Lifestyle · Mental Health · Mindfulness · Self Esteem

The Museum of Happiness

A few weeks ago, I chanced upon the Museum of Happiness’ Twitter account. Upon spotting it, I was delighted to discover that it was to be a real physical space in London. Today, I had the pleasure of attending The Museum of Happiness’ launch party. A day of absolute happiness!

Dashing to Camden Town after my train was running late, I hoped I wasn’t going to miss anything. I was hotly anticipating the event and didn’t want to miss a second. Luckily, I arrived just in time to see Shamash Alidina, one of the founders of Museum of Happiness, cut the ceremonial ribbon to announce the museum officially open.

The space was one main room, with a couple of offshoots – a quiet, soothing, low lit meditation room full of cushions and a creative room full of glitter and pom poms. The main space itself was delightful. It was open and airy, with a sky roof for half of the room, decorated with coloured paper lanterns. On the walls were various facts about happiness and blackboards underneath, inviting visitors to write down their thoughts and feelings on each topic. A wall near the far end was adorned with the museum’s four core values: kindness, creativity, community and mindfulness. And for me, the part of the room that placed a smile on my face was the turf floor, scattered with blue cushions, crate tables, a few chairs and parasols.

The contents of the day had enough rays of happiness for everyone. It started with an intro from the co-founders andd director – Shamash, Vicky Johnson, Rosa Connor – about their journey and vision for the museum. Three years ago, the museum was just a dream and today they all realised that dream, standing in the space that had once only been a thought, and sharing it with us all. This reminded me of a post I wrote about Paolo Coehlo’s The Alchemist – a ‘dare to dream and to follow that dream’ event.

Alex Nunn from Action for Happiness gave a short intro to his work with communities, making active moves to motivate and engage people to live happier lives and to pass happiness on to others. He introduced short mindfulness and gratitude exercises.

Heather Mason ran a talk on her passion – yoga and the brain. Combining her expertise in yoga and neuroscience, she explained the mental health benefits that yoga creates, highlighting investigatory work that has been done in scientific/medical fields.

Author of Happiness and How to Change the World, John Paul Flintoff, gave a highly entertaining talk on how it is ok to say ‘no’. He provided various exercises for us all to practice saying no (apparently a kind way of saying it is with eyebrows raised and a higher pitched tone 😛 ). It was a great topic for a talk as I often feel that due to peer pressure in communities, people can feel inclined to say yes to everything. It’s important to feel comfortable to say ‘no’ and set healthy boundaries so that each of us are true to ourselves and others with our actions and engagements.

During the breaks, we ate food cooked/baked by other guests in the ‘potluck’ style of dining, often found in community settings and temples. I enjoy this mode of eating as it really is a case of producing something for others to enjoy and receiving back. I made some chia seed and organic cocoa cookies, which I hoped were tasty…one person went back for a second, so it couldn’t have been all bad 🙂

We also engaged in innovative playful conversations, created by Anya. There was a roll-a-dice boardgame style Q&A and ‘talking sticks’, where one guest would pick a lolly stick with a question on it and ask another guest a question as an icebreaker. It was extremely well thought out and engaging, making it easier to learn more about others beyond the standard small talk. It also worked well in small and large groups.

After lunch was a highly suitable exercise for the post-lunch-slump, a.k.a. food coma. Shamash ran a group beditation, a guided meditation with everyone lying on the turf. This was followed by laughter yoga with Melanie Bloch. It was my first time engaging in laughter yoga and I now regret not bellowing out whilst I had the chance to release the stress. I didn’t know what to expect, but it was a time to lie back, kick and scream out the stress, laugh, make silly noises and later hug everyone in the room! I’d seen these types of yoga on TV before and thought they looked a bit too eccentric for me, but having now completed a session of laughter yoga, I can understand why it’s gained increasingly larger followings over the past few years.

Charlie Claydon then followed the laughter yoga by cementing the happiness in the room through inviting us to trial his vegan chocolate range, which will launch later this month. All profits will towards My Mental Health, Charlie’s social enterprise.

The day was rounded up with a rendition of Walking on Sunshine with amended lyrics relating to the day, led by Sarah Weiler.

All in all, a thoroughly happy day and some new friends made along the way. What makes the museum isn’t the space itself. It’s the people. The engaging activities, connecting people together. If you’re a Londoner or just visiting, make a trip to Museum of Happiness. It’s a very special place and I wish the team every success beyond the launch!

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Visit http://www.museumofhappiness.org for more details about the museum and its events

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