Interview: Janet Jones, Happiness Expert
With International Day of Happiness just around the corner on 20 March we caught up with happiness expert, Janet Jones, ahead of the launch of her new book
What inspired you to write the book?
On the day that I was to call the doctors to get an appointment, I picked up the mail before I picked up the phone, and I always say this is a little miracle that came into my life because it introduced me to the power of positive thinking. This booklet, it was bright red – I still have it – and on the front it said: ‘Achieve the impossible and break through to an extraordinary and fulfilling life.’ I realised that was what I wanted. We’re not looking for riches or anything, we just want to be fulfilled.
It was basically an introduction to a guy called Napoleon Hill and through that I learned these 13 principles to happiness and success, so I started to follow them, and completely changed my life. From there I ended up hiking in Machu Picchu and came back determined to live my dream of being a photographer, so it sent me on a brand new journey. Fast forward to 2010 and the Napoleon Hill Foundation contacted me and commissioned me to make images that represented these 13 principles that had totally saved my life. It was for a book called The Path to Riches but a lot people were showing interest in the images and how those images could help them in life. So that took me on a backward route to becoming a happiness expert and mentor. I set up seminars and workshops, then people started asking me for my book. I realised the time had come to write it but I also knew it was going to take quite a lot out of me because I was going to have to be honest about my story. If I could be someone else’s red booklet that would be absolutely fantastic.
Why is it that you find people respond so well to the 13 images?
We know that an image speaks a thousand words but nobody really knows why. So when I started writing the book I thought: I have to explain this. It’s actually down to the visual part of our brain, so when we see things the message of what you see is transferred to the thalamus part of the brain and the thalamus then sends that visual information to the visual cortex, which is half a billion brain cells at the back of the brain. It’s really very powerful. It’s the visual part of our brain that encourages specific actions, so we’ll take different actions on different things that we see.
Can anyone become a happiness millionaire?
Yes I believe anyone can. They have to want to do it and believe they can do it, and take the actions to do it – these 13 principles. The first principle is to have a desire, to be able to see what you’re living for, and without that we get lost and life seems meaningless. So that’s the first thing we have to focus on. There needs to be something that wakes you up. There’s a saying: ‘When the pain is great enough you’ll take action’, and so for me when I had the breakdown the pain was great enough.
Do you believe that seasonal affective disorder is a real thing?
It’s scientifically shown that when we lack Vitamin D it affects our mood. I once had someone in one of my workshops who really suffered with that and by autumn time was already dreading it. I got her to look at it completely differently and we started talking about the great opportunity to eat soup and wrap up warm with lovely scarves. So she started knitting scarves and started looking forward to wintertime! The mind is such a powerful thing and if we can analyse how we are seeing certain scenarios – if they are causing us trouble – and then challenge how we see it, we can see it in a more helpful way. That’s when we improve our level of happiness. Going out running, seeing pretty pictures, they keep you afloat but they don’t give you a proper route to happiness; but changing perceptions gives you a real route to fulfillment.
What happens in a happiness workshop?
We go through all the principles and I’ve got exercises that I do with people because it’s about challenging people’s perceptions. I can’t tell anybody how they should see life but I can help them to view life differently. The principles give people courage to make a difficult decision. It’s about getting on the path that’s right for you.
What makes you most happy?
I wake up happy! The thing that makes me really happy is going walking round the hills. I live in the Pennines so I find that if something’s bothering me then I just put my hiking boots on and go walking in nature.
Define what it means to be happy.
To define happiness is about discovering your true you. It’s about being authentic – and I know that word gets thrown around a lot – but when you know your true you then you stand confidently in your life and you attract what’s right for you. Altogether that makes for a happy place.
What time of the day are you most happy?
Early morning when I take a walk.
What’s your favourite colour?
Purple – it’s my spirit colour.
Last book you read?
Le Petit Prince, it’s bilingual because I’m learning to speak French.
Last thing you ate?
I just had a baked potato with cheese – it made me happy!
Last thing you bought?
A bar of dark chocolate.
Each copy of Happiness Millionaire comes with free membership to the book’s bonus material, including expert interviews and videos. A pocket book of the 13 images is available too.