Save the date: Pursuit of Happiness Day

Coming April 13, 2012, thanks to the good folks at Sustainable Seattle:

Pursuit of Happiness Day
Happiness is as American as Apple Pie. April 13th is the birthday of Thomas Jefferson, author of the famous “pursuit of happiness” line in our Declaration of Independence.Friday, April 13, 2012 is the first Pursuit of Happiness Day. The event will be a national festival/teach-in on American campuses,pursuit_of_happiness_day_logo


Interest in measuring and promoting well-being or happiness, instead of simply increases in Gross Domestic Product, is galvanizing people around the world. The science of happiness has exploded in universities around the world. The most popular class at Harvard is now a class about happiness, from which hundreds of students are turned away each year due to demand. Business leaders like Tony Hsieh are coming to understand the great importance of well-being in the workplace. The United Kingdom just launched its Action for Happiness Day and campaign to great fanfare, and its Prime Minister announced that the UK would publish a happiness index with quarterly GDP figures. Cities and universities in Brazil have launched happiness campaigns as has the city of Victoria, BC. In the US, Sustainable Seattle is leading a city happiness initiative that is spreading to other places—including small towns like Decorah, Iowa. The Gallup-Healthways organization now polls people’s the positive affect aspect of happiness in the US on a daily basis, and in 150 other countries around the world.

2011 Focus on Universities

US campuses were the launching pad for the enormously successful Earth Day in 1970, the much more limited, Take Back Your Time Day in 2003, and Bill McKibben’s hugely popular 350 events around climate change in 2009. Sadly, counselors at American universities have witnessed a major increase in depression in recent years—at Cornell University, six students committed suicide in the last year alone. Pressures on students are taking a toll. A focus on what they can do to improve their lives and their happiness is an imperative today.

We need a vision of the future that sustains us. Happiness is subject that allows nearly all disciplines on campus to participate and contribute their knowledge to a teach-in and celebration. Happiness scientists, working for the United Nations in the Kingdom of Bhutan, have identified nine essential domains of happiness. Neglect of any of these ultimately reduces personal and social well-being. Here are the domains, and academic disciplines connected with them that could be encouraged to participate in Pursuit of Happiness Day:

• Psychological Well-Being: psychology, pharmacy, theology
• Health: Public health, medicine, physical education
• Time Balance: Leisure and Recreation, Theology, Management, Information Technology
• Education: Education, Library Science, Information Technology, Communications, English
• Social Vitality: Sociology, history, urban design, architecture, social work, IT
• Cultural Vitality: Art, music, drama, Recreation, Languages, Anthropology, Ethnic and Gender Studies, Geography
• Governance: Political Science, Public Policy, International Studies
• Environment: Environmental Science, Ecological Economics, Biology, Meteorology, Agriculture, Engineering
• Material Well-Being: Economics, Business, Labor Studies, Social Work, Agriculture, Architecture, Engineering, Finance

Inter-disciplinary teams could work together to share insights as the teach-in develops.

Get Happy: Suggested Activities for Pursuit of Happiness Day

The focus should be on the personal, social and policy dimensions of happiness, and the aim should be to get students more engaged with each other, their colleges, their local communities and national issues. In the 2010 elections, only 21 percent of American college students actually voted.

  • The event should include substantive information and serious consideration of the subject, but will be enhanced by festive activities, planned by student teams.
  • Students would be encouraged to take “The Happiness Survey” and colleges would be provided with aggregate scores for discussion, with the idea of increasing happiness scores on each campus, and a sharing of “best practices.”
  • A pre-recorded video of insights from happiness scholars could be shown campus-wide, followed by small group “World Café” style discussions or “happiness circles.”
  • A handbook could be created and distributed with insights on improving personal happiness, including a focus on generosity and community participation.
  • Events could illustrate these themes—a volunteer activity at a food bank, home building with Habitat for Humanity, for example.
  • University libraries can provide displays of happiness books and other resources.
  • Faculty and students can organize for-credit elective classes. These might include planning projects for the event. Students in many classes can be encouraged to engage in projects, papers and research leading up to the event.
  • Prominent campus scholars can take their knowledge into the local communities to make presentations. These communities might be encouraged to conduct their own happiness initiatives, with support from Sustainable Seattle.
  • International students can be encouraged to present ideas for improving well-being from their own countries (eg. Bhutan).
  • Pursuit of Happiness Day can be confined to campus teach-ins or it can be extended to include high school students and entire communities, as was the case with the first Earth Day.
  • Students and faculty will be encouraged to help plan the day.
  • Social networking tools can help spread the idea widely and media interest in the day is virtually guaranteed.
  • The events of Pursuit of Happiness Day should lead to action for positive change.

There is no limit to ideas for this project. In the next few weeks we will be collecting input and feedback on this idea, and lining up commitments to participate. Development of the project idea will continue through spring and summer. Email happyThis e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it to get involved!


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One thought on “Save the date: Pursuit of Happiness Day

  1. David Weyeneth, Sr. says:

    Yakima, WA may participate in 13 Ap 2012 GNH Teach-ins. We would like to hear from others on ideas for connecting.

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