International Day of Happiness

At 11.02am today the spring equinox will occur marking the start of spring. Spring is often a time for celebration and happiness as the days get longer, the weather gets nicer (let’s ignore the snow for now!) and everywhere you look little lambs are frolicking in the fields.

happinessIt’s only fitting then that the UN will be celebrating another first on 20th March 2013 – International Day of Happiness. Today the UN recognises that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”

In July 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted Resolution 66/281 which decreed that the International Day of Happiness would be observed every year on 20 March. The creation of the International Day of Happiness followed on from the first ever United Nations  conference on Happiness and Wellbeing and an earlier UN resolution calling for member states to place a greater focus on the happiness of their citizens.

Many governments are now moving towards measuring national prosperity beyond economic factors to include new elements such as happiness and wellbeing. Indeed, David Cameron stated that Britain will “start measuring our progress as a country not just by how our economy is growing, but by how our lives are improving, not just by our standard of living, but by our quality of life,”

For a long time research in the field of mental health has focused primarily on mental ill-health rather than the full spectrum of mental wellbeing. However, the growth of positive psychology in the late 20th century has given rise to the importance of giving attention to our positive thoughts, feelings and actions, as opposed to focusing on negative thoughts or actions. By reminding ourselves what went well instead of what went wrong, positive psychologists believe we can build a buffer against unhappiness, making us better able to take life’s knocks when they occur. Having a greater insight into what makes us happy in the first place can lead to practical actions to make us happier.

One of the founders of positive psychology, Martin Seligman summarizes human happiness:

When we have…

   Pleasure (tasty foods, warm baths etc… )

   Engagement (the absorption of an enjoyed yet challenging activity)

   Relationships (social ties are extremely reliable indicator of happiness)

  Meaning (a perceived pursuit or belonging to something bigger)

  Accomplishments (having recognised, concrete goals)

Do you agree with Martin Seligman? Join the discussion on twitter with #happyday and share what makes you happy.

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