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Happy #HappyDay, Collaboratists!

Whether today finds you feeling down or like a room without a roof and out, here’s a reason to cheer up: today is the International Day of Happiness, an official UN day of recognition that the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal. So, pop on some Pharrell - it’s time to get happy!

Every year, on March 20, the UN recognizes that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal and the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples.”

So, the first part about happiness being a human goal sounds good, right? What follows gets a little more jargon-y and a lot less clear. Frankly, most of us zoned out at “economic growth” and tuned back in at “the well-being of all peoples”.

At AHEM, we agree happiness is a fundamental human goal. It makes sense to assess human progress by the extent to which we are enjoying our lives and, conversely, by the absence of misery. We just think the conditions required for happiness are a lot simpler, more basic, and more interconnected than the UN suggests.

The sustainability of happiness starts with and depends on habitable surroundings and nurturing societies. Period. Without a safe place to live, nutritious food to eat, clean water to drink, and people around who care and help one another, let’s face it - we’re not only screwed..we’re unhappy.

Last week, the World Happiness Report 2016 Update, which ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels, was released in Rome. The first World Happiness Report was published in April 2012, with the purpose of trying to better measure and understand subjective well-being or how satistifed we are, and this year’s report documents the status of happiness around the world.

What is subjective well-being and how do you measure it, you ask? Well, the OECD (2013) Guidelines on Measuring Subjective Well-being and the Commission on the Measurement of Economic and Social Progress contend it’s about our life satisfaction as measured by three different aspects: (1) what we think about our lives, (2) what positive emotions (e.g., joy, pride) we feel, and (3) what negative emotions (e.g., pain, anger, worry) we feel. What causes each of these might be different, but it’s important to note that in all cases, looking at all three aspects goes well beyond evaluating people’s income and material conditions as the source of well-being.

If you’re living in Denmark (ranked #1) or Switzerland (ranked #2), congratulations - you are among the happiest feeling people in the world. Canada ranked #6, the United States ranked #13, Italy ranked #50, India ranked #118, Haiti ranked #136, and Burundi ranked last.

In addition to evaluating the happiness of countries, the report also documents an increase in the inequality of happiness within most countries, which contributes to lower average well-being of individuals. That means that just like large gaps in income inequality and resource inequality, we also have huge gaps between the very happy and the very unhappy. It makes sense, right? If your surroundings and/or social conditions are terrible, life probably feels like it’s terrible, too.

That’s why it’s critical we all live a caring life, uplift one another, and support one another. Focusing on self happiness is important - but focusing solely on ourselves is how we ended up with a small percent of the human population in control of the majority of wealth, resources, and happiness.

So, what are you doing today and every day, to make people happier?

Not sure where to start? Here are five things you can do right now:

1. Sign on to happiness. At AHEM, we’re all about the spirit and power of collaboration because - hey - no one person can have all the answers. So, a great place to start making the world a happier place is to sign AHEM's Declaration of Interdependence so we can all get on the same page with our thinking and start aligning our actions towards the same vision of happiness: habitable surroundings and nurturing societies.

2. Go outside. Leave the digital stuff at home and take yourself for a walk. Being able to help someone else means we first need to help ourselves. So, if you’re feeling stressed, overwhelmed, or down, take a few minutes for yourself. Calm your mind with a walk around your neighborhood or a quiet lounge on a bench. Look up at the sky, feel the sun or breeze, become aware of what’s around, and let yourself smile.

3. Love. Call a friend, tell your family you love them, give a stranger a compliment, or offer your time to help someone. Being there for others is a huge way to feel connection and impact someone else’s happiness, and most of the time, all you need to do is listen. You’ll find it makes you feel happier, too. Happiness isn’t a competition, it’s something to share. So, go be nice.

4. Raise your voice for happiness. Ever notice politicians talk a lot about security and economy but little about happiness? If you live somewhere where elections take place, that means you can play a role in making sure happiness and well-being are part of local and national policy conversations. Learn how to register to vote in your area, learn more about local candidates, and gear up for election day.

5. Hashtag the heck out of it. #HappyDay #AHEM

Together, we can do better.

this post was co-authored by Laura Stanik and Chris Blockus, AHEM Founders | March 20, 2016

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"The sustainability of happiness starts with and depends on habitable surroundings and nurturing societies."

- Laura Stanik, AHEM Founder

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