Reasons to be Cheerful

Like me, you’re probably exhausted with the negative headlines dominating our media. Publishers and the advertisers who fund them, understand how to play to our primal fears. We are programmed to be alert to any threat to our physical and psychological safety.

So last week I was delighted to read a recent report published by the Resolution Foundation, which demonstrated that average well-being in the UK has actually been increasing for most of us over the last 20 years.

The Happy now? report shows that econcomics matter, but only so far. Having a home is critical, as is paid employment. A higher paid job initially leads to higher well-being, but with diminishing returns. CEOs please note. Conversely, losing your job has a bigger negative impact on your well-being than the positive impact of getting a new job.

But the report also includes responses to the 12 questions of the General Health Questionnaire, which asks us people if they have recently:

  1. Been able to concentrate
  2. Lost much sleep
  3. Felt that they were playing a useful part in things.
  4. Felt capable of making decisions.
  5. Felt stressed.
  6. Felt that they couldn’t overcome difficulties.
  7. Been able to enjoy normal day-to-day activities.
  8. Been able to face up to their problems.
  9. Been unhappy and depressed.
  10. Been losing confidence.
  11. Been thinking of themselves as worthless.
  12. Been feeling reasonably happy, all things considered.

I really like these questions and believe we should ask them about our working lives, as well as our personal lives.

The other thing that happened last week was an opportunity to speak at a Board dinner, when I was asked to give an inspiring and uplifting speech about the future. In the Q&A which followed we discussed how people in Britain were feeling and I cited this report. I also asked how many dinner guests around the table watched the BBC DIY SOS series in which my friend Nick Knowles and his team bring together over a hundred tradesmen and women to rebuild the homes of people suffering illness or disability. Most did watch it and we agreed that not only did it showcase the best in our society, it also gave us an emotional lift and faith in ordinary people and our local communities.

I guess this is why our culture and our well-being are shaped by the stories we choose to tell and to hear.

I prefer love stories.

“There is only one happiness in life, to love and be loved.”

George Sand