I read in Time Out recently some pretty alarming stats about the levels of air pollution in London, including just how much smaller the lung capacity is of children who grow up in this city, compared to kids growing up in the countryside. This surely just adds to the list of reasons not to live in our city; it’s expensive, it’s sprawling, it’s congested, it’s competitive. Its inhabitants are rude, we’re impatient, and if recent studies are to be believed, we’re unhappy too.
The anonymity, stress and pace of living in the Big Smoke means that our lung capacity isn’t the only thing that’s under threat by choosing to live here; our general happiness and well being is too.
This is because many of us don’t prioritise the activities and sensations that boost our contentment and fulfilment. Activities such as relaxation, volunteering our service to others, exercise, and building communities. Sensations such as feelings of belonging and ownership, creativity, feeling useful, and as though we’re living life in the moment.
These are sensations and activities that bring deep, meaningful happiness, fulfilment and peace. Where pleasure can come and go, deep happiness can last, despite tube delays, crowded streets and looming deadlines.
I’m the owner of The Canvas Cafe, a social enterprise cafe and creative venue just off Brick Lane in Spitalfields. The Canvas Cafe is trying to offer Londoners the chance to grow their happiness, by supporting and providing a platform for organisations that run events, workshops, programmes and activities in emotional health and well being.
Our name is literal; our walls are a blank canvas for our customers to share their thoughts, ideas, secrets and stories in an ever-evolving piece of live art that is not only fun and empowering to take part in, but a delight to read; spend some time reading our walls, and your faith in humanity will be restored.
Our programme of events is constantly changing, and includes free yoga, comedy, live music, spoken word and theatre, inspiring talks, and workshops in mindfulness and self-progression. We work with organisations such as the Museum of Happiness, Inner Space, Sofar Sounds, The Samaritans and the Happy Start Up School, as well as Action for Happiness who named us London’s first Happy Cafe in 2015.
Our menu is locally sourced, ethical and homemade; our small team of 4 makes everything here on site, including our vegan cakes, healthy smoothies and fresh main meals and salads, that change every day. We’ve also just started making homemade vegan freakshakes, that make you happy from the inside out.
It’s all this, and then one last piece of magic, that makes The Canvas Cafe such a powerfully positive place; what I am told most of all by visitors to The Canvas Cafe is that it has a magical atmosphere, full of warmth, happiness and positivity. A space where you can read peacefully, draw creatively, sew or knit productively, chat happily, sing joyfully, and laugh wholeheartedly.
I’m often told that this happy atmosphere hits you as soon as you walk through the door at The Canvas Cafe. LeCool sums it up by claiming: “The Canvas Cafe is like a little pot of gold at the end of the rainbow.”
But who is it who’s creating this warm, welcoming atmosphere? Well, it’s you, actually: Londoners.
Whether you’re a Spitalfields resident or local worker; someone who’s jumped on the Orange Line from down South, or taken the Central Line from way out West. Most of our customers are Londoners, and so it’s Londoners themselves who are creating the warm community feeling at The Canvas Cafe.
Surprised? Don’t be. If you’re a Londoner, you’ll know too well the negative aspects of living in our vast, often angry, always polluted city. But yet you still choose to live here, because London is vibrant, and diverse, and culturally exciting. The Canvas Cafe sees that, and harnesses it into something positive, inspiring and uplifting. If you’re looking for a breath of fresh air in London, we think you’ll find it at The Canvas Cafe.