Monday, February 18, 2019

Bridging the Gap - new article!

Announcing a new article that shows how Sustainable Development and Happiness Indicators work together.

Published by Springer and download for free! (Usually $39.99)

International institutions, national governments and communities are promoting and measuring happiness in various ways. However, as of the writing of this article, there is not an agreed upon happiness index that institutions, governments, and communities use to gather and compare data. On the other hand, the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), which have a set of indicators commonly shared by institutions, governments, and communities, do not explicitly consider happiness even though SDG Goal 3: Good Health and Well-being references well-being. 

In this article, we construct an Aggregated Happiness Index (AHI) based on five indices in use and applied at different governance levels. Based on common domains and indicators from these indices, the AHI is composed of twelve domains, thirty-one indicators and distinguishes between objective and subjective indicators. 

The AHI domains and indicators are benchmarked against the SDGs goals and indicators respectively using a grading schema based on a traffic light. Our analysis reveals that at the domain level the SDGs cover 66.7% of the AHI, however the coverage at indicator level drops to 48.6%. The SDGs indicators cover 61.1% of the AHI objective indicators and 17.9% of the AHI subjective indicators. 

Major gaps are found in the domains of community & social support, subjective well-being and time balance. We found a lack of subjective metrics in other domains, including economic standard of living and health. We discuss the opportunities and drawbacks of approaching SDGs and happiness metrics separately or synergistically. 

Given the potential benefits of integrating both approaches, we propose the framework we term SDGs for Happiness composed of 18 indicators of which 61.1% are subjective that should be considered in addition to the SDG indicators to measure happiness within the SDGs.

Wednesday, October 24, 2018

10 years left

The recent IPCC report gives us 10 years to get our act together. If we don't we can expect life to change dramatically. In 1972, almost half a century ago, Donella and Dana Meadows forecasted the changes that will happen using five inputs, calling it  Limits to Growth:

Population growth
Industrial production
Use of natural resources
Food production
Pollution & Waste

They used a simulation to predict what would happen at stages along the way. According to their predictions, in about 10 years sea level rises, deforestation, pollution impacts, resource constraints and other impacts that will change life drastically, will fall into place. It turns out that's what the IPCC says too.

It's looking pretty grim. Maybe playing around with happiness is a dumb idea. Shouldn't we be preparing for what looks like the inevitable? Collapse of our food system, floods and landslides, pandemics....

Why bother with happiness?

Because it turns out that happiness is a way to get us out of this mess, if we are able to make the changes the IPCC (and the Meadows) are calling for, and happiness will be the way to manage the catastrophes if - more like when - they come.


First - now: If we were to use wider measures of well-being, such as the Happiness Index, we would have the metrics to manage our way into sustainability and well-being. Measurements like the Happiness Index encompass ecological health and point the way for de-growth, rolling back consumption, and putting our health, each other, and our planet first.

Second - then: wider measures of well-being point the way for meeting needs in a resource constrained world, and in a world where others, including people, animals, and ecosystems, are hurting. The answers will be simple, most likely, and involve caring for each other, nurturing the earth, and being as loving as we can in each moment.

That is why happiness really is important now.

Written by Laura Musikanski

Thursday, August 30, 2018

The Air That You Breathe

Happiness Data Report for August: Air That You Breathe

We are all connected through the air we breathe. The air you breathe is the same air that your ancestors breathed and that future generations will breathe.  It is the same air your neighbor breathes, the same air breathed by seven billion people on our planet - and all other beings.  

Air knows no boarders, no boundaries, makes no distinctions.  

Thank goodness. 

We humans can't survive more than three minutes without air. Try holding your breathe, and you'll have a direct experience of how connected your well-being is to air.

What does air have to do with happiness?

One of the questions in the Happiness Index is: How satisfied are you with the air quality in your environment?

The map below (click here to interact with the data) shows darker blue where people have higher satisfaction with air quality, and lighter colors where there is lower satisfaction with air quality. (Where there is data, there is a dark grey circle with the color inside. Light grey is where there is no data yet). 

Overall, in 2017, people were fairly satisfied with the air quality in their environment. 
Air Quality  Satisfaction MapJ

Objective data (data that can be observed) can help give a balanced picture when compared to subjective data. 

Objective data is data that can be observed, like particulates in the air. 
Subjective data is gathered through surveys, like the Happiness Index.

The Real Time Air Quality Index provides objective data for air quality. In areas where people are fairly satisfied (or not dissatisfied) with air quality, the air quality (measured in terms of pollutants, pollen, ozone and other factors of air quality,) is only moderately good in many areas (yellow) and unhealthy or very unhealthy in other areas (red and purple respectively).   

Air Quality Index

Comparing the data suggests there may be a disconnect between how satisfied we are with our air quality and our actual air quality; and an even deeper disconnect with how we feel today about our air quality, the future of our air quality and our happiness. 

We can't say that for sure, because of many factors. But we can suggest that this is an area worth investigation.  

Why look at the differences between air quality measured in terms of pollutants and people's satisfaction with air quality? 

  • Because since the industrial revolution, overall air quality has gotten worse (even though since the 1970s, in some areas it is getting better), and we can't be certain that nature will bear every nation catching up so that it gets better in all areas. 
  • Because with the impacts of climate change such as water scarcity, forest fires and desertification in some areas, and longer growing seasons with high pollen counts in other areas, we can expect some major impacts on air quality. 
  • Because we humans are gifted and cursed with an ability to adapt and a preference for short term thinking over long term thinking. 
  • Because we often don't think of the connection between air quality and happiness until we can't hardly breathe. 
  • Because we often wait to take action until we reach a personal or societal crisis. 
  • Because it feels overwhelming. 

So what can you do right now to make a difference?

How You Can Take Action Today:

  • Share the Happiness Report Card and this month's report about air quality with your mayor, elected council members, city or town manager, governor and senator.  Ask to have a conversation with them about the Happiness Movement.  (You can find resources, including a white paper on the Happiness Movement here)
  • Ask your friends and colleagues to take the Happiness Index and coordinate conversations to discuss their happiness scores.
  • If you are a researcher, conduct an investigation into the connections between objective and survey-based data for air quality and happiness. (You can use the Happiness Index data; email   

A Bit More On Data...

Looking at the differences in satisfaction with air quality between ages, the Happiness Index, data shows that except for very few 85-89 year olds, we were satisfied with our air quality in 2017. 

A lot more youth took the survey than adults, and a lot fewer older people took the survey than adults or youth. If this were a random sampling, the few people in the 85-89 year old bracket might be called outliers, and their data would not be included.  But our data comes from a convenience sampling, meaning everyone who takes the Happiness Index made the personal decision to do so. 

Air Quality Satisfaction by Age J 2

Looking at the differences between income levels, except for the 43 people whose household income is between 240,000-250,000USD a year (they were more satisfied), most everybody was pretty satisfied with the quality of their air. 

Other than that, the differences between the very wealthy and poor were small, but many more people on the low income spectrum took the survey than people in the wealthy income brackets.  

(A score of 5 means very satisfied, a score of 3 means neither satisfied or dissatisfied, and a score of 4 means satisfied.)

Air Quality by Income J


Happiness Agoras: Stream, Participate, Play

Luis Gallardo's Happiness Agoras are open to everyone online for a low price of 39.99. Sign up for one week of inspirational sessions online the week of International Day of Happiness (March 21) in 2019. 

Not sure? Get a taste for free.  Sign up and stream the Journey To Agoras online classes. 

happiness agoras

With love from the Happiness Alliance

All Grassroots.  All nonprofit. Donate or Volunteer today. 

air that you breathe

Friday, July 27, 2018

Why I Created 5 Minutes to Less Stress

Why I Created 5 Minutes to Less Stress
By Alice Vo Edwards

As a volunteer for the Happiness Alliance and advocate for happiness and wellbeing, managing stress is something I know to be important. It's been repeated over and over again in studies as beneficial for everything from health to job satisfaction. Stress is a mind game - of course I want to get control of my mind and manage my stress! Why not? Yet with my own hectic life, I have found it nearly impossible to find time for regular stress-reduction classes outside the home, such as yoga, or meditation. 

*short video of why I created the class for those who don't like reading*

When I was a girl, a nearby neighbor would host yoga glasses in her home for $5 and we could just stop by. These days, most of us don't even know our neighbors, and prices for classes have gone up considerably.

Whether it be budget or time constraints or concerns that meditation or yoga takes too long (many people seem to think that these types of practices require a half our or more of focused time), I realized I was not alone in finding it difficult to balance work, family and self-care. I also realized that I was not the only person who wanted usable practices that did not require half an hour to an hour of my time, plus the drive time to go back and forth. Over time, I found a number of techniques and even developed one of my own that I call Responsive Tension Release(tm) that can all be done in 5 minutes or less. I've tested them with my kids, with friends and colleagues, and with a few groups of in-person classes, and have now made them all available online in an online course. 

To me, learning stress management techniques including meditation is the first step towards being able to be more of the "me" I want to be. With meditation, I am better able to keep from saying things I'll regret, or raising my voice, when I'm tired, frustrated, or angry. It also helps me handle the stress of public speaking and other stressful times in my life.

My hope is that the class will inspire others to be able to see that meditation and stress management is not impossible, hugely time consuming, or overly formal, ritualistic, or religious. Being able to practice the type of self-reflective behavior that meditation helps build in one is a valuable skillset that I wish everybody had - we'd all be happier and the world would be a better place for it. Hopefully, with this class, a few more people will gain it.


5 Minutes to Less Stress is an online course that includes 7 basic and easy stress management techniques that are great for people with busy lives and little formal training in stress management methods. I also share all the resources I've found to help me practice meditation regularly, while being able to mix it up and keep myself from getting into a boring routine. 

You can check it out at where using the coupon code LAUNCH2018 will get you a discounted price of $9.99 for the full course.

Monday, May 21, 2018

How Cats Make Us Healthier And Happier People

Guest Post by Emily Parker

Whether it's a vacation or getting off the couch to exercise more often, there are a lot of simple things you can do in your everyday life to start bringing you more happiness. I’m all for huge personal transformations, but I love it when the little things just increase your quality of life and happiness in a way that you feel each and every day.

But there’s one thing we can do to hugely increase our chances of a happier (and healthier) life that I don’t hear talked about nearly enough. There are studies backing it, millions of people enjoying the benefits right now, and it’s not all that difficult or costly.

That one thing, of course, is bringing a cat into your life.

For example, if you're in the market for great entertainment that will boost your mood, spend a few minutes watching your cat play. According to research studies, doing so can boost your mood just as much as if you were with a spouse or best friend, and it's also been shown to help people suffering from mild to moderate depression.

And if you find yourself going nonstop each day and getting more and more stressed out, take a moment to observe your kitty. Chances are if they're not playing or eating, they're curled up taking a nap. By following your kitty's example and taking a quick power nap, you'll feel refreshed and ready to take on the world yet again.

Owning a friendly feline can help you make new friends, too, and friends have a massive influence on our mood! Whether you strike up a conversation with someone who's also standing in the pet food aisle trying to decide what Fluffy wants for supper or start talking with a fellow cat lover in the waiting room of a vet's office, you'll be around others who share your love of cats. As a result, the foundation for a beautiful friendship has been laid.

If you’d like to learn more about the health and happiness benefits of adopting a cat, check out the infographic below, or see the original article here on

Sunday, April 22, 2018

Nature and Happiness

Did you know the Happiness Alliance, and our happiness index, is born from the sustainability movement?  We got our start in 2010, as a project of Sustainable Seattle (Sustainable Seattle is the first community based non-profit to create regional sustainability indicators).

Some say the happiness movement represents a jump from sustainability, but we say that our happiness is founded on sustainability, and intrinsically tied to our natural environment. And our happiness data backs us up. 

This month's Happiness Data report is about the connection between our access to nature and happiness in terms of our sense of purpose and meaning in life.

We wondered if people with a greater access to nature have a greater sense meaning in life. Data from over 11,000 people who took our happiness index tells us that people who are satisfied or very satisfied with their access to nature have a greater sense of purpose and meaning in their lives. 

earth day banner 2

Why Getting Out into Nature or Bringing Nature to Your Life will bring you Happiness

So why should you care that  people who are more satisfied with their access to nature are happier?

Because overall, our happiness scores for feeling that things in our life are worthwhile are not so great.  This means one way to increase our sense of feeling worthwhile is to reconnect with mother nature. And because we know that sense of meaning in life and satisfaction with life are tied, in all probability, we an increase our sense of satisfaction with life by increasing our access to nature. 


About the data

Earth Day Stat Report 2Data gathered via the Happiness Alliance's Happiness Index online with a convenience sampling of 11,398 respondents taking the survey in 2017 reveals a positive correlation between satisfaction with access to nature and sense of purpose and meaning with a d=.461 and p< .0005.  
Caveat: Further research is needed to understand what underlying factors may be influencing our findings. 

What You Can Do For Mother Earth and Your Happiness

We hope our data report inspires you to talk action to increase or maintain your happiness by connecting to nature. Here are a few ideas for taking action today. 

connect with nature 2

When we put our happiness first in a holistic and balanced manner, we come to know that our health, well-being and quality of life is a reflection of the sustainability of our natural environmentHere are a few ideas for Community Organizers and Policy Makers to contribute to people's happiness through environmental action. 

restore nature

Teaching and talking about our connection to nature is a great way to remind yourself about how important mother earth is to our happinessHere are three ways to engage the child in your life - or the child in you - with nature. 

children and nature

Earth Day 2018 Happiness Data Report by Alice Vo Edwards and Laura Musikanski.

Happy Earth Day. With Love. Happiness Alliance. 

Tuesday, April 10, 2018

The Wisdom of Taxi Cab Drivers

Recently, I was at conference held at UN speaking on a panel about Ethical Design for Artificial Intelligence. One of the hot topics in artificial intelligence is automated driving. In all the weighting of the costs and benefits of automated driving, I have yet to see the wisdom of taxi cab drivers figured in.

The moderator for the panel and I were on our way to dinner with the other panelists. We were taking a stroll to stretch our legs after the long flight to Geneva. Google maps app has lead, or rather mislead, us about a mile out of the way. Dinner was starting in 10 minutes. We hailed a cab. My French is passable, and I love talking to cabbies. The cabbie driver spoke French with an accent almost as pronounced as I, but not the same. Turns out he was from Spain, and he had been driving taxis in Geneva for 35 years. His wife was Swiss, and they had two children. I asked what he liked best about his job and he responded that what he enjoyed the most was meeting different people and hearing a little bit about their lives. He added the caveat that this was the case for visitors to the country or other immigrants, like him, but usually not for Swiss nationals. They, he said, generally would not speak to him except to give directions. His gestures and tone spoke of a certain sadness and resignation. We talked a little about the importance of connecting as humans, and how not making that connection can feel devaluing.

The cab ride was short, and I was unable to tell him that the most recent World Happiness Report revealed the very truth that he spoke of. Immigrants, whether living in a country for most of their lives and married to a national, or just arriving, are happier when they are treated as part of the fabric of a country and culture, instead of separated or ostracized. This does not mean that cultural differences should be eradicated, but rather that differences can be a point of connection through curiosity and respect.

The World Happiness Report for 2018 points to a sense of belonging as key to happiness for migrants. In countries where social exclusion is the norm, migrants suffer from discrimination and unhappy because of it. According to the World Happiness Report for 2018, ninety percent of people who migrate do so voluntarily. Only ten percent of migrants are refugees. Most people migrate for economic reasons, for career or educational reasons, or to enjoy greater freedoms, such as religious or political expression. A study done using the Happiness Alliance data found that reversing discrimination had a big impact on people’s happiness, and that everybody is happier; the people who suffered discrimination and those whose minds go from being prejudiced and biased to open.
At our panel dinner, we were joined by an ambassador, who invited us to his home the next night. The next day, around 6:30 pm, we hopped into a cab, and thus began my second sip from the cup of the wisdom of cab drivers.

This time, the cab ride was longer, and so the conversation richer. This cab driver came from Portugal, his wife also was Portuguese. They had two adult children and two grandchildren, all born in Geneva. His father had taken him to Brazil when he was a teen-ager to escape being drafted into war. He had migrated to Switzerland when he was in his twenties, seeing an opportunity to make a higher income than he could have in Brazil or Portugal. Now, 40 years later, he feels torn between one sense of home and another sense of home. His sisters and extended family live in Portugal, and he longs to be with them. He feels most at home in Portugal next to his sisters, nieces, nephews and other family members, but his children, born in Geneva, have no plans to migrate. He misses the warmth of his homeland, and feels shut out by a sense of cultural coldness. If he had his life to do again, he would not have chosen a higher income over family.

He could have been a spokesperson for the World Happiness Report. In South America, people generally experience the feeling of happiness, called “positive affect” by researchers, more than in other countries. Part of the reason for this is that family ties are strong and people’s concept of happiness are often founded on family. For example, if you ask someone from one of these countries what makes them happy, they are most likely to respond “family.” Migrating away from your family to make more money, or even to send money home, may seem like a good idea economically, but will probably lead to long term heartache. A short-term migration to save money and return home would probably have been a better option, but even that kind of migration can be hard in terms of feelings on both the person who migrates and the family left behind.

My next cab ride was from a Tunisian. I was happy to talk to him, as I was born in Tunisia. We had about 20 minutes to chat, and quickly he revealed his wisdom to me. He railed about the rich getting richer at the expense of the poor, and how the richer a person gets, the more they want. I egged him on, citing the Easterlin Paradox, by which after a certain level of income, returns on happiness are marginal. Before I was done with my explanation, he finished my thoughts saying that after a man makes a million dollars, he needs two million to make him as happy, then after that 10 million and so on so that at no point does he ever experience a sense of enough. We agreed so vehemently, we were both kind of yelling with enthusiasm about our mutual point by the end of the cab ride.

This point is one of the key lessons from the happiness movement: the Easterlin Paradox. In simple terms, money only buys happiness up to the point where you are able to meet your needs — from basic needs of sustenance and shelter, to needs of entertainment, creative outlet and learning. After that, there are only marginal increases to happiness, meaning it takes a lot of money to get a little bit of happiness.

The Tunisian cabbie seemed like a relatively happy person, and when I asked him if he was happy, he said some days, yes, somedays no, but our conversation had made him very happy. A lesson in the 2018 World Happiness Report regarding income levels, migrants and happiness has to do with social comparisons. People who migrate from poverty to a place of plenty experience a change in referenced point. After a relatively short point, while their income in the new country may seem extravagant compared to back home, it may feel like a pittance compared to the people around them. This is called social comparisons. Just because all of a sudden you can afford new Nike tennis shoes, you won’t necessarily be happier if most of the people around you are wearing the latest Stephano Ricci sneakers.

I took my last cabbie ride to the airport, early in morning. I am a homebody, and had been feeling homesick the entire trip, so was really looking forward to being home. 
The cabbie was from Haiti. We talked about what made for happiness in a country. His wisdom was that every type of government is more similar than different. For example, he said, in a dictatorship or in a democracy, the law is the law and when you break the law, you are punished. Food, jobs, housing is what makes people happy, he told me. A government that ensures people have food in their belly, jobs to work, and a place to live is the most important thing, according to him. He said that when his country was run by Papa Doc, people had food, jobs and housing. Life then, from his experience, was no different than in the democracy he lived in today. Food, jobs, housing he recited. The cab ride ended before I could ask him about the darker side of Papa Doc’s reign.

A discussion of the failures of democracy as a form of government in African nations is part of the 2017 World Happiness Report. It sites unmet expectations as one reason for the dissatisfaction with democratic forms of government and general unhappiness. Meeting needs — from the basic ones of food, jobs and shelter — to the higher needs of a sense of belonging, purpose and meaning, are all foundational to our happiness, so in a way, the Haitian cabbie had it right.

A long flight later, my little voyage was over and I was so glad to be home. For me, like for so many, family and home is where the heart is, and what makes me happy.
Read the World Happiness Report here.