International Day of Happiness

On 12 July 2012, the UN General Assembly passed a resolution to mark 20 March as International Happiness Day.  The initiative was brought forth by the country of Bhutan, a country which has recognized the supremacy of national happiness over national income for over 40 years.  Bhutan had also proposed, a few years ago, that there be a 9th Millennium Development Goal of global happiness.

This year, on 20 March,the Secretary General of the UN, Ban Ki-moon, shared with us, "Happiness may have different meanings to different people."  From his perspective, happiness is implicit in The Charter of the UN, promoting peace, justice, human rights, social progress, and improved standards of life.  He is quick to tie the notion of happiness on a global scale to discussions of sustainable development and to the future we want, measuring and accounting for a broader well being and not simply to national income.

 Ban Ki-moon envisions that a new economic paradigm is needed for global happiness.  He referred to gross global happiness as being based on the three pillars of social, economic, and environmental well being.

The President of the 68th General Assembly, John Ashe, spoke of happiness as an aspiration of all human beings, with the pursuit of happiness as a fundamental human goal.  He sees the post-2015 goals, to the extent that they are being defined in a way that is people centered and all inclusive, as driving toward a universal well being, and global happiness is just that, "a universal well being."

We posed the question, "What does happiness mean to you?" as a post on our facebook page, "World Goodwill at the UN" and received back a few lines from the lyrics to a song in the play, "Charlie Brown." "Happiness is having a brother, sharing a sandwich, getting along. Happiness is learning to whistle, knowing a secret, catching a firefly and setting it free. Happiness is singing together and happiness is those who sing with you ..." And then others joined in, "Happiness is having my college basketball team upset the Tourney," and with lyrics from "Happiness Runs" ... "Everybody is a part of everything anyway.  You can have everything if you just let yourself be."  "Happiness is sitting among the trees."  "Happiness is family."  "Happiness is what u love to do ..."  and "Happiness is family love...and all God's blessings."

The UN held two briefings on the International Day of Happiness. In the morning, the meeting, "Happiness Happening:  Impacting Communities Globally," featured a panel of speakers which included the Permanent Representatives of Iraq, Denmark (defined as the" happiest country in the world") and El Salvador.  The discussion focussed on how communities are making choices to collaborate and share in an effort to create a higher quality of living.  In the afternoon, the discussion was on "Sharing Happiness Initiatives for the Post-2015 Agenda," with a focus on how entrepreneurs are taking the lead in contributing to solutions in the world, seeing problems as opportunities while inspiring others to join them.  We're learning how to share resources in building sustainable communities.

 Often when we think of people being happy, it is easy to use our creative imaginations to readily visualize them laughing, yes?  Laughter is contagious.  Goodwill or love in action is also contagious, but may not have direct and immediate correlation.  When one person starts to laugh, it triggers a direct reaction with those in the surrounding area also starting to laugh.  Goodwill triggers goodwill.  Underlying efforts to nurture the 3 pillars of social, economic, and environmental well being is a groundswell of goodwill or love in action.