Last year at Goldsmiths, I did a design project on well-being. This was the result.
Subjective well-being is the term for the deep, meaning of life kind of happiness. It’s called subjective because everyone reaches it differently. However, there are things you can do to help improve it. The New Economics Foundation, a British think tank, say that five ways to well-being are Connect, Give, Take Notice, Keep Learning and Be Active. Doing these things can make you happier.
I realised I wasn’t being giving enough, and consequently dressed up as The Optimist, a super-giving superhero, to force myself to be more giving. I recorded the impact this had on my well-being. The results were good.
This toolkit was the outcome of the project: rather than getting others to wear capes too, the kit aids you in your personal journey into well-being. You can be your own secret superhero, working to maximise your own well-being.
The guide helps you start a well-being journal through the five ways of well-being. After a month, you can analyse what activities you did and their effect on your well-being.
For a guide to what well-being activities you could do, there are 52 activity cards. They are a result of a great deal of research into positive psychology, my own personal experiences as The Optimist superhero, and user testing.
The What’s Well Being? film explains the basic theories about well-being. I learnt how to animate films in about two months.
The pens can help you analyse your journal at the end of the process.
I continued with the project beyond university for a while, and I still feel that there is plenty of scope for developing this project with certain groups of people. I ran Superhero Badge Workshops during the London Design Festival 2012 and beyond.
The whole project was a fantastic experience. I got to:
– Learn about well-being and positive psychology.
– Trial the toolkit with four people, who gained a great deal from the experience.
– Try out experimental research techniques.
– Run around as a superhero for two months – where could one do that but Goldsmiths…?
– Push what ‘design’ can mean.
– Learn how to animate, use a sewing machine, design a system, structure research.
– Exhibit the project in London.
The superhero social experiment has had lasting effects on me, one year on from graduating. I can’t pass people by who are staring blankly at maps. I can’t let people struggle with luggage on the underground. I speak to strangers even more easily than before. I’m still super-giving, even without the cape on, and as a result, I feel a greater sense of being connected to the world around me. I’m also more aware of my well-being and I know what to do to keep myself in the best zone I can be in. This has improved my resilience, which has helped me handle loss and grieving better.
I believe that through creative means, we can connect people to big ideas in an interesting, accessible way. My project is one example of people being connected to well-being research. Action for Happiness is currently running a pilot course to introduce people to positive psychology research. UsCreates made a game to be played in communities to share ideas about well-being. There is so much scope – so much to share, people to talk to, games to play, conversations and ideas to be pushed and developed. Working to promote greater well-being in our society along with these groups is an exciting place to be and I am glad to be part of it.