2 weeks ago I returned from my 2nd trip to Bhutan. My first trip, 12 months ago, was a trekking adventure, long silent walks on steep and often dangerous terrain and nights spent in tents. It was fun but I will admit to arriving home thinking ‘I’ve done that now’. This year I headed back on an adventure called the ‘Slow Change Experience’ organised by Sophie Weldon of Humankind Enterprises and Tash of Digital Story Tellers in conjunction with the Gross National Happiness Centre.
The program was designed for and promoted to ‘young change makers’ and while I’m the first to admit that I’m not as young as some and I don’t consider myself a change maker, although there are those who claim my workshops have changed their outlook on health and wellbeing and others who are happy to say that attending one of my community laughter yoga clubs has had a positive impact on their lives, the program caught my interest. With an understanding that you can’t get what you don’t reach for I submitted an application, and to my delight and amazement I was invited to join the group on what would turn out to be an amazing adventure.
Bhutan is a beautiful country with spectacular scenery and delightful and joyous people. Many people also know it as the birth place and home of Gross National Happiness (GNH). One of the aims of the ‘Slow Change Experience’ was to help the participants gain a greater understanding of this unique form of policy making.
Most of our amazing group
My idea for this Hotline was to share a few ideas about Gross National Happiness but it’s as complicated and diverse as it is simple and explaining it can’t be done in a few simple paragraphs. I'll be sharing more in future Hotlines and a new blog site planned for next year but if you'd like to know more now I can recommend this website - http://www.grossnationalhappiness.com/
I plan to return to Bhutan to continue my studies but for the moment I’ll focus on just 3 of what are called the 9 domains of GNH; physical health, psychological wellbeing and preservation of the natural environment. These 3 represent 3 of the core values in my workshops although if you’ve been to one of my workshops you might question where preservation of the natural environment comes in.
Did you know that nature is an integral part of your physical and psychological health and wellbeing? More than once on the ‘Slow Change Experience’ I heard others commenting on the beauty of the Bhutanese environment and how ‘getting into nature’ made them feel relaxed and re-invigorated. Did you know that your brain is wired for nature and that being in a natural environment or being somewhere where you can see a natural landscape will trigger your relaxation response and reduce the production of stress related hormones?
I first became interested in the power of nature several years ago when my husband began riding his bike to work. It only took a few days for his after work conversation to change from the difficulties of his day, mostly commute related issues, to stories of the joy of witnessing the beauty of the sunrise and the delight of seeing the animals and birds that he encounters on his ride.
The human brain evolved into its modern form in nature. For early humans trees and water signalled an oasis, flowering plants and water ways were a sign of possible food, open views meant safety because the lack of vegetation would lessen the chance of surprise attack by predators, and shaded alcoves and coverings offered a safe retreat. Our brain has evolved markedly since those days but research shows that some of the responses from earlier times have been retained and continue to have a positive impact our health and wellbeing.
So, back to my 3 selections from the 9 domains of Gross National Happiness - physical health, psychological wellbeing and preservation of environment. For the sake of your physical and psychological health and wellbeing why not set some time aside to head out into nature? It goes without saying that you should keep yourself safe but why not head out into a park, perhaps take some time to visit a nature reserve or journey down to the beach. Stop and gaze off into the distant trees or the ocean, look up to the sky, and take some time out to really stop and smell the roses, the pine trees or the ocean breeze and witness, as my husband does every day, the animals and birds going about their daily lives. Perhaps you could get some walking in to the mix, we all know that exercise is also good for both our physical and psychological health and wellbeing.
I know that getting out into nature doesn't count as preserving the environment but I also know from personal experience, the more time you spend in nature, the more connected you feel and the more you notice when things aren't right. I've been known to collect the odd bits or indeed bags of rubbish, pull up the odd weed and keep an eye out that my local environment is being cared for. I know they're only small things but they are a start and we all need to start somewhere.
Experiencing the stunning environment in Bhutan was wonderful and something I hope to do again, but you don’t need to go that far, you might be pleasantly surprised by what’s actually very close to where you are.
Jumping became our new standing still!
As this is the last Happiness Hotline before the new year I wish you a wonderful Christmas, a joyous holiday season, and a wonderful start to what I hope will be a brilliant 2017.
Thanks to each and every one of you for all your support this year.
Bob, Jayne, Bron and Kris, your Let’s Laugh Happiness team.