The Happiness Course: exploring emotional health and well-being

We spoke to Angela McCormick, from Huyton Parish Family Project about how the Happiness course has helped reach out to community, exploring emotional health and wellbeing and creating choices that lead to real change in people’s lives.

Why did you want to run the Happiness Course in your parish?

It’s a course that I have wanted to run for a while. It’s by Liveability which is a Christian disability and outreach charity drawing from leading thinkers in the fields of positive psychology and personal development.

We are so busy these days that we often forget what is really important. Life is pulling us in different directions, we feel society’s pressures that we have to look or act a certain way or have certain possessions to enjoy life and we know that it’s not the truth. It’s about bringing people back to the real truth and having a positive impact on their mental health.

What is covered on the course and what is the aim?

“The Happiness Course is a four-week long course that aims to grow wellbeing in the community. It explores attitudes to happiness using global research, and by offering discussion, films and exercises.
The course enables both leaders and participants to create connections with people in the local community; we explore emotional health and wellbeing and create choices that lead to real change in people’s lives.

Everyone wants to be happy… yet what exactly is happiness? What makes a successful life? What enables us to grow in it? Is happiness really what we should aim for, or does it come as a by-product of something deeper? What affects our wellbeing and can we bring any change at all? These are just some of the questions that we explore.

Week three focuses on relationships and what makes a good relationship. This week can be tough; we work on vulnerability and forgiveness. It takes quite a bit of self-reflection and people have said that they have found the model of forgiveness that we look at requires a lot of thought and can open up painful memories but when we work it through it can introduce a new way of thinking. At that stage we have already explored our own feelings and looked at our characters and how we would like to build on them.

We examine media and society’s portrayal of what constitutes success and we challenge this portrayal whilst looking at the concepts of mind, body and spirit and how we experience different levels of happiness through pleasure, relationships and engagement.”

What has been the feedback from the local area?

“The reception from the local community has been really positive. People are finding out about the course from the likes of Knowsley Housing Trust, the DWP and Whiston Hospital Recovery Unit which supports people with long-term mental health issues such as depression. I was really taken aback to hear that these organisations have actually been giving out our leaflets and advising people to come here. We are finding the participants are engaging with and enjoying the course.”

Dannielle is a current participant of the Happiness course in her final week. She said “Its been really interesting. I’m quite a positive person anyway but It’s got my brain ticking and its opened my mind to new ideas. I’ve met some really nice people and everyone has come together and shared their stories, opened up about personal stuff. So it’s been really good. I would recommend it. Some people might not even be aware that they are thinking negatively so I think anyone could benefit from it.”

Margaret, also a course participant added “It has been hard at times; it’s brought back certain memories when we were reflecting. I have enjoyed it though. I would recommend it. It has been helpful in actually getting me to like myself a bit more. A lot of us put ourselves last, we always think about our children and making sure they are happy but we don’t really think about ourselves. I’ve learnt that you have to like yourself first before anybody else does. It’s given me the confidence to think that I actually do deserve that little bit of me time as well as looking after everybody else. It’s nice to meet up with other people and offload a bit, hearing other people’s news. I’m actually going to come back on the next course to help out because I’ve been through it now so I can hopefully help others.”