Wednesday 20th March 2013 saw the first “International Happiness Day” as declared by the United Nations. Many have smirked at this, and not in a positive way. Why do we need an international celebration of happiness? Surely the United Nations has more important things to worry about – like Syria or North Korea or the persecution of vulnerable people globally.
Well let’s consider what would happen if this day was really taken seriously and had happened years ago. What if individually, within families and friendship groups, within significant relationships, within the workplace, within the nation, between nations, we genuinely took some time to consider happiness – what it means to us, how we can nurture it in ourselves and others, and what a difference happiness could make to the world?
A world happiness day is something that we can applaud and embrace. Everyone should consider the potential of being more contented, but here lies an issue. Isn’t there a difference between “happy” and “content”, and what is the more sustainable state of being?
Imagine a situation where everyone was permanently happy. Is this really something to which we aspire? Is it remotely achievable? What if there is something that makes me incredibly happy that deeply impacts negatively on the happiness of another? What happens when that happiness is savaged through bereavement and grief? How can we be prepared for the unhappy times in our lives when we are expected to be permanently happy?
The initiators of such a day are right to promote a state of happiness. We don’t do enough “happiness” in this world, and if we were more proactive and considerate about happiness then we might not have the same destruction and destitution that we currently have to endure. However, we must be careful what we wish for. We must equip young and old to consider what makes them happy and how they can sustain this in life but we should equally prepare them for the disappointments in life to ensure that the fall and the hurt isn’t so damaging.
Imagine another situation. What if the state of our nation was measured in contentedness rather than gross domestic product? What if we were judging ourselves and other nations, if indeed there’s a need to judge, on how positive peoples’ lives were? What if we realised that money really couldn’t buy happiness, and thereby there was no purpose in pursuing this inequitable and frequently unattainable goal?
In Bhutan, this is precisely what has happened, and in the article below, you can see the impact on the people in this country. In conjunction with a change of governance, Jigme Singye Wangchuck ; the “Dragon King” leader of Bhutan, set about developing a nation based on Buddhist principles and values – whereby the nation considered their wealth in happiness rather than material goods.
In this article the Minister for Education, Thakur Singh Powdyel said,
“People always ask how can you possibly have a nation of happy people? But this is missing the point……………GNH is an aspiration, a set of guiding principles through which we are navigating our path towards a sustainable and equitable society. We believe the world needs to do the same before it is too late.”
For the leaders of Bhutan, it wasn’t rhetoric. It was a theory and an ideal that was implemented. For example, four years ago, changes in the education system introduced green schools (“The idea of being green does not just mean the environment, it is a philosophy for life,” – says a head teacher in Bhutan). Schools have also introduced daily meditation and soothing music (more of this later on our 3D Eye blog).
Considering happiness as a general measure of “success” isn’t beyond the realms of possibility. The notion of a Gross Domestic Happiness has been further explored in 2006 by Med James, the President of International Institute of Management in a seven point measure tracking a nation’s mental and emotional health. These include,
- Economic Wellness
- Environmental Wellness
- Physical Wellness
- Mental Wellness
- Workplace Wellness
- Social Wellness
- Political Wellnes
These seven areas of wellness have since been incorporated into the first Global GNH Survey.
All of this on a national level is commendable but let’s come a little closer to home. If we considered our wellness and the wellness of those that are dearest to us, then surely this would have an impact on our happiness. If we looked carefully and intelligently, using empathy, intuition, creativity to instil harmony, compassion and consideration for ourselves and others, then our own individual lives would surely be happier.
Happiness can be solitary but it’s also dependent upon other people too. In celebration of International Happiness Day, albeit somewhat belated, perhaps we ought to spend some quiet time considering the intelligence of wellness and the enormous benefits it can bring to our lives, individually, companionably and collectively.
The following photographs are taken in Liverpool Street Station during the Rush Hour on Wednesday where people gathered to highlight the need for happiness in our lives.