A happiness group is where a group of people gets together and discuss a range of topics that affect their day-to-day happiness including definitions of happiness, goal accomplishment, habits, mindfulness and personal values. We spend enough time worrying about how we look, but not enough time reflecting on what we truly value and how we can use that as a motivator for positive change. Being part of a group means we can learn more about ourselves, encourage each other and have some form of accountability that helps us achieve the goals we want. Read on to find out how you can set up your own happiness project group.
Values in action
The VIA Character developed a strengths survey to measure what people value. VIA stands for Values In Action and 24 values were chosen because they fulfilled a list of criteria that were both universal and improved people’s well-being. They went through a rigorous selection process and were chosen by the founder of Positive Psychology Dr Martin Seligman, and famous psychologist Christopher Peterson. You can take the FREE survey online here.
Once you know what you value, then you design 30-day goals based on a particular value. For instance, your value could be kindness, which means you would choose goals related to being kind (e.g. offering to help someone, telling someone you’re grateful for something they did or volunteering). You would then design a plan where you act in alignment with your values and then after a month, meet up with your group and share experiences.
Why do people start them?
Perhaps if you’ve been meaning to make a change in your life for some time and just need a push, then this could be a great way to make it happen for two reasons. First, value-driven motivation is much more effective than trying to force ourselves to follow through on changes. Second, accountability has been proven to help people accomplish more. We can all come up with the perfect plans to be happier, though implementing them is a whole new challenge. It’s easy to come up with excuses for not doing something, much easier than it is doing it. When it comes to giving excuses to other people, then we start to feel more responsible.
How to form a group
Someone should be responsible for organising people, a time and a place. That said, it is not a daunting task. Plenty of people naturally talk about things that can be tied to their happiness, it just may not always be obvious. The leader is just someone to initiate those discussions and has a solution-focused mindset.
The size of the group and the combination of personalities will affect the social dynamics. When choosing how many people, you can go two ways;
- Keep the group open to invitations.
- Choose a limited number.
It might be a good idea to start out small and expand gradually. Don’t be put off by some personalities clashing, as it’s better to have a mix for perspective.
You then need to choose a place to meet. You don’t want a busy and loud environment, at the same time hosting at people’s houses may place additional pressure on group members. Cafes with separate rooms work quite well. The option of food and drink without having to prepare it is also a good option.
I started my group by emailing people who I knew had an interest in personal development. After receiving confirmation about who was interested, I made a brief survey on Google Forms in order to establish people’s availability and preferences. After reading the survey responses I was able to select a day, time and place for the first meeting.
Things to consider
Establish ground rules
In the early stages of the first session, it’s crucial to outline a few ground rules such as no interruptions, crosstalk, or judgments. It’s important for people to feel heard and if interrupted, some people may feel disrespected and withdrawn.
Assume you are wrong
Everyone has their own definitions of happiness and it’s hard to define, so it’s important to explore different ideas and keep an open mind. Your idea of happiness is likely to be different from others, so accept it as opposed to challenge it. Where do we learn the most valuable things in life?
Ignore those monkeys
When the day of the first group meeting arrived, I was feeling rather anxious. What if people didn’t have ideas for the discussions? What if people didn’t show up? What if they asked me things that I didn’t know the answers to? I let these thoughts (monkeys) constantly occupy my mind at the time and they weren’t helpful. What I later realised, after the session was underway was those monkeys were imaginary. It turned out that people were very grateful for initiating something meaningful and different.
Even after the fact that people are excited and everything is in place, there could be latecomers. It’s polite to wait but at the same time, other people may need to leave when the session finishes. It’s important to stick to your start and finish times; it’s part of being a responsible leader.
Having a clear agenda provides some structure to sessions and can make you feel more at ease. It also serves as a useful reminder of stages in the session, a reference for timing and a place to take useful notes. I tried to take some notes at the time but was also mindful of the fact that I needed to ‘be present’ in order to facilitate a rewarding session.
I’m so grateful I had set up my happiness group because I achieved so much in one year (e,g writing a book and enrolling in a course that changed my career). What are you waiting for?
Read more about James McIntyre-Ure and his other articles HERE
‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’
‘We Are The Positive Psychology People’
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