Podcast #045 Do you want to be happy?

That seems an almost ridiculous question. Of course you want to be happy! Our world is obsessed with wanting to be happy. But what do we actually mean by happiness? Especially in our complex, challenging and chaotic world where we have so many things that promise happiness, but often fail to deliver what they promise.

Do join Andrew Parnham and I as we continue to unpack this important subject from his book, "Lasting Happiness: In Search of Deeper Meaning and Fulfilment."

Together we explore:

  • Health and wellbeing as a means to happiness, but those terms that are not as simple to explain as they might first appear.
  • The World Health Organisation's definition of health as "a state of complete physical, mental and social wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease or infirmity."
  • How health is a means to happiness, but not an end in itself. We need some higher purpose, especially as health is so often dependent on fate, fortune or luck.
  • How wellbeing, while hard to define, is much wider and deeper when you consider it is possible to have wellbeing without apparent health. For a challenging and inspiring example of that do watch this 4 minute video of Nick Vujicic,a man born without arms or legs and an incredibly positive sense of wellbeing.
  • How the research shows relationships, meaning and fulfilment are more lasting paths to happiness than health, wealth or pleasure seeking.
  • Lessons from the longest study on happiness (a TED talk on that is here) that show how relationships are so fundamental to what it means to be a human being.
  • The work of Jean Varnier, the founder of a community in France for people with learning disabilities, who powerfully articulates this:

"What is it to be a human being? Is it power? If it's power, then we would kill each other! You see, the wise and powerful lead us to ideologies, whereas the weak are in the dirt. They're not seeking power, they're seeking friendship. It's a message for all of us. It's about all of us."

  • Understanding the importance of finding meaning to lead us to lasting happiness.
  • How a happy person is similar to an animal, whereas meaningfulness is human and is all about expressing the self and thinking integratively about the past and future.
  • Some practical implications for us as we seek to be happy in life

Our previous conversation is at Podcast #044: Lasting Happiness.

You may also find of interest:

Why is joy more important than happiness?

Podcast #032: How to know joy when life feels tough

Podcast #033: Practical ways to find joy through disappointment

I’m taking a break!

Thank you for receiving and interacting with my regular blog posts. They have been coming weekly for almost six years! It's incredible to think of all the areas we have explored and discussed in this time. We also started the podcast in May 2015.
So much has happened in that time and its encouraging to see how far we have come.

Also over the last few years I have seen a significant change in my roles and responsibilities. I am challenged to stop and pause for a period of time to rest and re-think where I am going and what I am doing. The blog was also partly supposed to be a means for me to explore ideas to then turn into a book. That has not been happening. With the summer break it seems a good time to stop and have a rethink.

The blog at has a vast amount of content to explore and will still be there.

Perhaps the most relevant post that I am applying to myself is Do You Need More Margin In Your Life? If I am going to find the time to write the book then I need to also decide what I am going to stop doing in my life.

Thank you for being a part of this journey with me. The podcasts should still be coming monthly and I am planning to free up more time for the writing of a book.

Please feel free to get in touch with any ideas, thoughts and suggestions.

One particular need I have is to identify someone to further help me with technology support and development. If you know of someone (or are that person!) do let me know.

At this stage I am not entirely sure when I will re-start, but for now the Wednesday emails will be stopping. Thank you again for all your support and encouragement!

Do feel free to share any thoughts, suggestions or ideas you think would be helpful.

Is there anything in your life you need to stop doing to free up space, time and energy for something else?

How to get out of your head

Practical steps to handle overwhelm

How do I handle all the overwhelm and the many distractions I find myself having to deal with not just on a daily but even moment-by-moment basis? We have been looking at this 18 minute video by David Allen that gives much wisdom into this increasingly common life challenge:

David Allen's fundamental point is that the best way to deal with feelings of overwhelm is to get everything that is on your mind out of your head into some trustworthy external system. The simple act of writing it down is the first step in the process - but only the first step........

Why feeling overwhelmed can actually be a mind trick

The myth of information overload

I know that can seem hard to believe - but trust me on this!
One of the marks of modern life is the nagging sense of all the things that need to be done. The list never seems to finish and it is so easy to feel overwhelmed and exhausted thinking about all you have to do. But does that have to be the case at all?  This 18 minute TED talk by David Allen gives a helpful perspective on how to deal with the feelings of overwhelm and never-ending distractions we all experience at one time or another in our lives.

One of the key points David Allen seeks to get across is that we don't actually need more time, but what we need is more room. Or in other words, enough space in your mind to be fully present in the here and now with what is most important to you at this moment to get your most important work done......

An incredibly brief history of medicine

A journey with Dr John Geater

The British National Health Service (NHS) reaches 70 years of age on 5 July 2018. There is much to be thankful for and celebrations to mark this anniversary are taking place all over the United Kingdom. In that time there have been previously unimaginable changes in medical treatment. In the UK it is remarkable how the NHS has evolved to continue to provide universal health care for the whole population, while still being free at the point of delivery. However, in the overall history of medicine the NHS is relatively recent.

This 30 minute video by John Geater seeks to summarise the history of medicine and explain how our understanding has changed and evolved over the last 2,500 years or so.

Of course such a brief overview will have major gaps, make significant assumptions and miss out many details, but I think it provides a helpful summary. There are 10 significant observations:

What is it like to have a stroke?

How the two sides of the brain function so differently

Jill Bolte Taylor is a Harvard-trained neuroanatomist who experienced a severe bleed in the left hemisphere of her brain in 1996. By the afternoon she could not walk, talk, read, write, or recall any of her life. It took eight years for her to completely recover all of her physical function and thinking ability. This 18 minute talk from 2008 was given twelve years after her experience. Such was the impression she made it was the first TED talk to go viral on the Internet:

This is a deeply personal account of what it is like to experience a sudden stroke. As the left side of her brain became increasingly affected she suddenly lost the familiar 'brain chatter' we all experience and she was plunged into inner silence. She writes:.....

The Master and His Emissary

How the left brain has come to dominate Western culture

You can make a pretty strong case for saying that the human brain is the most complex object in the entire universe. It contains 100 billion nerve cells (called neurones). Each of these neurones contains a vast electrochemical complex and powerful micro-data-processing system. As complex as each cell is it would fit on the head of a pin! And in spite of all the research in the last century there is much we still do not understand.

Someone who has thought about this a lot is Iain McGilchrist. He is a psychiatrist, doctor, writer and former Oxford literary scholar. (We were also contemporaries at medical school in Southampton in the 1980s, but our paths did not often cross). In this fascinating animated 11 minute lecture from the Royal Society of Arts McGilchrist explains the main themes from his book, "The Master and His Emissary". It is about the functioning of the human brain. His in depth training in both the arts and sciences makes him uniquely qualified to write on this subject.

McGilchrist has produced a huge masterpiece, and this article and video can only give a simple broad overview. However, one of his key points is that the implications of brain science are highly significant in understanding the development of Western culture.

The main focus of discussion is around the two cerebral hemispheres. By carefully reviewing over 50 years of brain research McGilchrist explains how a simplistic understanding of the left side being just concerned with, for example, reason and language and the right side just with emotion and visual imagery is too simplistic. Both sides of the brain have elements of these abilities, but it is also true that there is a significantly greater emphais of function on one side compared to the other. The purpose of the corpus callosum that connects the two sides of the brain is to inhibit the over emphais of one side of the brain. However, the corpus callosum has been shown to have got less influential over time and the left hemisphere has become in our day and age much more dominant.

Why does this matter?

Podcast #042: What does it take to live a meaningful life?

A conversation with Dr John Geater MBE

Dr John Geater is at the time of writing aged 73. He is married to Jane and has three adult children. He is a medical doctor and has worked in Bhutan, New Zealand and in England. In 2006 he received an MBE from the Queen for his work in setting up the postgraduate medical education charity, PRIME (Partnerships in International Medical Education). He has taught holistic medical education in 26 different countries around  the world. Just before Christmas 2017 he was diagnosed with metastatic pancreatic cancer.

Do join us in this  fascinating podcast conversation as we discuss John's life and explore questions such as:

How do you respond when bad things happen to you?

How do you make sense of being diagnosed with cancer three times in your life?

How to embrace life's mysteries when things don't go the way you want or expect.

We also ask John:

What was it like running a leprosy hospital in Bhutan at the age of 25?

What would you say to someone who has a terminal illness and is scared?

To explore with us from Bronnie Ware's book the five regrets of the dying:
I wish I lived a life true to myself and not what was expected of me.
I wish I had not worked so hard.
I wish I'd had the courage to express my feelings.
I wish I had stayed in touch with my friends.
I wish I had let myself be happier.

What he is looking forward to in the life to come?

You may also find of interest:

Podcast #017: The Last Taboo Subject?

Podcast #028: The God I Don't Understand

Podcast #029: The Literal End Of The World?

Podcast #032: How To Know Joy When Life Feels Tough

Podcast #033: Practical Ways To Find Joy Through Disappointment

How Would You Define Success Part 3

When science demonstrates truth is stranger than fiction

It is a commonly held assumption among many people that faith in God is incompatible with a scientific world view. Our largely secular media would have us believe that science and faith in a universal creator God is an irreconcilable contradiction. (See We're All Materialists Now!).Yet the more closely you examine the evidence the more you realise this does not have to be the case at all.

Brian Enderle holds graduate degrees in both science and theology. In this 13 minute TED talk he explains how scientific understanding of the universe is even more amazing and fantastic than we could ever imagine.

The more you look at the findings the harder it is not to use hyperbole and extreme descriptions. Take the finding of how much of atoms are empty space. In case you were wondering a single atom is apparently a million times smaller than a human hair. Within an atom there is, according to Enderle, 99.9999999999999% empty space! That means everything around us that appears solid, physical and real is actually practically all empty space! We assume because atoms are so tiny and so numerous objects appear solid to us, but in fact they are not!

What does this have to do with faith?.....

Why having margin is not just about more time

4 important areas of margin

"I need more time!" How often have you said that to yourself? Its frequently how I feel. So much to do and apparently so little time to do what needs to be done. And yet when I have found myself with more time available, I've also found myself too exhausted or distracted to make significant headway with the different projects that I have told myself are important to me. When that happens it is easy to feel guilty or be too hard on oneself. Maybe part of the reason for this is because it is more then than just a time issue.

Part of the problem comes because we don't grasp that we have overloaded ourselves in a number of different ways. Talking about needing more time is way too simplistic.

Here are some examples. I am guilty of all of them on one occasion or another: