Today, March 20, is World Happiness Day. March 20 has been recognized as International Day of Happiness since first being introduced in 2006, and was endorsed by the United Nations in 2012 when they adopted Bhutan’s concept of Gross National Happiness as an international measure. What a wonderful concept, trying to spread happiness around the world. How did I not know that?!
I’ve been planning on writing a blog post to promote and celebrate the concept of World Happiness Day ever since reading about it about a month ago. But it’s not such an easy topic at the moment. There’s been a lot of water under the bridge since I first thought I’d write about it. And now here we are, kind of in a state of suspended animation. Most of us either find ourselves in self-isolation, which is the smart thing to be doing, or we are sick, which obviously is far worse. Given the reality of COVID-19 and the lockdown of millions of people right around the globe, we might well wonder if maybe World Happiness Day should be postponed for an undefined period of time, just like nearly everything else in our lives. But in fact now is the perfect time for World Happiness Day.
World Happiness Day encourages us to pause and think about what makes us happy personally and what we can do to bring happiness into our lives and the lives of others. And we certainly find ourselves with time to pause. That may be one of the few silver linings to come out of this world crisis. Those of us who are self-isolated but healthy should take advantage of having been forced to slow down a little. Forced to step off the treadmill of life, which we so often complain about.
What makes most people happy? Well, as I’ve discussed in previous posts about kindness, one of the big things that makes us happy is being kind to others. Research confirms that kindness makes you happy, and being happy actually makes you kinder in return.
What actions are coming out of the COVID-19 world crisis that contribute to our happiness, as strange as that may seem?
- Family time. I’m not naïve, I do know that being cooped up with small children who would normally be in school is not nirvana. Kids get bored very easily. But we have become so busy taking kids to playdates and organized activities that many of us may have let our leisurely, hanging-out-together family time lapse. Now it’s back, just like during Christmas break. We can get out those board games and other in-home activities like baking and making crafts and reconnect with each other at a slower pace. Building new family memories.
- We know how to stay connected. We’ve actually been preparing for a global shutdown ever since smartphones appeared on the scene. We know how to stay connected with those who are important to us. We’re brilliant at it; that’s practically all that we do! Don’t forget to keep reaching out to friends and family remotely. Human connections are always critical for happiness, and never more than now. And it can be done easily and effortlessly while isolated.
- Mindfulness. Mindfulness is one of the most popular things talked about as a stress reliever, as a way to calm down, clear our minds, and reconnect with ourselves – and with our spiritual side if you’re so inclined. You’ve never had a better opportunity to give mindfulness a serious try; you’ve run out of excuses. There are many online sites to help get you started. Seize the moment.
- Bipartisanship. Extreme and damaging partisanship in many countries is being shifted to bipartisan solutions to address this crisis that impacts everyone. Every. Single. One. Of. Us. This new bipartisan approach is a very welcome change for getting things done effectively, with no (or at least less) upsetting and counterproductive mudslinging, and for creating a more trusting society. A more trusting society is a happier society.
- Helping others. As people are isolated, they are finding new ways to reach out to each other. They recognize the need for human contact. They are singing from their balconies in Italy. Grassroots ‘caremongering’ groups are springing up across Canada, with people using Facebook to connect and run errands for vulnerable seniors in full isolation. Remember, kindness towards others makes the recipient happy, and it also makes the giver happy. One of the best win-wins known to man (and woman).
There, done. I’ve provided a few examples of opportunities for us to have moments of happiness during this crisis and to spread happiness to others. On World Happiness Day, let’s all stop and think about not just what makes us happy in normal times, but what might bring us happiness as a result of forced isolation. What ideas do you have for creating moments of happiness during lockdown? Have you been the giver or receiver of kindness yet during the world lockdown? If it goes on for a prolonged period of time, can you think of things you might do for others or need from others? These are challenging times, but in any crisis there are opportunities to make a difference. Isolation does not have to be an impediment to reaching out.
Stay safe, everyone.