Moonlit cacao and the sweetness of doing nothing

Do you like to party? IDOH!

The Museum of Happiness took on some multicultural flair on March 20th for a very special International Day of Happiness party!

Our community gathered together to explore the secrets of happiness from around the world. Forms of mindful movement have enormous followings, particularly in India and China. Many turn to the natural world, whether it's rising early and listening to the dawn chorus in Sweden or enjoying the beauty of spring Cherry blossom in Japan. And in Croatia, they have a word for the sweetness of doing absolutely nothing - Fjaka!

Throughout the evening food was shared, new friendships were made, gratitude bingo was played, an enormous hand-made happiness flag was born and some rather fierce shapes were thrown on our silent disco dance floor! All in all, a beautiful evening of sharing, love, kindness, insights and smiles. Not bad for a Tuesday!

Our first ever wellbeing residential!

We recently had the privilege of teaming up with London Youth and Rap Association to run our first wellbeing residential for young people.

Eight youth clubs with members from an enormous diversity of different backgrounds and circumstances gathered for a weekend of happiness, kindness and self-care. Together, we explored practical tools and techniques that can be implemented in everyday life to improve wellbeing.

The young people were greeted by handmade gifts left on their pillows before an evening of ice-breakers and meditation to prepare everyone for a fun packed weekend ahead. Morning yoga was followed by a wide variety of workshops including Understanding Feelings, Cultivating Confidence, and Building a Happiness Toolkit. A real highlight was a beautiful nature walk in the forest, concluding with reflections over hot cacao around a moonlit campfire!

It was incredible to see the compassion and acceptance amongst the group, the love and commitment from the youth workers and the kindness and support all the young people showed one another. Excitingly, many shared plans to spread happiness in their own local communities after returning home!

Learning to handle pressure in just one day

It was fantastic to welcome a lovely group of Chevening Scholars to the MOH for a wellbeing day earlier this week. The order of the day was to explore strategies to handle pressure and avoid burnout.

We started by examining the amazing power of gratitude to rewire the brain and how focussing on just three good things each day can make a significant difference to long-term happiness.

We discussed the importance of treating ourselves as a good friend and asking ourselves the vital questions- 'what would a wise and kind person say?' and 'how can I best take care of myself right now?'

We then demystified stress by examining its biological and psychological effects on the body, before the group used this new-found knowledge to create personal stress-management plans.

Along the way, we meditated, made happiness pledges and shared insights with one another. After just one day together the students were already feeling happier, calmer and better equipped to tackle stress!

Sharings and journeys at the Winter Happiness Festival 2018

“It’s almost like you could feel the love in the room”

On Sunday 4 February, the Museum of Happiness wrapped up its 2018 Winter Happiness Festival with a celebratory Gong Bath. Approximately 2,000 visitors attended during the two-week festival, which started on Saturday 20 January. The festival’s highlight was a ball pit filled with over 30,000 white balls and loads of soft blue pillows. The rest of the Museum space was filled with installations and activities intended to inspire happiness and happiness workshops and talks were held throughout the festival.

“We wanted to create an event that brought people from different backgrounds, where people can come together and channel their inner child,” said Vicky Johnson, a Co-founder and Director of the Museum.

The timing of the festival was meant to lift the mood and inspire happiness at a time when people are feeling the most down.

“Blue Monday [generally the third Monday of January] is supposed to be the most depressing time of year,” Vicky said. “And winter can be quite a depressing, lonely, isolating time of year in general.”

Sasha Mattock, a London resident, first came to the museum for an Awakin Circle meditation event and she was so charmed by the experience that she came back again on the final day of the festival.

“It’s been really lovely and welcoming,” she said. “Everyone just invites you into the space. I like it because everyone is really open and honest with the way they interact. I realised that’s what’s been making me uncomfortable in London and how different a space is when you can really say how you are and aren’t being shut out.”

The Museum of Happiness operates thanks to the help of many dedicated volunteers. Extra hands were brought on deck during the festival to meet the needs of the increased volume of visitors. The volunteers interacted with the guests, welcomed them into the space, sat down to chat, made tea, and worked side-by-side with them on activities.

One Arlington House resident, best known at the Museum as James the Poet, was a regular fixture at the museum throughout the Winter Happiness Festival. In addition to making tea and chatting with guests, James wrote and shared his poetry. He often asked visitors what they’d like to read a poem about and then wrote it there, on the spot. By the end of the festival, he estimated that he’d written about 150 poems in the span of two weeks.

“I come down and write my poetry and let other people see them,” James explained. “If they’re feeling down, hopefully, it makes them feel better. It’s helped change my life.”

James’ inspiring story touched many of the attendees. On the opening day of the event, James shared the hardships he’s been through and read some of his poems for a group of attentive guests, seated on the cushy astroturf floor.

“If it wasn’t for Rosa and Vicky, I probably wouldn’t be alive right now,” James said.

Prior to moving into the hostel, James had been homeless and caught up in gang activity. He was stabbed and nearly lost his life last year. Life has never been easy for James and he said he considered giving up many times. But he met the staff and volunteers at the Museum of Happiness who engaged with him and welcomed him into the space.

“When I first moved into the hostel about three months ago, I was still agitated about my stabbing, and I used meditation to help get over it and get out of the gangs,” James said. “It really helps… I’ve found my family here.”

Another festival attendee and featured guest was Baba Jay, a formerly homeless musician, who came in on several occasions during the two-week festival. He first found the Museum of Happiness by accident, a few days before the festival began. Baba was on his way to find a nearby music studio when he stumbled into the museum thinking he was at the right place. He saw Vicky and assumed she was the music tutor. She ended up inviting him to come play his music during the Winter Happiness Festival.

On the opening day, Baba Jay performed a few songs he’d written, along with some covers. He said he felt instantly at home in the museum.

“When I came here, it was really like meeting long lost friends even though they’re all strangers,” Baba said. “There’s a nice warmth and you feel safe. The main thing was I felt like I wasn’t weird. I’ve gone through my whole life feeling different.”

Baba Jay has also faced many challenges in his life. He’d lived on the streets as a young man and struggled with alcohol addiction. He says music helped get him out of trouble. Baba shared his own story to inspire museum guests, before performing his songs.

“Before I came here, I used to go around smiling at people, and people [were] thinking I was weird… But when I came here, they actually understand,” Baba Jay said.  

The Museum of Happiness is always filled with like-minded people who are working towards positive change and pursuit of happiness.

Another volunteer, Katie Bell, of Kingston, said she found the Museum of Happiness at a networking event focused on mindfulness, fitness and social enterprise. She had recently quit her job, because she wanted to be a part of the bigger picture, working alongside a community, toward a shared goal. She found what she was looking for at the museum and knew right away that she wanted to be involved.

“You could instantly tell that everyone here was doing something to work on themselves or with other people,” Katie said.

The Winter Happiness Festival may now be over, but most of the activities and installations set up for the celebration remain in place for visitors to enjoy. The events calendar is filled with classes, talks and workshops that will continue to spread joy among all those who pass through the Museum’s bright yellow doors.

“It lives up to its name — the Museum of Happiness,” Baba Jay said. “I feel blessed and I feel grateful that I found this place just by chance.”

Written by guest blogger Anna Marden

Festive fun and frolics!

It’s been another amazing month here at the Museum of Happiness. We’re now truly getting into the swing of things at our new home and feeling very grateful to be able to dedicate so much of our time to spreading happiness!

Peace, love and PARTYING!

It’s been a bit of a party-filled extravaganza down at the MOH during the run up to Xmas!

We hosted our first Inner Peace Party - thanks to all who attended this absolutely joyous occasion! The ecstatic dance session saw the museum transform into a disco dance floor - we will be sure to hold another session soon! A huge thank you to all our wonderful speakers and session leaders. As always, it was so lovely seeing people connect and forging friendships.

We were also lucky enough to help Yulife and 3FaithsForum to celebrate the holiday season and learn some stress management tips in the process! Thank you to all those who participated and for being so open and getting stuck in!

It was also our absolute pleasure to host a birthday party for one of our biggest supporters, Natalie, for her epic contribution to our crowdfunder campaign. If it wasn’t for her there’s a huge chance we wouldn’t be sat here writing this!

Experience is the teacher of all things

We’ve just launched the new Museum of Happiness Experience and the sessions so far have been really magical. It’s been a real privilege to give all kinds of people a taste of gratitude, laughter yoga and mindfulness with a liberal sprinkling of the science of happiness! The feedback and support we’ve received for this new and experimental offering is truly touching and we are really looking forward to bringing the experience to new audiences next year!

A photograph is the pause button of life

The recent Mindful Photography workshop was an absolute hit due to Menka’s amazing facilitation style! Her Just Looking Instagram community is all about connecting and inspiring each other to use photography to slow down, notice more and connect playfully with the present moment. Check out some of the great snaps from the day below!

Happiness is homemade

We’ve been doing lots of training and community work with residents here at Arlington House, including confidence workshops and creative writing courses! A big shout out to James the poet for all of the help he’s given us with the work of keeping the Museum running!

We’re really looking forward to Arlington Christmas Fayre! We will be handing out presents to the Residents of Arlington. These gifts were very kindly donated by our friends at Sunday School Yoga who recently hosted their Christmas Party at the Museum of Happiness

Last but certainly not least!

Our first Awakin Circle at the Museum of Happiness was a beautiful gathering. We feel blessed for time to meditate with the community, share insights and have diner together. We’ll be hosting more next year so please do come down and get involved if you’d like to :-)

Finally, a big, big shout out to Heather Mason who is working tirelessly to make an impact in using yoga as a preventative health measure and is working hard to raise awareness in Parliament about the benefits of yoga.

We wish you a wonderful and happy festive season and hope to see you in the New Year!

Sending love and smiles :)

The MOH Team