in the mirror (trust me – it works).
  3. Breathe deeply, slowly and rhythmically for at least 2 minutes (scientifically proven to reduce stress – if you’re interested watch this TED talk by Dr Alan Watkins).
  4. Listen to whatever music will help you relax or release a wave of positive emotions. I usually find Bob Marley ensures I don’t worry.  [If music is not your thing try chocolate or something utterly delicious, exercise, lavender scent, etc. etc.]

What we really need is calm hearts and cool minds. Trust me, everything will be alright on the morning:  We’ve got the most amazing galaxy of talent all pulling together.

We will only launch this great programme once, so make sure you really enjoy it.

(Uncle) Sam

Sam Whipple
, BBC News Change Coordinator