Happiness and its Causes

What an elusive and precious concept.

Today I spent an insightful day at the 10th Happiness and its Causes conference in Sydney.

So many notes taken, so much nodding of the head, so much truth, so much purpose.


In short it was great. 

So I will try and unpack, digest, share what I learnt and what resonated with me today. 

So I walked into Luna Park in the rain, thinking to myself


What am I doing here?

People at this conference know stuff, are trained in stuff, understand stuff - I just have felt stuff and am learning stuff.

It was raining and slippery, the protesters for the Dalai Lama where gathering and the police presence was high. 

But I stopped and paused and took a photo of the bridge and the big smiling mouth and thought, how lucky am I to be able to come.

So with that thought in mind, I walked in, nervous but pleased with myself and willing to just take it all in.

I then proceeded to take 28 pages of notes ( it was a small notebook!)

I did tweet, facebook and instagram a fair bit too!. So if you followed along, apologies for spamming your feeds. There is still day 2 to come :)

Some thoughts and ideas from various speakers include

Live a realistic life - Dalai Lama

What we leave behind are not monuments, but marks on the hearts of others - Pericles ( I quite liked that one, That’s not quite what he said, and yes he wasn’t actually present, but that is the gist of the comment) 

Use your intelligence to see your reality - Dalai Lama

Training your mind takes effort - Dalai Lama

He posed the question is modern education equipping young people to appreciate and build their values.

Small moments of connectiveness, meaningful experiences of positivity - lead to a healthier live.

Studies have proven that at a cellular level, mindfulness, eudemonic happiness generates healthier people. Truly amazing stuff. ie doing good ( as opposed to feeling good ) leads to healthier, happier people. 

Doing good, finding meaning and purpose in our lives allows us to find happiness that we need. This is contrary to just feeling good, or seeking good for ourselves.

If we seek to serve others , in ways no matter how small, we actually contribute to our own well-being at a cellular level. 

Meditation, mindfulness, doing good aren’t just wanky, fluffy terms, they actual can be tracked back to well-being and good health in our blood cells. Now that is truly amazing. 

Thank you Professor Barbara Fredrickson.

I also found truly inspirational the Vice Principle of Geelong Grammar Charlie Scudamore speaking about the Institute of Positive Education that is headquartered at their school. His short time on the dais was truly inspiring and really found resonance with the Dalai Lama, particularly as it focussed on how to equip young people with tools to lead a happy and purposeful life. A life of meaning, a life beyond good marks that encompasses all aspects of who they can potentially be. As a parent, I found him amazing. If you were a teacher, you would have loved it.

They also talked about recognising the small moments that build the foundations for a happy life. We all talk about the marquee events in our life, marriage, birth of children, trips overseas as moments of immense happiness, but it is in the small moments of connectiveness that build the path to true happiness.

An interesting presenter was Dr Sue Knight, developer of the Ethics in Schools Curriculum in NSW. She spoke very convincingly about developing the capacity for moral capital in young people, especially critical when for so many faith is no longer the clear cut moral compass it can and should be.

I think back fondly actually to my school and the strong foundation of being more, of contributing more of doing for others at St Mary’s in Wollongong. Our school motto - I am born for higher things - rang very true for me today.

Tired? My brain was really needing caffeine about now..

After lunch - we were woken up with the very funny and real Ruby Wax. Such truth. Very much can relate, not content to just get better, Ruby Wax was drawn to understanding why is my brain behaving in this way and how can I take back control. What followed was a great 15 mins session of laughs and truth. As well as simple tips to get in touch with your senses, short bursts of mindfulness to train your brain.

particularly loved this comment and train of thought - why do we worship at the altar of busy. As a business owner, I see how this was very much a negative trigger for me. Our modern world seems to encourage us to have more, create more wealth, have more things, achieve more accolades, but I wonder if we are working on the right kind of create more and have more activities. For me the sense of purpose of what I was doing had long gone, there was just the ‘many voices’ ( as Ruby put it)

All this communication and we are so alone - Ruby Wax

She spoke very much from the position of a person who knows only too well the constant whirring in your brain, the busy mind, the hamster wheel that you just can’t get off.

But you can takes steps to slow down and then get off.

The simple act of connecting with your senses each day, in a small way does so much good. It is a really simple mindfulness technique, and yes your brain will wonder - but you train it to come back, and to come back again and you get stronger and better at it. We need to use that muscle in our brain and build some new habits, like paying attention.

I was paying so much attention to what she was saying I forgot to take a photo, so I was pleased when she came back out to join the next panel.

But here is a photo of her in a promo for her book Sane New World - which I bought and she signed. 


Why did I like her so much? Because she practices mindfulness and meditation, but not in a hippy, get out your yoga pants, throw away your deodorant and stop shaving your legs way. She was real and full of insight and purpose. A key word for me from today.  


I found Allan Sparkes - beyondblue Ambassador and recipient of the Cross of Valour talk, also grounded in reality. He willingly shares his story of PTSD, but also on the ability to turn it around, to achieve a balance again, to find purpose in your life again and to get back your sense of self worth


Still paying attention?

(hang in there - it is nearly coffee time and then I am done for today!)

Susan Pearce and Martina Sheehan - recognise that most of us aren’t very good at this at all. They shared some interesting stats like

70000 thoughts a day!

90% of them we thought about yesterday!

70% of them are negative!

We have a job to do to fight that. But they encourage people to look up and out - ahah! a find the good moment!

The power of attentiveness animates others - MindGardeners

So then we had coffee! and a few moments to gather some thoughts and buy some books. You saw some of mine at the top of this post. New reading for me..

After a change to refuel on some caffeine, Dr Sue Langley spoke about the importance of fueling our brain with the good stuff to spark creativity and innovation. She spoke engagingly about positive emotions, curiosity and mindfulness and how this sparks our brain into gear, literally creating new white matter, new neural pathways, synaptic action leading to creativity and innovation.

Ignite your neurons! Sue Langley - the Langley Group

The last speaker I had the pleasure of listening to was Chris Skellet, clinical psychologist with the quote of the day. He spoke about his daughter describing what he did when she was very little.

My dad makes sad people happy….like a clown.

He spoke about how we need to strike a considered balance between pleasure and achievement. Again, as a small business owner this also resonated strongly with me. How do I strike that balance. How can I have a fulfilling life within the reality of running a business. 

Do you need to do more or to be more? - Chris Skellet

There is more so much more.I am totally igniting my neurons!

I think I will need to do some mindfulness from my Smiling Mind app to settle to sleep, so much to think about. 


Until tomorrow. Looking forward to it!