The Happiness Course

The Happiness course is a four week course designed to address issues of happiness.

It looks at various subjects including the meaning of happiness, forgiveness, gratitude, relationships and success. It is also somewhere to develop new meaningful relationships and is a safe place for people to explore very tough issues. If this is something that you think you might be interested in there is more information below.

Everyone wants to be happy… yet what exactly is happiness?

  • What enables us to grow in it?
  • Is happiness really what we should aim for, or does it come as a by-product of something deeper?
  • Some people seem naturally happy; others are apparently programmed to be grumpy!
  • So is there any point trying to change?
  • What affects our wellbeing and can we bring any change at all?

A recent study of 5,000 adults suggests a person’s happiness is dependent on the happiness of those around them. Apparently, if you are happy you could be increasing the happiness of your neighbours by 25%.

The relationship between people’s happiness levels extends up to three degrees of separation – to the friend of a friend of a friend.  So by being happy and making friends with your neighbour, you can have an impact on the happiness of their friends too!

Doesn’t everyone want to be happy? What’s more important than that? ‘Happiness’, like ‘love’ is often trivialised. But as the course explains, there are various ‘levels’ of happiness, from material ‘pleasure’ to the deeper reaches of relationships and meaning. The Bible too speaks of ‘happiness’ (think of Psalm 1 and the Beatitudes) and points us to those deeper levels. God certainly wants people to enjoy life (see Matthew 11:19 and 1 Timothy 6:17), but makes it clear that this involves much more than just pleasure and material comforts! 1 Timothy 6:6-8 gives us some clues.

As a charity, Livability (and previously as the Shaftesbury Society) has always looked around society for challenges and dark spots – places where we feel called to make a difference. In the past we’ve worked in education, unemployment and homelessness. Today we concentrate on disability and community development.

Over the past few years we’ve seen a new growing need – hopelessness. Anxiety, despair, pointlessness – it affects people from all communities and in all walks of life. We want to help the church respond to this issue.

In the past, Christians have been accused of having a ‘pie in the sky’ approach – simply endure this life for a reward in the next. But we believe that Christians are called to spread Good News about the here and now, which affects everyday life.

When we look at important ‘ingredients’ of a happy life, they include things that are deeply embedded in our faith – gratitude, forgiveness, the importance of relationships, a sense of being a part of something bigger than ourselves. Familiar concepts to Christians, but universally acknowledged as keys to happiness.

There’s a growing, well-respected area of psychology known as positive psychology. It concentrates not on fixing things that are ‘wrong’ with people’s minds, but studying how to improve mental wellbeing for everyone. Scientists are presenting credible research findings which uncover which factors are directly linked to happiness.

Far from being a threat to our faith, the latest research from secular scientists tells us that happiness is deeply linked to our personal and community relationships.

Over four sessions we link the science of happiness with ancient wisdom and real-life experience to give people practical tools to improve their own happiness. Happiness is personal, so we give people time to reflect on their own lives, and the opportunity to share with and encourage each other.

We start by asking the simple question, ‘What makes you happy?’. We examine the different kinds of happiness – pleasure, success, relationship and meaning. In every session we talk about our experiences, examine what science tells us, and then explore practical tools that we can use during the week.

The Happiness Course is deeply Christian – it comes out of our belief that Jesus brings good news that is for all people. However, in the course materials, faith is implicit, not explicit.

The Happiness Course was written by Livability team member Andy Parnham, who has a background in both medicine and church leadership. He has developed the course over a number of years, running it over 35 times in a wide variety of settings.

We’d love you to join us!

Yes! Over the coming months we will be running a training course to prepare people to run the Happiness Course in their own neighbourhood. More information will be released in the next few weeks, but if this is something you would be interested in, please do get in touch and we will put you on the mailing list.

We’d love for you to either attend a course or run one in your local community: