The International Day of Happiness

af1 Happy International Day of Happiness

” We all live with the objective of being happy, our lives are all different and yet the same “

Anne Frank

The United Nations just celebrated its first International Day of Happiness on 20 March, 2013 by holding a conversation on “Happiness and well-being: Essential for a sustainable future.” You might be just as curious as I was, why did the UN choose the 20th of March as the International Day of Happiness? The answer is simple; for most countries, the date not only marks the end of winter and the beginning of the harvest season, but also equally divides morning and night, serving as a balance of nature.

What is Happiness and Why is it important to us?

Why is happiness important? Research shows that the happier people are, the healthier their relationships and the stronger their immune systems are. Happier people are also more adept at resolving conflicts and recovering from traumatic incidents. Thus, they tend to live longer.

What is Happiness? We may come up with hundreds of answers to that question; however, despite the different definitions, one thing is clear: happiness and well-being are universal!

GREED is the worst enemyBhutan, Small State with Big Ideas

It may be reasonable to say that “the wealthier you are, the happier you will be,”, but that’s not always the case. According to the “World Map of Happiness,” published by the University of Leicester in the UK, Bhutan ranked as No. 8 on the list. The U.S, on the other hand, has a GDP thirty times bigger than that of Bhutan, yet it ranked only 17th. Why?

Bhutan, known as the real life Shangri-La, has rejected to use GDP as an indicator of its national development since 1971. Instead, they use the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index, based on equitable social development, cultural preservation, environment protection and good governance, as a mean to pursuit its utmost national development goal-happiness.

H.E Ambassador Lhatu Wangchuk, Permanent Representative of Bhutan to the United Nations said that ” we are selfishlly blinded by our greed, greed is the worst enemy.” He told the audience that we care too much about our needs and are greedy rather than being responsible and disciplined. ” The world is connected and we are all interconnected, we cannot pretend to be happy if our neighbors are trembling.”

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People wrote down things that make them happy.

Happiness is not something out of reach

During the conversation, some useful and constructive suggestions on how to be happy were proposed. For instance, we should ask ourselves: “is this really what we need or is it out of greed?” We need to build a sense of spirituality within ourselves,  be understanding and respect diversities. We also need to improve inter-generational connectivity, and most important of all, share whatever happiness we have because sharing will increase our own happiness. An interesting study proves the point: women who share their income with people in need are happier than those who earn five times more but keep the money to themselves.

Happiness does not come from the outside world, it always comes from within,” said the Ambassador Dr. Hamid Ali-Bayati, Permanent Representative of Iraq to the UN. He told the audience that that during his torture and imprisonment under Iraq’s former regime, he kept his spirits high because he knew he was being tortured for a good cause.

So what exactly is the connection between happiness and sustainable development? Happiness in part may seem to be an individual pursuit, but it undeniably consists of social, economical and environmental elements. Happiness would not exist when one suffers from hunger or being deprived of human rights. In other words, in order to pave a global map of human happiness, fighting poverty, promoting health, safeguarding human rights and protecting the environment become essential and necessary.

After the discussions on the International Day of Happiness, we can perhaps bear in mind what Mahatma Gandhi once said, “the world has enough for everyone’s need, but not enough for everyone’s greed.” After all, happiness is a choice and is attainable for all.

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A Jazz Band performed in the International Day of Happiness

By Jonathan Yang, Intern at WYA HQ, New York.