Transition Culture

An Evolving Exploration into the Head, Heart and Hands of Energy Descent

Transition Culture has moved

After eight years of frenzied blogging at this site, Transition Culture has moved to its new home. Do come and join us, but feel free to also browse this now-archived site and use the shop. Thanks for all your support, comments and input so far, and see you soon.


6 Jun 2011

Does Transition promote wellbeing and happiness? Seeking your input…

I am writing an article for the moment for an issue of a magazine which focuses on wellbeing and happiness.  The question I am trying to answer is whether Transition leads to greater wellbeing and happiness, both in those taking part in it, and also in the wider community.  I would love to hear your thoughts, your stories, your research, that might seem to support, or dismiss, the idea that there is a connection between the two.  There is some tantalising evidence that this might be the case:

  • Following Transition Town Tooting’s ‘Trashcatchers’ Carnival’ last summer, the headteacher of a local primary school wrote “For (the children)  the opportunity to meet all these people together in one place, to work with these diverse groups from within the Tooting community on a common venture, was  a new and valuable experience. It demonstrated clearly how varied parts of such a community, many with different agendas, can come together for a common purpose. We felt the whole experience demonstrated community cohesion in its most meaningful, creative and imaginative sense. The children experienced a sense of awe and wonder at what could be produced from recyclable materials and we all felt a huge sense of pride in the school playing its part in the community. The school already has its own generous and vibrant community, but this event set it within a far wider one”.
  • Dr Janet Richardson Professor of Health Service Research, Faculty of Health of the University of Plymouth recently produced an initial outline of a Health Impact Assessment for Transition Town Totnes’s Transition Streets project, and suggested there may well be a link, but raised the question as to whether people are drawn to Transition because they are happier, or whether they are happier because of having been drawn to Transition
  • Also, research conducted at the end of the Transition Streets programme found a significant increase in the percentage of participants who reported feeling positive about the future, who feel connected to and part of their community and who are aware of what can be done and feeling they know what to do about it
  • A while ago I asked on this website why it was that people do Transition.  Answers included “… it provides a positive, creative and challenging place to apply my energies to those challenges…. and it’s fun” (Hilary Jennings), “if it wasn’t for Transition I would probably still be trying to work out how me and my family could become self-sufficient in some remote ‘safe’ hideout. Transition has given my life a more positive purpose because I now know we are not alone” (Jo Homan), “because it’s the first positive, life-affirming process that I have found” (Judy Skog), and “Transition is a principles-based approach that … seeks to imitate natural systems and allows participants to act joyfully, spontaneously and freely in creating a more life-giving way of being” (Tamara Schwartzentruber)…

But I’d love to hear from you.  Have you noticed ways in which your work doing Transition has created significant happiness and wellbeing, either for those involved or in the wider community?  This could be based on anecdotes or stories, or on any more tangible research you might have done.  All assistance much appreciated!  Thanks….  You can post below, or if you want to write in confidence, email me at rob (at) transitionculture.org.

Comments are now closed on this site, please visit Rob Hopkins' blog at Transition Network to read new posts and take part in discussions.

8 Comments

Cameron
6 Jun 7:44am

I realized today for the first time that it’s not about happiness. It’s not about a bunch of joyous people holding hands singing and creating flower necklaces and creating folk music that tends to be sans-edge.

It’s about creating a life full of opportunity for those in their youth and beyond. Creating a life where there is the ability to make whatever life one chooses and be drawn towards a purpose that is outside of oneself.

That purpose driven life doesn’t equate to happiness. In fact it might be a very trying and difficult life that one is drawn to where there is nothing but the inner knowing that what you are working towards will create a better life for the next.

That’s the true heart of Transition, is that knowledge what you’re spending your life doing is creating it so the next round of life will deal with different troubles than your own. And most likely ones less dependent on a global culture that works against the earth rather than for it.

Then it evolves from a transition into the way.

Samuel Alexander
6 Jun 8:23am

Hi Rob,

I’ve recently posted my story of simplicity here: http://simplicitycollective.com/deconstructing-the-shed-where-i-live-and-what-i-live-for

My story, entitled “Deconstructing the Shed: Where I Live and What I Live For,” gives account of the two years I spent living in a self-constructed, inner city ‘shed’ in the backyard of a friends rental property in Melbourne, Australia.

You may also be interested in the research I recently conducted with a colleague into the ‘simple living’ or ‘voluntary simplicity’ movement. Our research is the most extensive sociological examination ever undertaken into the simplicity movement, and there are some very interesting findings in this study, some of which relate to happiness.

The research findings are available here (along with my PhD, “Property beyond Growth: Toward a Politics of Voluntary Simplicity,” which sits well with your writings too): http://simplicityinstitute.org/publications

Lois
6 Jun 8:47am

It makes us happier…but do we have to prove it? Do you need always a blooding reason?

Just enjoy it!

Saudiños,

luis

Chris Johnstone
6 Jun 9:11am

Hi Rob,

Transition Exeter organised an evening on ‘Happiness and Sustainability’ last year that I gave a talk at. We looked at how the way we approach happiness is a pivotal area in the creation of a sustainable society, and also at how being involved in the process of transitioning can make us happier. This two way link has enormous significance, and is something I’ve touched on in my book Find Your Power, as well as written about in Permaculture Magazine (see the piece ‘Can You Grow Happiness?’ at http://www.chrisjohnstone.info/writing.htm )

The most important contribution transitioning makes to happiness is in reducing our oil dependence, this strengthening our resilience to the inevitable oil crunch ahead. If we’re still craving a lifestyle that isn’t available to us, we will be much more unhappy. But even before peak oil hits us, acting with meaning and purpose in common cause with others, reducing materialism, strengthening social capital, all these and more are evidence based approaches to improving our mood.

However, as I’m sure many transitioneers have experienced, being active in the Transition movement is not a guaranteed path to joy and fulfilment. There are challenges that include conflict in groups, exhaustion and burnout, cynical responses from others and our wondering whether what we’re doing will make enough of a difference. That’s why I think it is really good that we’re having this conversation, because if we’re interested in happiness, and look together at how we can increase it in sustainable ways, as well as tackle some of the threats to it, then more and more people will want to join us because they won’t want to miss out on having such a great time.

Just recently a new charity was set up inviting us to look at ways of increasing happiness through social and community action. Called Action for Happiness, here is something I wrote for their website:

http://www.actionforhappiness.org/news/afterglow,-altruism-and-adventure

With you, in the joyful adventure of action for our world

Chris.

Chris Johnstone
http://www.chrisjohnstone.info

Samuel Alexander
7 Jun 2:28am

Hi Rob,

You may also be interested in some work by Cahit Guven from Deakin University who has published some research on the question: “Are happy people better citizens?” (the short answer seems to be ‘yes’).

The paper is available here:

http://papers.ssrn.com/sol3/papers.cfm?abstract_id=1422493

This is arguably an important point to consider, because it seems to me that people who are unhappy in their lives are less likely to dedicate their energies and attentions to community engagement and ecological concern, than contented people. If this is so, it would seem to be of the utmost importance that we create for ourselves forms of life more meaningful and fulfilling than those which are offered to us by mainstream consumer society. When this happens, perhaps there will be a ‘double dividend’ in that, not only are we happier as individuals, but we might also find ourselves more willing to engage meaningfully with our communities. In this way the question of happiness becomes much less ‘self-centred’ than it may sometimes seem to be. Arguably happiness is a means to an end – that being positive social engagement.

Just some rambling thoughts… good luck with your project.

Andrew Reeves
7 Jun 1:08pm

There’s a new book out on wellbeing by Martin Seligman (of positive psychology fame) called Flourish , that puts forward a framework of 5 elements that lead to wellbeing (with the nifty pneumonic “PERMA”, which fits in rather neatly with permaculture…).

I’d be minded to compare what Transition offers with a framework like that one to answer the question… I think it does pretty well on each count.

Tony Lane
14 Jun 7:46pm

Happiness is not a destination, more a way of travelling. Making the the best of where you are with what you have. Involved are a sense of fulfilment and good relationships with other people. you won’t go far wrong with these.

Mike Grenville
1 Jul 12:10pm

here is an article I wrote on teh subject in Positive News recently:

Does Transition make people happier and healthier?
http://positivenews.org.uk/2011/wellbeing/4340/does-transition-make-people-happier-and-healthier/

plus another article there came up with:
Ten reasons green people are happier
By fundamentally changing our cultural values we can create societies that collaborate for increased wellbeing rather than compete for increased wealth
http://positivenews.org.uk/2011/wellbeing/lifestyle/4244/ten-reasons-green-people-are-happier/