A review of The Happiness Lab from Shirehampton

A dozen delegates for The Happiness Lab met for their first session in the Tithe Barn in Shirehampton. They had answered an invitation in the local newspaper, or been personally invited by members of St Mary’s congregation to an exploratory drop-in session one Saturday morning in which they had watched a promotional video and chosen to sign up for the course.

Rev Helen Johnson said “I was surprised by the strong response. We had clearly identified a pressing need which people were prepared to do something about. Many of them had no connection with our church, and they stayed with us for all of the sessions.”

The course consists of 6 group sessions covering: Savouring and Gratitude, Acts of Kindness, Forgiveness, Friends and Family, Body and Soul, Resilience and Coping strategies. Delegates are invited to do experiments related to these topics during the intervening weeks, in order to find out ‘what works for them’ and thereby increase their happiness. At the start of each session, delegates discuss how they got on during the week. This is followed by input from a DVD, which follows a group of delegates from Lydney and shows their reactions to expert input from GPs, psychologists, psychotherapists and faith leaders (+Martin Snow). Delegates then explore their reactions and their own approach to the issues raised, and plan how they will respond in the weeks ahead.

At the end of the course, Delegates were asked: What were the benefits of the course for you? Replies included:

“Time and space to consider what is important and helpful in life”

“Savouring moments by slowing down”

“Tips about resilience”

“Looking at life differently with a more positive outlook.”

“Helping with bad thoughts and giving peace”

“Reminded me that happiness needs to be worked at”

“More belief in myself”

At the final session, delegates were encouraged to continue their experimentation and were invited to follow-up courses in Shirehampton.

Rev Ian Bailey, who led the course with Helen, commented that “This zone between un-churched and occasional-attenders is something we are wrestling with at the moment in Shire and in the wider Mission Area. The Happiness Lab is excellent material to bridge this gap in a non-churchy way. It pre-supposes nothing about the delegate’s worldview, understanding or beliefs: it really does start wherever they are. It aims to help delegates appreciate that they are “spiritual beings in a material universe”. Shire will run follow-up courses to build from that, ultimately to finding faith as we know it. The Happiness Lab has proved to be very popular among its target audience and we have a waiting list for the next one in 2018.”