Tuesday, December 31, 2013

John de Graaf leads the way for a vacation bill in Washington State

John de Graaf, co-founder of the Happiness Initiative is leading the charge for the adoption of a vacation bill in Washington State early in 2014. 


In his words:
Though vacations are essential for good health, improved productivity, and family
bonding, the United States is the only industrial nation on earth without a law requiring paid vacation time.  State RepresentativeGael Tarleton (D-36) hopes to begin changing that by making Washington State the first state in the union to guarantee paid annual leave for workers. Her bill will find support from:

Medical personnel who understand the value of vacations for health and mental health
Labor unions and other organizations representing workers
Travel industry organizations and travel guides
Outdoor outfitters
Social justice organizations
Family organizations
Students and other young Washingtonians
Enlightened business owners who understand that vacations improve productivity
Parks and recreation professionals and educators
Environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and Mountaineers

Nonetheless, the bill is likely to face some opposition from small and large businesses and from conservative legislators who oppose government mandates.  If it passes the Democratic House of Representatives, it is likely to face opposition in the Republican State Senate.  Introduction of the bill in 2014 is important to get the issue in the public eye and can be a significant talking point for progressive candidates in the 2014 elections. Polling results have shown broad support for the issue, especially among younger, low-income and minority voters, though these polls are somewhat dated.

Support John and this bill by getting involved. You can contact John at jodg@comcast.net

For a copy of the proposed legislation, click here

Friday, December 27, 2013

Personal Happiness Handbook - a hit

December 21 was the darkest day of the year. It was also the day The Happiness Initiative issued the Personal Happiness Handbook. It was a gift to all those who have taken the Gross National Happiness Index.  In less than 5 days, over 1,000 people viewed it.  It is one thing to give a gift - makes one feel good. Another thing when it is appreciated.  Makes one feel really good.
You can view it (and download it) on our slideshare account:

Personal Happiness Handbook - 25 actions along 10 domains of gross national happiness from The Happiness Initiative

Two of the trained Happiness Initiative leaders (they took the Happiness Initiative Leadership Course) are using the Personal Happiness Handbook for their happiness initiative.  

Mika Kim, a sustainability and well-being expert in the LA area with an impressive CV, issued The  Living Building Challenges "Love The Life You Live, Live The Life You Love" booklet using the Personal Happiness Handbook -see here

Thank you to Mika for her excellent work.

Mike Roberts, a sustainability advocate and long time activist in community in Maine used the Personal Happiness Handbook for a balanced life using the Medicine Wheel.

We encourage you to use the Personal Happiness Handbook (with attribution please!) for your work, community or with your friends.  Happy New Year!
Laura Musikanski, Executive Director, The Happiness Initiative 

Thursday, December 19, 2013

An important lesson on trees, happiness and making a difference

Yesterday a dear friend of mine showed me this video. He said it was 30 minutes, and my first thought was - oh, no, 30 minutes? My first thought was ' oh no!  Within a minute I was hooked. The story is a myth. Like all myths, based on various true stories.   This not-so-short vid speaks volumes to the heart about being in the happiness movement.

Thank you to my dear friend for showing me this. Laura Musikanski, JD. MBA, The Happiness Initiative 

Re-Post from a student's musing on happiness - and he is dead to rights!

Thank you to Yugen for doing this!

Tuesday, 17 December 2013

©Creative Commons License

“ Hey dad, want to hear something funny?

There was a man who was drowning and a boat came, and the man on the boat said “Do you need help?” and the man said “God will save me”. Then another boat came and he tried to help him, but he said “God will save me”, then he drowned and went to heaven.
Then the man told God, “God, why didn’t you save me?” and God said “ I sent you two boat, you dummy!” - Pursuit of Happiness (Mr Gardner and Chris)

The idea of happiness has morphed into a lucrative commercial sector these days. With the proliferation of “Happiness Gurus” coupled with numerous publications that claim to increase the well-being of its readers, people are now resorting to outside help to teach themselves on how to be happy.

So why be happy? Simple, being happy increases your social outcomes of meeting more people, increasing chance of marriage. In fact, research even show that being happy can increase productivity and bolster individuals’ immune system.

So the million dollar question: how can you be happy? Although there is no strict ABC formula, social psychology has gathered a couple of important factors that can increase happiness:

It’s all about the money? - In a research that comprised of 650 000 Americans, people reported that having an increase of money is correlated with happiness. However, this is only true up till the $75 000 mark, after that any additional income doesn’t not substantially increase the happiness level of people.

It’s not what you have but what your neighbours have - social comparison is a major factor that influences your happiness level.

Here is an example of social comparison: who do you think is happier - the one that wins the silver medal or the bronze? Research shows that the bronze medalist is often happier than the silver medalist, and the reason is simply comparison. While the silver medalist is comparing his/herself to the gold medalist, the bronze winner is thinking about the rest of the population that did not win the competition.

Having said that, comparing yourself to a higher standard can be an useful tool in both increasing your motivation to achieve something. The key is to adjust your comparison to achieve your desired state of happiness.

Friends, Friends, and Friends - people who have at least five people who they can confide in report being happier that people who do not have a close group of friends. In fact, people feel happier doing work if people are around them. The next time, you feel lonely or stressed don’t be tempted to hide in the comfort of your room instead schedule a dinner or lunch session with a close friend.

Thanksgiving is over! - gratitude is another important factor that determines happiness. In fact, gratitude is such a powerful tool that forcing people to be grateful can yield a tremendous positive effect. In a closed experiment, a group of people were asked to list five things they are grateful for every Sunday, for 10 weeks. Results prove that people are not only happier but also less likely to get sick. A good friend of mine suggested that every night before you go to bed, list three things that you’re grateful for.

Ka-Ching - The way your spend your money also affects how well you feel about yourself. Spending on others is more likely to make you feel happier than spending it on yourself. The group of students who were given the option of spending $20 on charity or giving it away to strangers were reported to be happier than the one that spent it on themselves.

Experience vs material - People who invest in experiences are more happy than those who buy an item. The idea behind this is you get used to this item and the happiness abates gradually. On the other hand, it is hard to forget or even compare a unique travel experience relative to other events. Forget about getting that television, travel somewhere!

Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Ginny on happiness, sustainability and being a grandmother

Periodically, I feel compelled to stress that my passion for spreading the happiness gospel is based on a fervent desire for a radically different political and economic paradigm — one that is focused on the genuine well-being of people and the planet, as opposed to a world which “has become an idolator of this god called money,” according to Pope Francis.  Like the Pope (I never thought I’d say that!), I “want a just system that helps everyone.”
The events last night that led to my granddaughter Madeleine taking care of her first ever baby doll have once again inspired me to write about the connection between personal happiness and broken systems.
My granddaughter practices nurturing relationships with her first ever doll.
My granddaughter practices nurturing relationships with her first ever doll.
My path is, of course, different from the Pope’s.  I believe that cultivating personal happiness is a key element (not the only element)  in working toward this shift.  Here are a few reasons why.  With greater understanding of personal happiness, comes a deeper appreciation of the sadness, emptiness, and destruction inherent in relying solely on Gross National Product  measurements of success.  When we internalize the knowledge that money and material goods are important but only a piece of our personal happiness, and also understand that chasing the almighty dollar can seriously undermine our enjoyment of life, we can so much more easily grasp the practical and visionary potential of a Gross National Happinessparadigm.
Further, cultivating personal happiness will strengthen the traits we need for the indescribably huge challenges of ameliorating climate change and ending the grown economy.  As we become happier individuals, we are, for starters:
  • less attached to things;
  • more optimistic;
  • more resilient;
  • more aware of what is truly going on around us;
  • more creative;
  • more compassionate: and
  • more grateful.
Oh, yes, and we are also more fun to be around — which no doubt makes us better messengers.
Okay, I’ll climb off the soapbox now and share what made me want to climb up there in the first place.  About a week ago, my daughter Jennifer’s old clunker car finally died.   She and my 20-month-old granddaughter will soon be joining us for a long Christmas break, but for a week and a half, she has had to cobble together a new transportation “system”: getting rides from friends, walking, and taking the bus.  She is fortunate to live in a city with decent public transit, but even so, last night my daughter and granddaughter spent 45 minutes on a cold, dark, and snowy Wisconsin night waiting for the bus to take them home.  It was pretty hard for Jennifer to be happy when her baby was crying from the cold.  My daughter sang to the baby to keep her calm until Jennifer’s cheeks were just too cold to keep singing.
Of course, the bus arrived eventually.  At home,  Jennifer decided it was a good time to open a Christmas present from Madeleine’s other grandmother.  That present is Madeleine’s first baby doll.   Watching her toddler practice taking care of this immediately beloved toy gave  my daughter a lot of reasons to feel much happier — gratitude, love, savoring the moment, etc.  So the story has a happy ending.
To me, this little vignette illustrates both the limits of, and the value of, personal happiness within broken systems.  For starters, cultivating our internal happiness isespecially  important in the context of broken systems because, hey, this is the only life we get!  We should make the most of it, no matter the systems we live within.  I am so glad Jennifer and Madeleine got to end their evening on such a positive note.
To be clear, my daughter’s situation isn’t that bad.   She has a great job, a wonderful apartment, and a cousin who is helping her get a new car over Christmas break.  She’s only lived in Wisconsin a short time, yet she already has a group of friends who have been amazingly generous in providing rides.  Jennifer’s monetary resources may be limited, but she has almost an embarrassment of riches in terms of friends and family who love her and can help when help is needed.  Which brings me to another reason for cultivating personal happiness, a la nurturing relationships: it provides us the tools to build alternatives to systems that break.
But personal happiness has its limits.  My daughter’s transportation struggles inspired me to write about Gross National Happiness because of the millions of young parents — or old grandparents, for that matter — who struggle with transportation to school, work, and child care day in and day out, in broiling heat as well as frigid cold.  Their own fatigue and discomfort, intensified by their children’s suffering, may well make “happiness” seem like a ridiculous goal.  Not everyone has presents waiting for them at home, and there is no reliable car in the immediate future for untold numbers of America’s working families.  We do not have “a just system that helps everyone.”
And then there’s the obvious: we should all be weaning ourselves off fossil fuels.  A political and economic system focused on the well being of people and the planet would surely be moving rapidly toward excellent systems of mass transit.
Another obvious point: transportation is just one of our many broken systems.  That is why, this Christmas season, I will be spending lots and lots of time with my family and friends — giving and receiving, singing, playing in the snow, laughing, meditating, and doing my best to live a happy life.  At the same time, I’ll be working with my friends at Gross National Happiness USA and The Happiness Initiative to move towards a world of greater peace and justice, a world that does more than pay lip service to well being for all.
As Tiny Tim says, “God bless us, every one.”  Everyone.
And now I have to go bake cookies.

Friday, December 6, 2013

GN-what? A few words on a first encounter with Gross National Happiness

It was by pure coincidence that an accidental and remarkable occurrence of events and exchange of ideas that the concept of GNH was presented to me.

At first, I thought the idea of substituting Gross National Product with Gross National Happiness, as a form of measurement was nonsense. By definition, Gross National Product or GNP is the total value of all final goods and services produced within a country in a particular year, plus income earned by its citizens, minus, income of non-residents located in that country.

GNP measures the economic conditions of a country. We use it under the assumption that a
higher GNP leads to a higher quality of living, all other things being equal. GNP does not measure qualitative improvement in quality of life, such as whether you have more leisure time or are feeling less stressed and happier. It measures all quantitative increases in goods and services, ranging from increases in productivity due to innovation or efficiency to costs of crime and toxic spill clean-ups. It considers all to be good forms of economic growth.

On the contrary, with Gross National Happiness or GNH elements that are counted are subject to quantitative measurement. GNH is a subjective expression of well being within a country For example, increased volunteerism counts as a positive measure. Thus, GNH transforms the subjective expression of a large number of people into meaningful data. It includes measures from questions like “are you able to pay your bills” and “how satisfied are you with your job.”

GNH is motivated by the notion that the subjective measures like happiness are as relevant and important as objective measure like consumption. After analyzing both concepts I embrace the idea of collaborate with the Gross National Happiness initiative lead by Laura Musikanski. I hope it to be a journey of philosophical enhancement. in the pursue of happiness and social equality.

About the author:
Ivan Ibarra was born in Barquisimeto, the second largest city of Venezuela. He studied at Universidad Central de Venezuela and Universidad Santa Maria earning his undergraduate degree in Economics. He taught at junior colleges in Venezuela until he was granted a scholarship by the Gran Mariscal de Ayacucho Foundation to Study English at Seattle Pacific University in Seattle, Washington.
He immigrated to the United States in 1984 for political and economic reasons. From then on,  his career focused on restaurant business ventures in San Diego, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Seattle. His latest venture was Tape Unlimited LLC, a wholesale distributor of a wide range of adhesive tapes.

He has  volunteered for Survivors International, an organization based in Berkley, California. Ivan has a passion for the sport of Judo and holds a Black belt degree.