ThereвЂ™s growing interest in the idea of Gross National Happiness! We need to measure more than the GDP, the money passing through the system, because it doesnвЂ™t differentiate between the positive and the negative. We need to measure the wellbeing of people and the planet and make our policies accordingly. Why should government care about making people happy? Happy people are healthier and kinder as well as being better parents, better workers, better environmentalists, better citizens, and on and on. We need public policies that help people become happier вЂ” things like national health care, social security, and shorter work hours.
But we also need to discover things we can do as individuals:Put money in its place! Money will always be a motivator, but it shouldnвЂ™t be the main one. Research shows that after a certain point, more money doesnвЂ™t make you happier. But the belief that if weвЂ™re rich weвЂ™ll be happy is deep in our American bones. So resist! Be generous! For instance, donвЂ™t pass by the Real Change people selling their newspapers. ItвЂ™s a great paper and youвЂ™ll feel better for being generous. The true beneficiary of kindness and generosity is the giver.
Stop and Chat! Social connection is the essential ingredient in happiness, but we have fewer friends and social trust is down. Interacting with people in a friendly, respectful, and convivial manner adds years to your life! Take time to stop and chat as you go through your day!
Experience Flow! Engage in activities that absorb you deeply, where time stops and youвЂ™re totally engaged. People find joy in gardening, birding, cooking, sewing, writing, reading, and on and on. Make the time and resist distractions! (No more multi-tasking!)
Savor! Take time to notice and appreciate what youвЂ™re doing. When you walk around Green Lake, donвЂ™t just lose yourself in thoughts about work! Look at the water and the trees and the turtles lined up on a log and remark (to yourself or anyone around) how wonderful it all is.
Feel Better! Walk, get enough sleep, and eat fruits and vegetables. You know this! How many times do you need to be told!
Smile! I hate to say this because it sounds so phony! But, again, the research finds that people who smile are happier. WeвЂ™re not asking for a phony smile. ( In fact, studies find that phoniness is bad for you.) But other cultures seem to smile more than we do. Is it because we want to appear tough? Do we think that smiling makes us look weak, and you have to be strong to compete in our cutthroat culture? Or is it because weвЂ™re really not happy with our frantic, competitive society. Whatever the reason, we donвЂ™t smile as much as we should. Smiling is a gesture of caring вЂ” a signal that weвЂ™re nice people, approachable and non threatening. ItвЂ™s at the core of friendliness.
Be an activist! Acting on your values gives you a feeling of self respect and a sense of control (another important ingredient for happiness). Research has found that activists are happier than others, as long as they are fairly вЂњniceвЂќ activists -- not angry and hateful. People who are extreme, people who always rant and rave about how awful everything is, arenвЂ™t as happy. Spite and bitterness aren't good for you!
Find a way to feel grateful! ThereвЂ™s a lot of advice about the importance of gratitude. Some of the ideas will suit you and some wonвЂ™t. For instance, some like keeping a gratitude journal or writing a gratitude letter, but these donвЂ™t appeal to me. I like starting a meal acknowledging feelings of thankfulness, though. Whatever you do, gratitude is important because we live in a culture that makes us feel that we donвЂ™t have enough or that weвЂ™re not good enough. WeвЂ™re in a perpetual state frustration вЂ” always wanting more, never satisfied.
Enjoy! Do more things that you like; get out of the things that you donвЂ™t like; and try to enjoy the rest. Be an easy laugher, particularly at yourself.
Take your time! Ultimately, you canвЂ™t do any of these things if youвЂ™re in a hurry. We need a Slow Down Seattle movement!
Note: If you want to laugh more, join us for Funny Films in Phinney. MondayвЂ™s 7/12 -8/2 ,7:00 to 9:00. Lutheran Church 55th and Phinney. Free. Sponsored by Sustainable Greenwood Phinney.
Gross National HappinessDemocrats push to extend benefits for unemployed