Happy World Happiness Day! Tactics To Be Happier

What actions can you – and the world – take to be happier today?

Today, March 20, 2013, is the first International Day of Happiness.  The date and theme came from the United Nations, and it has been picked up by others all of the world.  There have been events set for all major continents on and around the date.  These ranged from laughter sessions in India to an Economics of Happiness conference in Australia, to flash mobs & happy greetings set for places such as Washington DC and London.

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be" Abraham Lincoln
“Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be” -a wise thought, attributed to U.S. President Abraham Lincoln

The theme was inspired by the Kingdom of Bhutan, which created the idea and term of “Gross National Happiness” (GNH).   By using a happiness framework to guide the growth of the country, it challenges the assumption that having more money – or more stuff – can serve as the basis for happiness.  Bhutan has created their Gross National Happiness Index to measure their progress.

More Happiness Means More What?

There is criticism on happiness measurement, which is not as precise as the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which the GNH challenges.  The GNH proponents may be able to use the momentum of having a happiness day to continue ongoing discussion and research into this theme.  Perhaps it may not be possible to calculate happiness and compare it between cultures.  What is happiness in one cultural context may be different in another.

Every Day Is A Vacation!

But for many people, aiming to improve the feeling of well-being for a country or culture is attractive.  They explore the ideas around fulfillment and purpose in life.  As an example, most people are happier while on vacation, than they are on other days.  But if the happiness level of a society could be raised so that every day created the positive sense of happiness that is usually reserved for a vacation, wouldn’t that be a goal worth pursuing?  And what if that could be done while also improving economic conditions?

Simply being more mindful about happiness for a day can’t hurt.  And since some of the events are designed to continue on after March 20, they may also later show up in the various ways that happiness is being measured in countries around the world.

Ways To Improve Your Happiness

You can try these 3 “ABC”‘s of actions which may improve your happiness:

A – Act – take action to help someone else, or to make someone else happy.  This type of activity usually triggers various parts of your brain which will give you a reward feeling, increasing well-being.   And if someone smiles at you, the mirroring of that in your own brain (via your ‘mirror neurons’) will also improve your feeling of happiness.

B – Body – or brain fake – fool your mind by letting your body send triggers to promote positive feelings.  These tactics also will be reflected back in how others react to you, as people may mirror your actions:

1. Smile, even if it is fake: In a moment when you are not smiling, if you place a pencil – or similar item, even a finger – across your teeth horizontally, it may make you happier.  Why?  It creates a smile which contracts muscles which are associated with positive emotions.  Place the finger or item so it touches where your lips meet on the left & right sides, and gently bite down.

2. Up, not down: focus on looking up, sitting up, and in other ways not letting your body position set you up for draining of emotions.

C – Choose – decide to be happy.  Back up your choice with focusing on what can make you happy, and by avoiding people, situations, and activities which do not support your chosen direction.

And perhaps, by next March 20, the world or at least your world will be a little happier.