Andy is also a ‘recovering academic’. His Loughborough University PhD was 12 years in the making, and his research findings around positive psychology and engagement feed into a series of game-changing keynotes, workshops, and books including ‘The Art of Being Brilliant’. He is also a best-selling children’s author. His ‘Spy Dog’ series has sold in excess of a million copies worldwide.
Describe something that has recently amazed you and how it made you feel.
I don’t want to sound cheesy but life amazes me. Pretty much every moment. Our ability to be conscious of it. The fact that reality isn’t actually real – that everything is created in our heads – that makes me grin
You’re the UK’s first “Dr of Happiness”. Can you tell me about your journey and what a Dr of Happiness does?
I’m an un-doctor. The total opposite of a normal doctor. I spent 12 years at Loughborough Uni studying the science of wellbeing and human flourishing. So while traditional psychology has been predicated on what’s wrong with people, I’ve been coming at it from the opposite end of the telescope – what’s right with people. There’s a small group of people (I call them the 2%ers) who have energy, passion, positivity and who are statistically happier than average. Traditional psychology has ignored them on the grounds of them not being ill. I’ve studied them for exactly the same reason. Who are the happy few? Why are they happy? And, crucially, what can we learn from them that we can put into practice, so we can be happy too? As a Dr of Happiness I share my findings with schools, businesses and anyone who will bloody well listen to me!
Who is the happiest person that you know? And why?
My mate Jason. He used to run a multi-million pound business and had all the trappings of ‘success’. Now he works for us. He’s got a lot less money but is a whole lot happier. He ‘gets’ that happiness is less about your external circumstances and much more about what’s going on inside your head. Jase’s happiness is infectious. He’s good to be around
Speaking practically, are there routines or elements to your day that you do to boost your own happiness?
I’ve made the conscious decision to work less hard. I try NOT to fill my diary. I get up early, go for a bike ride, have porridge and coffee and my day is already wonderful
What have curiosity and wonder got to do with being happy?
Curiosity and wonder have a great deal to do with mindfulness which, in turn, has a lot to do with happiness. I’ve started to notice the ‘beautiful ordinary’ – simple moments of wowza that are all around us but that I used to miss. A misty morning, a drizzly day, flowers growing through cracks in the pavement, steam coming off my coffee…
In fact, if you listed the top 10 happiest moments of your life, the chances are they’ll be simple moments shared with people you love. Most probably with no wi-fi
How can you avoid becoming a “groan up”?
In our book ZEST we talk about being a grown-up or a groan-up. There are a lot of adults who get stuck in moan mode. The human brain is biased towards negativity so it’s easy to spot problems. That’s why 1 bad driver ruins your commute (your brain deletes the 500 good ones) or 1 bad customer ruins your entire day (once again, the good ones are conveniently deleted)
Scientists a lot clever than me reckon we have approx. 80,000 thoughts a day. But 75,000 of them are the same thoughts we had yesterday. And the day before. And the day before. Habits of thinking get grooved in so the challenge is to rethink your thinking, look for positives, notice lovely moments and bank those instead of the crappy ones
Did anything surprise you when writing and researching “Zest”?
Zest is my 12th personal development book. The challenge is to say exactly the same thing for the 12th time, without anyone realising it’s exactly the same thing. So I guess the surprise is that I think I’ve managed it, largely due to my collaboration with Gavin Oattes (comedian) and Will Hussy (award winning author). I’m very proud of ZEST. I describe it as ‘refreshingly simple’
What changes would you like to see in the education system to promote greater wellbeing?
This is a biggy for me. A bucket list challenge! My team and myself have written a GCSE Wellbeing syllabus that we’re lobbying to get onto the UK curriculum. Mental frailty and ill health is booming, so why on earth aren’t we equipping young people the knowledge and skills needed to maintain positivity and mental health? If we want mentally resilient kids who can stay sane in a crazy world, we need to teach them how. It’s beyond obvious.
And how can business leaders create an organisation that brings out the brilliance in their workforce?
Treat people as human beings. People need to feel valued, appreciated and to have some say in how their workplace operates. That means organisations need to up their level of caring. If staff members can answer ‘yes’ to this statement: “Someone at work seems to care about me as a person“, then they’ll rock up with their mojo intact.
So care. Genuinely.
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