Thursday, 25 November 2010

Forget wellbeing – how about a bit of gratitude?

David Cameron has announced that the nation’s wellbeing is to be measured for the government to ‘help the British people attain the ‘good life’

My first reaction to this is one of my favourite proverbs – ‘nobody grows by being measured’

Even assuming that the government advisers can come up with a suitable questionnaire (that’s a bit of consultancy work I would enjoy!) - I wonder what they plan to do with the findings?

One definition of wellbeing is ‘the state of being happy, healthy and prosperous’. Therein lies the dilemma. Wellbeing to one person is purgatory to another. Some people aspire to a huge house, staff to run it and a fleet of expensive cars in the garage. Others dream of a spiritual journey to Nepal or a life working with the underprivileged. Others just want to be healthy. If you talk to people in hospices, parents with poorly children, patients facing complex surgery – their idea of happiness is to walk, breath freely, maybe even something simple like being well enough to catch a bus.

I hate travelling on the underground – it makes me grumpy and uncomfortable. But once someone very close to me who was terminally ill mentioned that he would love to be well enough for the daily commute and I need to remind myself how lucky I am to be well enough, and busy enough to need to travel in this way.

Which brings me to my point.

By all means measure our wellbeing Prime Minister, but please take note. Even if you can work out some formula for happiness and by some miracle implement policies to create this ‘good life’, unless people feel true gratitude for their lot, the mood of the nation will not change.

Somehow we need to start appreciating not only the simple, and maybe a little poetic, things of life, but also the basics that are a huge privilege for those of us lucky enough to live in the UK.

Let’s start with free healthcare, free education (up to 16 years of age) and free speech. Perhaps the government should be putting energies into protecting what we already have and helping us to appreciate it along the way.

And speaking of happiness… Wishing all my readers in the USA a very Happy Thanksgiving.


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