March 20 is International Day of Happiness: an annual event organised by the United Nations and UK-based charity Action for Happiness. The Buddhist Kingdom of Bhutan has been promoting Gross National Happiness over Gross National Product since the 1970s. However, the idea of having a day dedicated to the idea that “feeling happy is a global human right” is relatively new.
The first International Day of Happiness was in 2013, following an initiative from UN adviser, Jayme Illien. He grew up in one of Mother Theresa’s Kolkata orphanages until he was adopted by an American family; this experience gave him a unique insight into global inequality. He saw the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that encompasses sustainable development, poverty eradication and the happiness and wellbeing of everyone.
Over the last seven years UN member states have run events to raise awareness of the importance of happiness, from conferences and social media campaigns to community workshops and dances. They’ve been joined by world leaders and celebrities, including Chelsea Clinton, UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-Moon, and Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela. One of the most memorable moments was the 24-hour global live streaming video of the Pharrell Williams’ song, Happy, in 2013.
In 2021, we’re all in this together
The whole world now needs to deal with the Covid-19 crisis together. That’s why this year’s International Day of Happiness theme is ‘Keep Calm. Stay Wise. Be Kind’. Action for Happiness sees this as an opportunity to come together and find uplifting and positive ways to look after ourselves and each other. Their recommendations include:
Keep calm: When so many things are outside our control, we need to remember to breathe and focus on what really matters, so we can respond constructively.
Stay wise: We can all choose positive actions that support our wellbeing and help others to do the same.
Be kind: Even when we’re forced to be apart physically, we can stay connected and reach out to help others who may be in need.
We really can study and measure happiness
Psychologists have been talking about the importance of positive emotions in human wellness for many years. For example, there’s evidence that increased levels of happiness can improve physical health, with lower rates of heart disease. Happiness is also associated with enhanced levels of social engagement, purpose and focus.
Positive psychology, or the science of happiness, is now being taken more seriously and is starting to be understood by a wider audience. In fact, over 2 million people have taken Yale’s online Science of Wellbeing course, making it their most popular class ever. The course helps people develop research-backed habits to create a happier life.
The UN releases its World Happiness Report to coincide with International Day of Happiness each year. The report measures and ranks the happiness of 156 countries based on social, economic and environmental wellbeing. It also sets goals to increase happiness because it believes happiness is a basic human right.
We can all take responsibility to achieve a more positive mindset – for ourselves and those we interact with at work or in our communities. As the Yale course explains, happiness doesn’t come from owning luxury status symbols. But it can come from a fulfilling career in an engaging workplace, involvement in voluntary work or simply helping others as part of a community.
At Happ, we help our clients measure and track their customer and employee experience. That’s the essential first step to understanding ways to improve happiness!