Thursday, November 13, 2014


3 Hobbies for a Happier You

from Social Monsters!

If you are feeling stressed out, burned out and generally worn out by all of the responsibilities of life, it might be time to get outside of your usual routine and activities and take up a new hobby.

Why Hobbies Make You Happy

As the Mayo Clinic notes, setting aside time on a regular basis for things you like to do—as opposed to tasks you have to do—can help to reduce your stress levels. In addition, taking up a new hobby can add to your well-being by learning new things or perhaps learning to do something in a different way.
Hobbies can also help you to connect with yourself. In many cases, hobbies will give you some quiet and private time to just unwind and do something you love. In addition, unlike other activities that require an outside source for happiness—like going to a show or spending time with friends—a hobby is a more intrinsic source of contentment.
Another really cool thing about hobbies is that there are so many of them that are available to try. From traditional ideas like stamp and coin collecting to outside-of-the-hobby-box activities like learning to skydive, there are a plethora of ideas. The only stipulation is that it is something that you genuinely enjoy doing. Here are a few suggestions to get you going:

Home Brewing Beer

If you enjoyed chemistry and physics in school and also love drinking a nice cold beer after a long day at work, give home brewing a try. The American Homebrewers Association is a terrific resource that will give you tips on which equipment to buy—surprisingly, it doesn’t take a lot of things to get started—as well as how to start your first batch. Home brewing beer also takes some trial and error and you can tweak things in each batch until you find one that is just the way you like it. As a bonus, it can be fun to invite your friends over to share your experimental home brews with them, and gather their opinions about which one is best.


Knitting is definitely not just for grannies anymore. Men and women of all ages can enjoy learning to knit. In addition to being a highly relaxing activity, it’s one that can give you a real sense of accomplishment. If you live in a cold area of the country, knitting can also provide you with needed and useful items for you and your friends like scarves and hats, and some churches have knitting clubs that allow members to create beautiful prayer shawls which are then given to people who are going through a hard time in their lives. Knowing that your hobby is benefiting others can be extremely rewarding.


Perhaps you owned a moped back in your college days, or your first car was actually a motorcycle. Whether you still have your motorbike gathering dust in your garage or you have just always wanted to try riding a motorcycle, this can be a terrific hobby to try. You can shop for a budget-friendly bike from a local motorcycle shop or peruse the online ads for a gently used model. In addition to joining a local motorcycle club, which will allow you to meet like-minded fans of the open road, it can be fun to learn to tinker on the bike and shop for new accessories. For example, online retailers like BikeBandit can give you a good idea of what safety equipment you should buy to get started, including motorcycle helmets and other gear.

Tuesday, November 4, 2014

The Gross National Happiness of Students in Taiwan

Professor David Pendry is working with students in Taiwan to understand Gross National Happiness.
See the full report here.

I have recently conducted research measuring happiness levels among Taiwanese university students, and from these findings I would like to recommend changes to government and education policies. Measuring happiness in life has become steadily more important in recent years as an indicator of just how people are subsisting and developing, with an eye toward future success and serenity.
Many governments and other institutions are measuring happiness in populations and correlating
this with self-actualization, success and tranquility in life. Even Taiwan has explored these parameters, with the Directorate-General of Budget, Accounting and Statistics releasing the nation’s first Gross National Happiness index last year. This research found that Taiwanese had a “moderate” level of happiness.
However, what exactly is happiness? In addition to ostensible things like good feelings about life, satisfaction with friends, family and other relationships, excitement and fun, personal contentment and hope for the future, there are a few other important indicators to consider. External factors include material comforts and income; work satisfaction; vital community relations; decent governance; and access to education, arts and culture. More personal or internal factors include mental and physical health; rich values and religion; positive family experience; education; gender; and age.
Martin Seligman created the concept of PERMA to measure happiness, which refers to: Positive emotions; Engagement in life; Relationships; Meaning in life; and Accomplishments.
As this year’s UN World Happiness Report noted, the great thinkers and sages of world history have taught people that “material gain alone will not fulfill our deepest needs. Material life must be harnessed to meet these human needs, most importantly to promote the end of suffering, social justice, and the attainment of happiness.”

I conducted my survey measuring happiness factors using an index survey created by the Happiness Alliance, a large happiness organization in the US. Students from four colleges completed the survey. The data was collected in spring and fall this year, with one multiple sample that initially included 35 students in my culture and communication class at National Taipei College of Business — now National Taipei University of Business (NTUB) — which was increased by 89 more students in a combined group from NTUB and Tamkang University near Taipei in the fall.
Additionally, there were samples from Chien Hsin University of Science and Technology, south of Taipei (26 students), and Shih Hsin University in Taipei (58 to 64 students). The “domains” measured in the research included: satisfaction with life; material wellbeing; governance; environment; community vitality; social support; access to education, arts and culture; mental wellbeing; health; time balance; and work.
In a somewhat disturbing turn, the results showed that the students were not very happy and they scored decidedly lower than worldwide averages on several measures. Interestingly and compellingly, the lowest scores were in the “community” category and the related “social support” category. The figures in the community domain are fully 21 to 30 points less than the total worldwide average, a difference of 40 to 57 percent lower. The social support figures are 7 to 15 percent lower.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

What's so happy about limits to growth- repost from CSR Wire

Scientists, modelers and environmentalists have long been telling stories of doom and gloom. One of the first doomsayers was Donella Meadows. She convened a group to analyze what would happen to our population and our planet if we continued on the trajectories for industrial production, agriculture, waste, population and population.  This was in the ‘70s. Donella and her crew found that if we change one of those trends, such as a world without waste where everything is reused, recycled, or re-engineered for no-waste, we could save ourselves and the planet.  They called their theory “Limits to Growth.”

What happened? The data did inspire some changes. The first Earth Summit was held and conventions like the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, commonly known as the Kyoto Protocol, were created. Environmental laws were passed across the globe, and actions like the Montreal Protocol did reverse acid raid and the depletion of the ozone. But it is not enough.

And the data tells a scary story.  Scientists at MIT recently gave an update on Limits to Growth forecasts. The numbers tells us that we are headed for a very bad place.

So why didn’t the data change our actions? Why do we keep doing the same thing when we know that doom and gloom is coming?

In the simplest of terms: you get what you measure.

Today Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is the primary and prevailing measure governments use, profit the measure for businesses, and personal wealth and income for personal life.  What happens when we use economic growth to guide out society, consumption to guide our society, the wealth or income to guide our personal life?  

It turns out that the measurements we use have a big impact on our value system. Research by Tim Kasser, the scientists whose work is used in our Gross National Happiness Index in the time-balance section, tells us that the cultural values that emerge from a money-driven society are:
·      financial success,
·      image – including a bigger house, fancier car, nicer clothing and more youthful appearance, or more stuff and ,
·      popularity – higher status, being at the top of the pile in a hierarchical system.
And most importantly, the values of caring for others and nature, giving to others, and compassion (taking action where you see others or yourself hurting) are diametrically opposed to the values that emerge from a economic growth and consumption based system.  As we focus more on GDP, wealth and profit, we value community, caring and compassion less.

It really is true that what you measure, you get. 

This means there is a simple solution: if you want to change outcomes, change your measurement. And that is where happiness comes in. 

Happiness measurements are being used around the world, in England, Bhutan, Canada, China and the US. Governments and grassroots activists alike are experimenting to transform our society by using a happiness and “Beyond GDP” measurements.  In the US, the mayors and councilmember in Somerville, MA, Seattle, WA, Eau Claire, WI and now Santa Monica, CA are experimenting with happiness and wellbeing metrics.  The US Census Bureau has even begun exploring how to measure wellbeing.   Over 37,000 people have taken the Happiness Alliance’s Gross National Happiness Index, and over 100 grassroots activists across the US are using happiness metrics to transform our value system from one based on greed to giving, grasping to contentment, and craving to caring.

And yet these efforts are small scale, and unless happiness or “beyond GDP” metrics are adopted on a much vaster scale, our continued growth in industrial production, agriculture, waste, population and population will lead us into a crisis. What then?

Then we live in a resource constrained world. We will reach a place where there is not enough of the resources we depend upon to take care of our needs.  We will be in dire need of a new way of meeting our needs. And this is where happiness, wellbeing, beyond GDP and sustainability metrics will guide us in finding ways to meet needs of people and the planet.  

Imagine a scenario in which you and your loved ones do not have enough food to eat or clean water to drink, cook, clean or do your chores. What do you do? In a society that highly values financial success, image and popularity, you are likely to compete, perhaps to fight. In a society that highly values community, relationships and nature, you work with your neighbors, family and friends to find ways to meet those needs together.  That is why happiness measurements have everything to do with limits to growth.

Written by Laura Musikanski

Friday, September 26, 2014

Happiness goes to the movies

This evening I presented at a local screening of the film "Happy" for Wallingford Meaningful Movies in Seattle.  People who come to Meaningful Movies are committed to sustainability, social justice and a better future for all.  They are environmentalists, advocates and grassroots activists. A few of the participants had taken the Gross National Happiness Index and we talked about their scores.

This month marks the forth year of my work with the Happiness Alliance, and I have seen only a few groups score as high as the 23 who took the GNH index.
What is remarkable about this group?  They scored higher on every section except the UK Happiness Index, which measures affect (how you feel) and satisfaction with life (is your life worthwhile). Remember that this group is deeply committed to a better future.

We talked about what these results mean.  In simple terms, everything in these people's lives are about as good as they get, but they did not feel that way. Perhaps this is an effect of deeply caring and deeply being aware of the state of our society, economy, personal lives and environment.

We talked about leverage points for happiness and how to focus on the positive.  This was an easy audience. They intrinsically "got it." Practicing compassion, gratitude and giving expands the capacity for changing the world.

Thank you to the Meaningful Movies super wonderful peeps!

Sunday, August 24, 2014

On the connection between personal happiness and social change.

August is a funny time for volunteer non-profits, particularly August.  Board meetings are often not held in August.  Foundation deadlines often don't fall during August.  Meetings are harder to schedule - people scramble to take that summer vacation before its too late. And, of course, summer day beacon for lassitude and the easing of heat in the evening threaten the cooler months.

At the same time,  August can be great time to get things done. Not much is happening to divert your attention.  Earlier this summer, the Happiness Alliance's board gathered for its second annual retreat. We met on a houseboat on Seattle's Lake Union. We talked for two days while the ducks paddled past, neighbors plunged into the water to escape the afternoon heat and the houseboat swayed in the wake of summer boating traffic.  The dreams and plans from our annual meeting the last year were all coming true, and we were excited to create our dreams for this year.

One of those dreams is to contribute to the mending of gap between personal happiness and
social change in the happiness movement.  Our work - that of the Happiness Alliance - is all about helping to create a new economic paradigm: one where money, consumption and economic growth is not paramount and the well-being and happiness of all beings is paramount.

 Imagine if the government used a comprehensive measure of wellbeing - the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index could be the subjective side of this - instead of just Gross Domestic Product (GDP). Imagine if companies cared as much about their employees and the communities they operated in as they did about profit. And imagine if your internal and socially conditions marker for your success where whether you were happy, and not your financial status.

And so, in the last month I have been working with my board members and others to create resources for personal happiness.  Many of them are on our home page
and one of my favorite is a short (8 min) video explaining the connection between positive psychology and the happiness movement:
I am looking forward to this next year, and to what focusing on the connections between personal happiness and a new economic paradigm bring.
- Laura Musikanski, JD, MBA
Executive Director of The Happiness Alliance, home of the Happiness Initiative and GNH Index 

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

New Economy Coalition HackPad notes

Today one of the New Economy Coalition's project meetings happened - on hackpad. We met online, on the phone, 100% virtual to explore the questions:

When you think about what is essential to the success of the movements for Thriving Resilience and a New Economy, what key alignments have we established, what tensions need to be resolved, and what deeper inquiries must be undertaken? 

Mike Toye from Quebec, Canada identified the trend we are seeing in a new set of principles. He laid
out two sets (below).  The timing of the conversation was interesting for me - I had spent the better part of the night before talking with my better half about values, principles and their place in the happiness movement. We had discussed the evolution from "might makes right" to chivalry and then the golden rule, the stories that encapsulated these cultures, the timing of these stories, the common thread among them and where we are when follow that thread.  Our resolution from that conversation was to explore values, principles and the emerging story for the happiness movement, with a perspective of reverence for what is worthy of being celebrated in our past.

My personal belief is the more conversations we have like this at a personal and professional level, the more principles are issued, the more values are identified, the closer we are to the new economy - one based on happiness, social justice, sustainability and resilience for all beings.

The principles Mike identified:

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Money, Happiness and a New Economic Paradigm

Is our organization, the Happiness Alliance - home of the Happiness Initiative and Gross National Happiness Index - all about money? No.
But money helps. It seems paradoxical, hypocritical, a contradiction.
But it's not.

In fact, when we talk about a new economic paradigm, social change, sustainability and the happiness movement, we are not talking about replacing money. Money still matters. It is still the medium we use for exchange. It's just not the main thing we all focus on, use as a measure of our own self-worth, our organization's value, our countries success.  Instead we use the metric and goal of happiness (well-being), sustainability, resilience, and justice for all.

In the meantime, we live in the metric driven world where money, wealth and gross domestic product reign supreme. And in that world, there are ways to meet basic needs without money - thanks to the virtues of generosity, caring and collaboration. But we still need money. In fact, in a happiness driven world, we will also still need money - as a medium of exchange. We will just treat it differently in our hearts, in our society and in our lives.

This is all to say that we are running a fundraiser. We need money - donations - to fund the Yes, it's paradoxical. Yes, it's ironic, and yes, it's necessary. 
transformation from a money driven society to a wellbeing driven one.

So please give- give to the happiness movement.  There are three ways to give: to our Gross National Happiness Index, to fund important features dearly needed including a personal profile and automated group use of the GNH Index, and the Happiness Data Playbook.  Learn more here and give