International Day of Happiness

By Arijit Goswami

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In this world filled with miseries and struggles, happiness often comes as a luxury. Amidst all the tribulations that we are in currently and have ever been in the past, it is the little moments of happiness that have kept us alive and active. No wonder, humans very well realize the significance of happiness for the greater good of one’s life and of the world – a sentiment that has materialized into International Day of Happiness.

Inundated with special days like Mother’s Day, Father’s Day, Earth Day, World Yoga Day, and so on, a day that most people don’t notice is the International Day of Happiness. Every year, March 20 is dedicated to celebrating the spirit of joy and happiness, and United Nations has designated this day “to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world”. Isn’t it interesting to find a day when we commit ourselves to spread positivity in the world and promote the very sentiment that strengthens the fabric of the society? Sure, it does, and let’s explore the past and present of this day even further.

History of International Day of Happiness

The day dedicated to happiness traces its roots back to the campaign run on happiness. Named “Happytalism”, this campaign was founded in 2006 by Luis Gallardo and Jayme Illien, President of World Happiness Foundation. Rom 2006 till 2012, the campaign emphasized on the need for advancing the primacy of happiness for general well-being of an individual, which impacts an economy and democracy at large.

It was in 2011, at United Nations General Assembly, that Jayme Illien proposed the idea of International Day of Happiness. He was motivated by the philosophy of ‘Happiness Economics’ and wanted to promote the same by improving the economic advancement of all nations. Interestingly, the United Nations General Assembly adopted the idea. On July 19, 2011, it passed the UN Resolution 65/309, ‘Happiness Toward A Holistic Approach To Growth’, thanks to the initiative taken by the then-Prime Minister of Bhutan, Jigme Thinley. Bhutan has consistently featured as a nation that has diligently pursued Gross Happiness Index, since the 1970s. During the sixty-sixth session of the General Assembly, the Himalayan country also hosted a High Level Meeting on the theme “Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm”. The resolution was established in 2012 in the form of International Day of Happiness, and was commemorated in 2013 for the first time.

The special day has further strengthened the concept formulated by Jayme Illien and has informed people regarding the significance of happiness in one’s life and the need for factoring in happiness in the public policies. The International Day of Happiness is not just a day for reminding people of the need for joy in life, but also a precedent for future policy action.

Reason to celebrate

The International Day of Happiness urges people around the world to make incremental progress towards their mental well-being and focus on the small things that improve the standard of our lives. This special day every year reminds people to share their gratitude and happiness with family and friends, who have had a positive impact on their lives. Researchers from University of California and University of Miami found in a joint project that gratitude towards others makes us feel happier. This research was published in Harvard Health Journal and it further reinforces the relevance of the rationale behind the International Day of Happiness. United Nations advocates practicing gratitude to make life more meaningful and fulfilling.

Through this day, people are also encouraged to maintain a gratitude log. This special day is to remind people about the need for mending relationships that have gone through rough tides. Moreover, people also celebrate this day to support the cause of volunteering for community work, wherein people encourage working for charity and giving away one’s riches for the greater prosperity of the society.

Social issue at the core

The UN recognizes well-being and happiness as universal aspirations for human beings worldwide. The international body has also recognized the dire need for a more equitable, inclusive, and balanced approach to economic growth to promote poverty eradication, sustainable development, and the well-being of every individual on this planet. Today, the International Day of Happiness is hosted not only by the United Nations, but also by several other organizations, like HappinessDay.org, and Action for Happiness. Through these web and social media platforms, anyone can share inspirational stories about what leads them to happiness and how it impacts their surroundings, while paving the road towards a better future.

The International Day of Happiness becomes all the more crucial for a developing nation like India when we consider the fact that in the World Happiness Report 2021, India ranked 139 out of 149 nations, which paints an abysmal and worrisome picture. This is largely because of the myriad of social evils existing in our society. Hunger, lack of education, illiteracy, lack of sanitation and hygiene and a general dissatisfaction with the government are the causes behind such widespread unhappiness. These very factors are also a part of the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) that India has signed up for. The SDGs are the blueprint for achieving a sustainable future for all of us and our next generations to come. Therefore, the issue of lack of happiness in general is not a trivial concern, but a burning one. This is why it is important for policymakers and citizens to cooperate and collaborate on how to make life happier through sustainability and effective policy action.

The official advocacy

UN Secretary General, Ban Ki Moon, stated in an address to the General Assembly of the UN on January 22, 2013 that the society needs to focus on facing the social challenges together, so that happiness can be facilitated in everyone’s life. The official information on International Day of Happiness states ten steps to meet the goal of happiness by 2021.

  1. On must do things that make them happy
  2. Participate in the World Happiness Contest
  3. Spread the word around the things they have done for happiness
  4. Celebrate the International Day of Happiness
  5. Give and promote happiness among fellow human beings
  6. Share on social media all the things that makes us happy
  7. Actively promote the resolution on all platforms available
  8. Enjoy being one with nature
  9. Advance the United Nations global goals for sustainable development
  10. Adopt the concept of hedonism

The official information also included seven main missions in 2021, which are as follows.

  1. Happiness to be a universal aspiration in everyone’s lives
  2. Happiness must be a fundamental right for all
  3. Happiness must be the guiding star for people, governments and institutions
  4. Happiness must become a way of living and serving communities
  5. Approach for attaining happiness must aim for achieving sustainable development goals
  6. Happiness to be considered as a new paradigm for human development
  7. The International Day of Happiness must be celebrated worldwide in an inclusive and democratic fashion

Having such a strong support from the United Nations has given the International Day of Happiness a worldwide acclaim and today, it is one of the most widely recognized international days, though some of us may have heard about it for the first time.

How can we celebrate?

If anyone is motivated to usher in happiness in one’s life and needs some expert assistance on the same, the web is full of helping hands. Action for Happiness provides numerous resources for increasing the happiness levels and well-being of people. People can sign up for monthly action plans and can also use an app for daily nudges on how to incorporate mindfulness and positivity in life. If that still sounds less for a happiness therapy, a plethora of self-help articles and documents are available for making stepwise progress to happiness.

However, we don’t need to rely on social platforms and apps all the time, since happiness is more about the mindset and lifestyle, not about using technological tools. It’s more about surrounding oneself with people who motivate us, cheer us up and don’t pull us down unnecessarily. One can volunteer for charity work or join a social cause interest group. Doing something good everyday helps to herald happiness in life. Being content with oneself and appreciating oneself despite the flaws is the foundation on which eudaimonia is built.

Conclusion

Happiness is the elixir of life. Without joy and fulfilment, life seems to be bereft of any meaning. Therefore, let’s make it a practice to open our doors of life to the winds of happiness, as they caress our moments and bring in a new gush of rejuvenation. And when we would have finally hugged happiness in life, let’s spread the buzz about it on social media platforms and otherwise during the International Day of Happiness.

By Arijit Goswami, Punjab

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