Wednesday, 25 April 2012

April update from Wellbeing Wales

‘Happiness, happiness, the greatest gift that I posses’. Ah, who could forget the chirpy chimes of Ken Dodd’s 1964 single, Happiness. But it would seam that Ken Dodd’s ditty may contain a message many of us could benefit from. This month, the UN held a landmark conference. Entitled ‘Happiness and Well-being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm’, the conference brought together hundreds of representatives from governments, religious organizations, academia and civil society to discuss the issue. Ban Ki-moon, Secretary- General of the UN, explained how ‘we need a new economic paradigm that recognizes the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic and environmental well-being are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness’. Now the value of wellbeing has been recognised by world leaders there remains the task of channeling human desire for growth away from financial drive and into measures intended to improve wellbeing. As the Guardian expresses, Wellbeing should not be viewed as ‘anti-growth’ but an integral means of ensuring stronger, more sustainable growth in all areas, be they social, economic or environmental.

For those still unconvinced by the notion of wellbeing being used as a new economic paradigm, then the recent Gallup statistics make for interesting reading. Out of the five countries currently experiencing economic growth- Brazil, Russia, India, China, and South Africa- only in Brazil and China do majorities believe their standard of living is improving. The survey notes how in ‘India, Russia, and South Africa the rich and poor feel more pessimistic about their future prospects, and sentiment varies greatly by income level’. The implications of such results would indicate that economic growth does not necessarily correlate with a greater sense of wellbeing: something those familiar with the Easterlin paradox will be well aware of. Economic growth should not be completely dismissed, but governments must be careful to ensure the wellbeing of their population always remains central to their long-term visions and policies.

Now, for something a little more light-hearted. Light, fluffy and delicious if you’re good at it. What are we talking about? Why, Baking, of course! It appears this age-old tradition is receiving a bit of a revival at the moment. But it’s not all cupcakes and crème patisserie. Far from it. BBC’s Food Programme recently reported on the therapeutic benefits of baking. The shows host, Sheila Dillon, talked to a group of refugees who have experienced torture and are using baking in their recovery. Victims of starvation torture, they are now learning to work through their problems through the medium of baking. There is without doubt a strong correlation between diet and wellbeing but the benefits of really engaging with food have often been over looked. Imagining, crafting, creating, sharing and consuming food really allows people to reengage with what’s on their plates and utilise their creative minds at the same time. Now, where did I put that rolling pin…

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