A new publication by an alumni of Creative Writing at Uni of Glos: ‘Finding Happiness after Covid-19’ by Pam and Peter Keevil
22nd September 2020
CW: Hi Pam, a huge welcome to the Creative Writing blog at University of Gloucestershire! To start with, could you please introduce yourself to our readers? Your connection with the university goes back a few years now, doesn’t it?
Pam: I’ve been involved with the university since it was the Cheltenham College of Further Education when I completed a qualification which meant I was trained in the identification and provision of special educational needs for young children. I lost contact with the college until I saw an advert from the now University of Gloucestershire for a Professional Doctorate in Education. It was part time and partly funded by the TDA (Training Development Agency ) for serving teachers. I began in 2008 and finished in 2014. By this time my life had changed and I was a freelance trainer in leadership development with a hidden passion for creative writing. I had attended conferences, short courses online, writing summer schools etc but finally decided to enrol for the MA in Creative and Critical Writing which I completed in 2016.
CW: How have you found life after academia?
Pam: I miss it! The library, the seminars with like-minded people, the intellectual challenge and even completing the assessments at the end of each module. There is a lovely atmosphere at FHC. I think it must be due to the old buildings with the sense of history and the generations of students who have passed through the entrance.
CW: Which brings us onto the main reason for our chat today (although it’s always great to catch up with alumni!) So, you have a new book out, is that correct?
Pam: In a moment of rashness, I said to my husband Peter, ‘You know we’ve taught some fantastic stuff as part of self development and leadership training, wouldn’t it be great of we could make this accessible for a wider audience?’ That was July last year. We let the idea fester and went to Costa Rica in February to start planning and came back with 15 K words. The lockdown hit. Life changed. There was a lot of talk about the old normal and the new normal so we came up with the frame that our book could focus on how we can explore happiness in this new normal. Draft one was completed by April 1st. Drafts two, three and four followed and it was published in early August.
CW: Your book seems like a fantastic mix of ‘theory of happiness’ backed up by various studies and research, and practical exercises, suggestions and tools. What is the best way to use the book? Is there a part of it you feel it’s crucial or could be most helpful to a reader who’s not come across this kind of thinking before?
Pam: There are a number of ways to get the best use of this book, including:( a ) Reading it all through as you would any other book; returning to specific sections that made most impact or provoked most thought, and using the relevant tools to make changes in your life ( b ) Reading the book chapter by chapter and pausing at relevant places to use the tools to take action ( c ) Using each of the chapters as the basis for further exploration in workshops, so as to share ideas and help each other to commit to specific actions
If there is one part of the book that we would suggest is more critical than others, it’s Chapter 1 on “Happiness”, which brings the reader up to date on latest research on the topic of happiness, as well as introducing the first tool, which is the “Happiness Triangle”, (consisting of “life purpose”, “compassion”; and “gratitude”.
Other critical aspects of the book include the chapter on “How our Brains Work” (chapter 7), which, once we understand the content here, can make a dramatic difference to the quality of our lives as well as helping us to increase happiness in the world.
Finally, chapter 11 (“Shared Mindsets”) explores current ecological issues such as how can we be individually happy, if at the same time, we are trashing the planet – a key issue of course. This is the final chapter in the book and offers some powerful new ideas about how we can establish and “A New and Better Normal”, in the light of the current Covid-19 pandemic.
CW: Personal development sometimes gets a bad reputation in the UK, because it’s seen as this uniquely American thing which can be a bit over the top. Can you comment on that? Should we be changing how we think about personal development and self-help literature?
Pam: The book refers a lot to the work of a British charity called “Action for Happiness”, which is sponsored by the Dalai Lama. (This is fully described in chapter 1). Action for Happiness is a national movement which promotes local action groups (there is one in Cheltenham) where people work towards increasing more happiness in the world – their own and the happiness of others. It’s practical, grounded and “real”. Of course, insights and tools about how to be happy have popped up in all kinds of countries and places, including the USA and Europe.
Many self help books do tend to talk in generalities, and we believe that it’s important to provide grounded and simple tools to help people to take action, and that’s what we have done in this book. The backbone of the book is a set of 8 tools which make up the “Happiness Toolkit”.
Finally, one of the most effective and recurring theme that we refer to is this question: “What’s the smallest and most effective thing I can do to make a positive difference to my happiness and others’ happiness?” We believe that real progress can be made in society if more of us asked and answered such questions more frequently. For example, one of the actions we could all take which would make a big difference is a daily “Random Act of Kindness”.
CW: Could you tell us a bit about who your self-help heroes are – are there any gurus out there you’d recommend to our students?
Pam: Great question! We would suggest Stephen Covey and his great book “Seven Habits of Effective People”; the Dalai Lama; the research and writings of Lord Richard Layard (the founder of Action for Happiness); and the exciting work of the World Happiness Project ( www.world-happiness.project.org ).
CW: You mentioned the work that your husband does with the Happiness projects around the country, could you tell us a little bit about it?
Pam: What we mean by this is the excellent charity “Action for Happiness” and the linked project called the World Happiness Project, which we mention above.
They are very well grounded in the latest research on happiness, and they create local groups where people focus on the different aspects of happiness, and commit to take simple actions to increase happiness in their lives and in the lives of others. They use a powerful tool called “GREAT DREAM”, which is a really helpful memonic for keeping the different aspects of happiness in mind:
They would be delighted to hear from any of your students, and to put them in touch with the nearest local groups. Of course, we are sure that they would love it even more if your students wanted to create their own local group, and we would be delighted to help them do this if they wanted.
CW: What is your final message for anyone struggling with finding happiness in the modern world?
Pam: Above all else be kind to yourself; we all mess up, we all make mistakes and we all feel miserable sometimes.
Second, be proactive;
• Know what’s most important to you
• Notice what’s working well already and feel proud
• Identify what needs to change
• Find something small that makes a big difference and do it
Repeat and repeat and repeat!
Finally, spend more time in the natural world. It’s a great healer and source of inspiration.
CW: Pam, thank you so much for your time today. This is a fascinating area to think about and there’s probably not been a better time (in recent history) for some soul-searching than it is now, in this Covid-landscape. We’re sure that your book will be a valuable contribution for anyone who’s looking for new paths towards happiness and fulfilment. All the best with your book, please stay in touch and keep us posted about your future publications!
Finding Happiness after Covid 19 is available from Amazon on