Melanie Weinberger wants to help communities unlock their happiness. More specifically, she wants to bring communities an opportunity to practice happiness.
"Happiness is an inside game," she says, meaning it’s not something someone can give you. It’s something you have to practice and give yourself.
She created Feel More Good, an online community that also meets in person once a month to hear from experts in happiness and learn how to practice it. The community also will be offering podcasts, videos and more content on happiness.
Weinberger, 34, moved here eight years ago, following a then-boyfriend from New York to Austin because he had a job at Facebook. The boyfriend didn’t last, but her love of Austin did. She created a career in bringing wellness experiences into the corporate world through her company Wellshift, which she has since sold.
What she noticed at Wellshift and as a life coach was that people craved wellness opportunities and happiness, but often company leaders didn’t embrace the idea themselves. For example, many would work through the wellness opportunities offered in their office. That created a culture where employees then felt guilty about taking part in those activities instead of working, even though the company was paying a wellness consultant.
Feel More Good allows people to take charge in their own happiness.
"Feeling good is actually a practice," Weinberger says. She wants to teach people how to enjoy that practice and make it cool. That’s why she named the group Feel More Good instead of something more academic with words like "consciousness" in it.
Weinberger began building the community as a Facebook group about a year before she held her first Feel More Good event in November. The next event is Jan. 23.
She thinks of it as democratizing the tools of happiness. The group is free to join. The events start at $25. She is also expanding the community by offering tickets to University of Texas groups for women of color in leadership and for underserved students.
It’s a movement to create internal awareness of our power over our own happiness, to choose our experience, she says.
The events feature thought-leaders in happiness sharing their techniques. "It’s like attending a fabulous TED Talk about happiness wisdom," she says. "It will have attendees looking inside themselves."
Weinberger has people interested in starting groups elsewhere, but she will work on first perfecting the Austin group this year and then branch out to one or two other cities. (Most of the Facebook page’s 600 followers are from Austin, but there are dozens from outside the city, too.) The goal: to have 100 groups in five years.
People on the Facebook page are starting to share their own happiness wisdom and not waiting for Weinberger or an expert to post their tips.
Weinberger works with a life coach on her own happiness. She loves to dance, sort out all her ideas on a whiteboard and throw a good party, which is kind of what Feel More Good is.
One thing she’s learned is to embrace her feelings, even if they’re not good, because it’s better to feel it, acknowledge it and then be able to get better faster.
"There’s a better way," she says. "If we learn the skills to embrace it, then we can transform it."
What she’s also learned that she wishes she had known in her 20s: "My worthiness of feeling good has nothing to do with career achievements or how I look or how much I weigh. It's a choice and an internal practice. Everyone gets to feel great. Everyone is deserving and is enough."