International day of happiness 2019: How to be Happy
A London Grilling with the Museum of Happiness
March 20th 2019 is the International Day of Happiness and this year’s theme is ‘Happier Together’, focusing on what we have in common, rather than what divides us. To mark the day, Georgie from the London Living team caught up with Shamash Alidina, co-founder of the Museum of Happiness to find out who they are, what they do and top tips on how to feel happier.
What is the Museum of Happiness?
The Museum of Happiness is a community of people that believe in a happier, kinder and more playful world. We meet at least once a week in Shoreditch on Friday nights to explore how we can not only be happier, but spread happiness, kindness, be creative and build community.
Where did the inspiration come from?
I got inspired through 2 things. 1 – I met someone who was running the Museum of Nonsense in Austria for years. So I thought, if you can have a museum for nonsense (Nonseum), there should be a museum for happiness! And 2 – I saw an advert for a fizzy drink which said something like ‘Drink Happiness’. I thought that was an unhelpful way to teach about happiness to the public – I was determined to offer something better using the word happiness. My co-founder Vicky had similar insights and we decided to somehow go about starting a museum!
What’s your background, how did you get involved?
I’ve been a meditation teacher for 21 years, and used to be a science teacher. In the last 9 years I’ve been teaching mindfulness full-time and in the last 4 years I have been creating this Museum of Happiness together with my co founder Vicky Johnson. I’m passionate about the science of happiness and helping people create habits for happiness.
We know that you started as a pop-up. Do you now have a permanent home? Where can people pay you a visit?
We are currently based in an event space called ’42 Acres Shoreditch’. We run an ‘Awakin gathering’ there once a month, plus every Friday we run different activities such a film screenings and all are welcome. We get people from aged 15 all the way up to 65 years old. From all walks of life!
Sounds amazing! What are Awakin Gatherings?
Awakin gatherings started when three friends got together in 1996 to sit in silence, every Wednesday, in an ordinary living room in Silicon Valley. No teachers or gurus. No set agendas or proposed beliefs either. Just one strong principle, when you change within, the world changes.
Today, Awakin Circles have organically rippled to eighty cities around the Globe. People meditate for the first hour, engage in a circle of reflective sharing in the second hour, and conclude the night by receiving a delicious home-cooked meal. A palpable sense of gratitude and community weaves through it all. The ripples of inner transformation are countless – and continue on.
Every month we come together to sit in silence for an hour, share some aha-moments for the second hour and often have a light meal afterwards. Inspired by many others, who have done this for decades, Awakin Circles offer a space to come together and share in a context of stillness, community and service.
We’ve noticed you have inspiring stories on your website of people finding happiness through positive psychology and mindfulness, do you have a recent one you can share with us?
One of our community members has been suffering from depression all his life. He’s tried all sorts of psychologists and drugs to help himself. But he says coming every week to the Museum of Happiness and being a volunteer has been more helpful than anything else he’s done. He’s now one of our main volunteers, has created a video for us about how he found more happiness in his life and is a wonderful asset for our community.
More inspiring stories can be found on our website: https://www.museumofhappiness.org/
What are your top 5 tips for helping Londoners feel happier?
- Write down what you do in a typical day. How many of those activities make you feel happier? Is it possible to do more of what makes you happy and less of what makes you unhappy?
- Small changes end up making a huge difference. Think of habits like the compound interest of self-improvement. What small, positive habit can you cultivate in your life today?
- Leave a journal by you bed and write down one thing you’re grateful for before going to sleep.
- Do you exercise? If not, just put your trainers on every morning. Small steps!
- As soon as your feet hit the floor in the morning, say to yourself ’Today is going to be a good day’. This has been found through research by BJ Fogg to lead to many more positive actions.
Bonus tip: It’s OK to be unhappy. Happy people make space to feel unhappy too. We welcome the whole spectrum of emotions.
Bonus tip 2: Do something nice for someone else. Smile. Open a door for someone. Make a cup of tea for a colleague. Buy a sandwich for someone on the streets. Text a friend a compliment.
Where are your favourite places in London that are guaranteed to lift your mood?
There’s no place to guarantee a lift in mood, because I think it’s more important to learn to accept our moods to help us feel better…but some nice places to visit when I need a boost include the Canvas Cafe in Shoreditch, a Sunday Assembly event in Holborn (most Sunday mornings), a meditation circle at Awakin.org, a walk along the Serpentine Lake in Hyde Park, or a fancy drink on the top floor of the Shard! And if I feel like a treat, I love a good afternoon tea in a hotel in Central London – I like trying somewhere different each time. My last one was a Science-Themed Afternoon Tea at Ampersand Hotel – yummy!
How can Londoners get involved with the Museum of Happiness, is there a volunteering option?
Yes, there’s a link to volunteer on our website. Or come along to one of our Friday night events. Follow us on Facebook. Share our events with friends even if you can’t make it. You can also recommend us to run happiness training sessions in your company – we’re a non-profit and use our corporate training’s to fund our community work.
If you’d like to follow what we get up to at the Museum, sign up to newsletter on MuseumofHappiness.org