Wednesday 20th March was definitely not any ordinary day. Firstly, I was in London on the Southbank for WOHASU 2024 (I will come back to explain this). Even though I once lived in London nowadays (I live between a caravan on the Kent coast and the forests of Brittany), I find London instantly and completely overwhelming. Everything in London seems to happen at breakneck speed, there are so many people rushing, making noise, it Is dirty, expensive and have I said there are so many people! After a 30min cross London tube journey, I was anxious and drained of energy by the bombardment of my senses and attention.

Wednesday 20th March was not ordinary because behind the scenes of a working life, a few days earlier my partner Bridget who I adore and love deeply, had been rushed into hospital with a perforated appendix while I was away working. Earlier that morning, through a series of texts on the train, my fears had been confirmed that Bridget was not recovering as expected from surgery because she had sepsis (blood poisoning), which is a potentially life-threatening infection. I know this because Bridget was a NHS nurse with 40 years’ experience and had told me about sepsis many times (she was specially trained in sepsis response and care). My mind was racing with worry and I was at the World Happiness Conference, WOHSU 2024 (I will come back to this, I promise). On reflection, it is perhaps in these moments of challenge and threat of loss that a person is confronted with what really matters most in life. Love of Bridget, my connection with her, our dreams and hopes for the future, of growing old together were hanging by a microbial thread.

So here I was, on Wednesday 20th March, International World Happiness Day and I am at the World Happiness Summit organized by WOHASU founder and CEO Karen Guggenheim, My energy was drained, I was in a brain fog of worry,  I was feeling guilty for being there and not with Bridget (although she had said to go), so what came next was a surprise!

First, the collective energy of a thousand-plus people, who want to make the world a better (or happier place) penetrated through the psychological worksuit I had put on in the morning. The positive energy was uplifting and neutralized many of the negative thoughts and emotions I had been experiencing all morning.

Second, speaker after speaker with the credentials of being renowned world-class researchers and practitioners came onto the stage with the same message –  our wellbeing matters to our health, our mental health, our development, our productivity and our planet. In essence, we matter, what we do matters, how treat each other matters. Ideas of love, compassion, courage and connection, really do make a difference to the world we create together. My heart was melting, I could not agree more.

Thirdly, Ricardo Sunderland came to the stage and with three simple questions: “What gives you energy? What takes your energy? Where do feel this in your body?” And gave me my final wake-up call of the day, Ricardo reconnected my head with my heart and reminded me of our shared purpose, the dreams of the simple life we had been working to create in renovating a little cottage in the woods of France and to live a more sustainable and enriching life. Stripped of complexity and the expectations of others, it was easier to make sense of the array of emotions I had been experiencing that morning. Pure and simply he told the WOHASU audience to “Follow your energy and it will connect you to your purpose”

So Wednesday 20th March was no ordinary day, WOHASU 2024 turned out to be a timely reminder, a life lesson on what really matters and a wake call or call to action to make changes to our lives so we can live a life that really matters for us, for everyone, for our planet.

Bridget is now at the time of writing this, recovering well with me now at her side. Thank you WOHASU, it was certainly no an ordinary conference!

Lee Newitt is the founder and course leader for the MA Spirituality, Ecology & Mental Health at Buckinghamshire New University. Lee has had a successful career as a former school leader and transformational coach. Lee cares deeply about the people, the life in our world and the wild and sacred spaces in nature. He is striving to live more simply, more sustainably and more spiritually.

Find out more about The World Happiness Summit (WOHASU) and add your name to the waiting list for WOHASU 2025
@wohasu #wohasu2024 @karenguggenheim

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