Today Is the International Day of Happiness

Today marks the second ever International Day of Happiness!

Inspired by the concept of “Gross Happiness” and originating from the Kingdom of Bhutan’s fourth King Jigme Singye Wangchuck, also known as The “Dragon King.” The Dragon King saw the importance of government in helping strike a balance between the spiritual and the material. He advocated on policies focused on increasing the happiness of his people.

In 2011 Bhutan sponsored a UN resolution called “Happiness: Towards a Holistic Approach to Development” arguing that a country’s GDP wasn’t necessarily a reflection of their happiness level. The UN General Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution and March 20th became the International Day of Happiness.

Happiness can be elusive and not quite as black and white as the day commemorating it would suggest. In fact, Bhutan– the very country that proposed the UN resolution- -produces a high number of refugees who have reported widespread depression and high rates of suicides.

We talk about happiness openly and when we do it’s a choice that we have. We can “choose” to be happy despite our circumstances. Yet sometimes it’s not that simple. As someone who has experienced depression I can attest to that. I can imagine a point in my life where an International Day of Happiness would be an utterly laughable concept. On this side of that particular series of life experiences I can appreciate the bad stuff as being a necessary requisite to the good stuff that followed. I can appreciate what “happiness” feels like because I’ve felt the other side of spectrum.

A World Happiness Report commissioned by the UN found that the happiest countries are in Northern Europe and score well on “wealth and political freedom, strong social networks and an absence of corruption.” Yet a Gallup Poll released last year found that citizens in some of the poorest countries were the happiest in the world. According to that study if you want to find happy people look no further than El Salvador, Panama and Paraguay. The researchers found that “people in poor countries can find joy in the moral satisfaction that often is not available to citizens of the developed countries.” A poor woman selling tea on the streets of Paraguay was quoted as saying “life is too short there is no place for sadness.”

While I appreciate the sentiment I’m not sure I agree. Dwelling in any one emotion is probably ill-advised but the full spectrum is part of life. We don’t talk about those emotions as openly as we talk about happiness which disrupts the balance of yin and yang. Happiness and sadness exist in relation to each other.

I don’t think this discounts the value of a day of happiness. What a great idea! It feels good to be happy or to even take a moment to appreciate happy moments or memories or the capacity to be happy.

Life is complicated and humanity is intense so regardless of where you are or what you’re up to or how you’re feeling, we hope you have a happy day of happiness!

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Sara Haile-Mariam

Sara Haile-Mariam