Following a career in medicine, I spent many years in community leadership in inner-city London and overseas. Through my life and work I experienced first-hand the joys and sorrows of 21st century life.
This has given me a distinctive perspective both on the problems we face today and hopeful ways forward.
In a nutshell
Everybody wants to be happy. But in real life “happiness” often turns out to be a little trickier than we expect. If we’re happy when we’re eating our favourite dish; or experiencing satisfaction through work or friendships; or discovering the ultimate meaning of life, isn’t the word just a bit too general and vague? It’s certainly over-used in our culture.
And if happiness is all about smiley faces and positive emotions, what happens when we don’t feel like smiling? Isn’t there more to life than that?
Western society has a particular perspective on happiness and how to achieve it. At the risk of oversimplification, this might be summarised as “Health, Wealth and Happiness” (where happiness is probably more about pleasure than anything else). If we have these in abundance, we are well on our way to living “The Good Life”. Or so the story goes…
Materially, we’ve done extremely well over the past century. During this period, UK life expectancy rose from 50 to 80 years and national wealth increased tenfold.
Health and wealth then…doing well.
So if we measure happiness by what money can buy, there’s plenty to aspire to in our day. But there are other spheres of life that are not flourishing quite so well.
Health experts speak about epidemics of stress, anxiety, depression and loneliness. Nearly one third of sick notes issued by Britain’s GPs are for mental health issues, and depression is currently the second most burdensome disorder in the world (set to be number one in a few years’ time).
Welcome to the less material realms of life.
It appears that the activities and experiences that bring us most satisfaction (relationships, community and a sense of meaning and purpose) are under the greatest strain today.
So is there a connection between our obsession with the material, the rise of mental health problems and the decline of social and meaningful life? And if so, what can we do about it?
Lasting Happiness invites you to travel on a journey towards something more profound than business-as-usual-and-more-of-the-same-pleasure-principle. The route is varied and takes a number of unexpected turns. In the book we explore our universal longings for intimate relationships and a sense of belonging; discover the extraordinary ways in which we perceive ourselves and the world around us; begin to appreciate the vital importance of relationships; and take time to reflect on ways to uncover meaning and purpose in our lives.
That sounds like a tall order for just one book. But that’s just the point. If we are to find lasting happiness, we need to move beyond the anecdotal, fragmentary and disconnected viewpoint that so often characterises life in 21st century Western society. Without a joined-up, wholistic perspective, we are ultimately destined to eke out perplexed and frustrated lives. There’s surely a better way than that to bring us lasting happiness.
Buy the book
Find it at Darton, Longman and Todd
Contact me and let me know your responses and reflections