Alan has been leading groups on natural happiness and resilience for years. He writes about ‘The Story Behind Natural Happiness’…
For several years the focus of my learning and teaching was resilience. I believe it’s a crucial skill set for all of us in these uncertain times, but I’ve now decided to put another focus beside it: Natural Happiness. Since 2011, I’ve learned lots about the benefits of resilience, but also the limitations of the concept. Some people find it too cold or ‘technical’ to engage them. And I’ve realised that resilience is a means, not an end.
I’ve coined the term Natural Happiness to sum up this approach, and I’m exploring it on my website, www.naturalhappiness.net, and through newsletters, workshops, videos and blogs. It’s also the focus of my fourth book, which I hope will be published in 2022. Over the years, I’ve led many workshops using this approach, for anyone from lost teens to mega-stressed doctors, and seen how well it works.
Life these days is so complex that we need models and parallels to learn from. You might think there are useful comparisons with systems like computers or cars, but human nature is far subtler. People are organisms: constantly changing, and with this interactions between physical, emotional, mental and other aspects. A much better parallel is cultivated natural eco-systems: farms, gardens or forests where rules of nature apply, but people are trying to shape nature to achieve the outcomes they want. For over 20 years, I’ve been exploring what people can learn from these parallels for their life and work.
How can we stay happy when there’s too much change and uncertainty? Are there ways to bounce back and thrive if everyday life and work is getting us down? The answer is to cultivate yourself like a garden, and grow your own wellbeing by learning from nature. The times we’re in are tough: it’s clear that we need new approaches to thrive in all this. Natural Happiness is a simple, practical guide which can help in your personal life, your work, and living with the wider issues. It will show you how to cultivate your own human nature, and tend yourself like a garden: deepen your roots, and grow happily through all kinds of weather.
I never set out to become a pioneer in using natural ecosystems to help people’s wellbeing, but it has turned out that way. The real catalyst for Natural Happiness came in 1989, when I felt a calling to create an organic farm and education centre, using some of the capital I’d made from a successful business venture. Fuelled by excitement, determination and naive ignorance of what I was getting into, within a year I had set up an education charity, and we had bought a run-down 130-acre farm in West Dorset. Turning this into a flourishing mixed organic farm and innovative education centre is what taught me about organic cultivation from the roots up.
After seven years of this, I realised that people and work teams could learn a huge amount about human sustainability from the parallels with a cultivated ecosystem like this organic farm. Since then, I have refined the model further by creating a 1-acre garden with my wife at our home in Bridport, and by leading workshops for a wide range of audiences, such as horticultural societies and hospital doctors. Try it for yourself!
If you’d like to know more, read my Resource on this website, The Seven Seeds of Natural Happiness.
Alan is co-leading a residential workshop on Natural Happiness on July 9-11 at Hazel Hill Wood near Salisbury: details here.