Monday, September 7, 2020

Two Happiness takeaways

Early September 2020, Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of the Happiness Alliance, gave a talk on the application of the construct of happiness and well-being in the tech sector. Here it is for you:
Two little know facts about happiness are that (1)happiness and well-being is a well understood and accepted concept among academia, governments and society and (2) happiness and well-being can and does serve as the basis for strategy, goals and management through data and indicators. Let’s take a high-level look at the history. First - in the happiness movement, we use the terms happiness and well-being interchangeably. In a sense, our understanding of happiness as a goal for government and life goes back to ancient history- reflected in the Western culture by Aristotle’s statement that happiness is the sole aim and purpose of life. More recently Maslow, whom you are familiar with through the concept of a hierarchy of needs, established the now robust study of well-being in the psychological field. In our generation Seligman and Csikszentmihalyi came along and gave rise to the field called positive psychology, formalizing the study of what makes us happy. With the turn of our century, some economists turned to a more complex idea of happiness and well-being in lieu of the singular aims of profit, personal wealth and economic growth as the goals of economies, government and life. In 2012, the first World Happiness Report was issued, which you have probably heard about when you see reports about the world’s happiest county. The next year, the OECD, which issues the reports about nations GDP levels each year, definitively answered the question of whether happiness can be measured with the OECD guidelines on measuring subjective well-being. This followed important work Bhutan had done as the first nation in the world to both measure and use happiness as the purpose of government – from its constitution to its planning. Today every nation in the EU and every member state of the OECD is measuring some aspect of happiness and well-being many of them more than one aspect. One more recent development is New Zealand’s use of well-being in its national budgeting.
By now you are probably wondering about the intercept of subjective (survey) based and objective indicators for happiness and well-being. Look in the direction of the 247 indicators for the Sustainable Development Goals –the SDGs – and the gaps in them filled by subjective indicators.
If you take the Happiness Index, you get a direct experience of how subjective indicators can both inform you about the definition of happiness and well-being as well as provide knowledge and ideas about how to safeguard and improve your happiness and well-being with the happiness index. As you can see, with subjective data we can understand what people think about their own lives, such in this infographic, we see that this group is suffering in time balance and the environment and doing well in psychological well-being and standard of living, which shows us where there is room for improvement and gives us clues about how to get there – which strengths to build on. We could look into the data and see how certain demographic, for example race, economic status, education level, compare to others, giving us a way, to define through data, difficult issues such as social injustice.
Finally, on operationalizing happiness and well-being as a construct and with indicators and data, look at IEEE 7010-2020. This project is one of many inspired by the Ethically Aligned Design program, and give you a knowledge base, a process as well as a robust bank of indicators for understanding, measuring and managing the impact of AI on human well-being – you can now access IEEE 7010Recommended Practice for Assessing the Impact of Autonomous and Intelligent Systems on Human Well-Being freely through IEEE’s reading room (scroll down, create a profile, and login - it take sa minute but is better than the alternative of paying about $300 USD to access). In conclusion the two takeaways:happiness and well-being are a well understood and accepted concept and happiness and well-being can be a basis for strategy, goals and management through data and indicators.

Thursday, July 16, 2020

The Covid-Blues: sometimes it's not good to be happy

July 15, 2020, many schools in Maryland and DC announced a virtual learning year in 2020-2021 for  children. Major companies have extended  work from home for months. As if to compound the misery and anxiety, someone decided it was news (it is not, its been known for years) that squirrels carry bubonic plague. The news can't seem to get enough of people pulling out guns when asked to wear masks.  And it goes on and on.  It is overwhelming, anxiety provoking, gut wrenching. If you seep yourself in the news, it will steal your peace of mind, your sleep, and your well-being. You have probably already experienced this, and found ways to modify your diet of news.

At the same time, there is good news. A cure for COVID-19 may be in the works may be in our future, and maybe even a vaccine. You probably hear this news with caution. Perhaps you allow yourself to believe a cure and vaccine will come true,  and start to feel a little choked up. But then you probably reel yourself in.Then perhaps a flood of conflicting feelings comes up. In a way, you don't want things to go back to normal, but you do want the pandemic to end.

There have been silver linings to the pandemic. Life slowing down. Less traffic and no commutes - at least for most of us. A time to pause and reflect - even a time of retreat. A time to reconnect (virtually) with loved ones, and with oneself. A healing of the planet, with the air clearing and night skies sparkling like they have not for decades in cities, and the birds having a ball this spring. Pet shelters have emptied and puppies are filling the streets, happy to go on walks with their new human parents.

Sometimes it's not appropriate to be happy. But that does not mean you can't feel happy. There is so much to grieve about the pandemic. There is also a lot to learn.

What if we took this time to really focus on how we are feeling and to allow for feelings in their moment. Feelings make themselves known by how they come up in the body. You probably feel anxiety in your belly and chest - a racing heart, breathlessness, and tight stomach. Maybe a stomach ache. You probably feel sadness in your heart - that heart break feeling. A feeling of hope probably fills you with warmth in your chest, and a feeling of not wanting to lose something may appear with a pull in the muscles of your arms to reach out. The happiness you feel about reconnecting with loved ones may be in the belly connection to the earth, and if you got a pet, your love for the little one may fill your entire body with a tingling live feeling.

Feelings can be hard to discern, because the mind gets really active. The mind can try to explain, control, suppress or change a feeling. It can try, but never really succeed because feelings are truths in themselves. While feelings are ephemeral and do not define who or what a person or situation is,  they do define what they are and do not go away when the mind tells them to. Instead they go underground inside you, which often leaves the body with a feeling of numbness or disconnection.

We are complex. Feelings can be conflicting, which makes feelings even more confusing. You can feel anxiety and hope, love and dread, heart broken and calm, or any other combination. This can make it even harder to accept and learn from feelings.  Yet, feelings have a lot to teach us. A way to learn from feelings is to first accept and allow the truth of what they are in you, without having to change or act on them.

This is hard work. But it may be the most powerful way to get through this time, right now, when there is so little we have control over beyond our own actions.

So here is a thought. What if we are each of us a part of the expression of the universe, and what if how we expressed ourselves made a difference - even if we do not see it in the moment.  Then wouldn't we choose a universe that accepts all with love and acts in wisdom out of love, and so do this for ourselves?  Wouldn't we to aspire to love and accept the feeling that is arising right now, and in the next moment, and in the next? 

Maybe this is one small way we can find happiness amidst all this hardship, and maybe one way to fortify ourselves for the actions we take to help ourselves and others with all the heartbreak.

-- Laura Musikanski, Happiness Alliance

Wednesday, March 25, 2020

An invitation to share on happiness

What is Your Happiness and Health Wisdom?

Hi Friend, 

With so much in the news that is frightening, so much that is outside of our control, and so many people and organizations giving different advise, we feel it is important to reflect and learn from our own wisdom. So we ask:

What are you doing for your happiness and health?

Let us know by clicking here, and in our next newsletter, we will share your wisdom for how to be healthy and happy now. 

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Join a Happiness & Health Conversation - an Open Forum Hour on Wednesdays until Earth Day 

March 25 and April 1, 8, 15  & 22 (Earth Day)

12 pm PT/3 pm ET /7 pm GMT

In these days of physical isolation, it's important that we find new ways to socially connect.  It's also important to be able to name and talk about your feelings.

We are hosting a weekly hour for open discussion on how you are feeling and why & what you are doing for your happiness just now. We will begin with short introductions, and each person will have 3 minutes to share how they are feeling and why, and, if they like, one thing they are doing for their happiness and health these days.

Join via zoom:
Meeting ID: 709 331 423
One tap mobile +16699006833,,709331423# US 
Dial by your location +1 669 900 6833 US (San Jose)
Meeting ID: 709 331 423
Find your local number:

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What I am doing for my happiness and health: a message from Laura, our Executive Director. 

Here in Seattle we have been in self-quarantine for a little over a week. The parks are still open for walks, so I have been taking long walks everyday, and spending time among the trees, seeking and soaking peace from them.

Some days are worse than others, and I find myself feeling anxious, Yesterday I found this talk by Tara Brach to be particularly useful. 

As night, I curl up on the couch with my sweetie and we watch comedy shows, nature shows or feel-good movies. We have a news curfew, and also a Covid-19 discussion curfew. 

I have reached out to the elders in my life and helped them to learn how to use online meeting technologies, encouraging them to participate in online groups and have daily face to face online interactions.  

- Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of the Happiness Alliance 

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The Loneliness, Happiness and Health Connection

We do not know how long social distancing and self-quarantine will be necessary, but we probably all expect it to last a while. We also do not know if we or our loved ones will survive. This is so scary. Let's not bear this fear alone or let it rob us of our happiness and the enjoyment of our lives. 

We humans are social creatures, even the most introverted of us needs connection with others. Loneliness is not good for us.
Right now, quality of life - our happiness - is really important. 

We looked at data for people who are often or always lonely and people who are rarely or never lonely, and found a few similarities and a few differences. 

Self-perceived health is one place where there is a big difference, as well as feeling postive about oneself, satisfaction with life, and satisfaction with opportunities to enjoy nature. 

People who are not lonely are feel more positively about themselves, are more satisfied with life, are more satisfied with their opportunities to enjoy nature, and feel that they are healthier 

We think that some of these differences may be reflected in your answers to what you are doing for your health and happiness. 

We also feel strongly that we need to do all we can to not be lonely at this time when the threat to our health is so strong. This is why we are starting our Happiness & Health Conversations. 

lonliness graphic

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Monday, March 2, 2020

Health, Happiness and the Coronavirus

On behalf of Bliss Medical Center and the Happiness Alliance, here is short presentation with advice for staying healthy and happy in the face of the novel coronavirus.

A bit more about prevention: 

Sanitary techniques that prevent spread of infection including hand washing, hand sanitizing, not touching your face, and wearing masks and taking care not to cough or sneeze near other people remain important.  However, these measures and more aggressive measures (such as quarantine) have failed to stop the spread of the virus. 

As there is no vaccination, no definitive treatment, and preventative measures have generally failed to stop the spread, most people, regardless of their degree of interaction with other people, can be expected to eventually contract the virus.  And because the novel corona virus is potentially lethal, even in those who are otherwise healthy, it is easy to feel powerless and afraid.

While the following techniques will not prevent the spread of the virus, they are sound health advice that can help you maximize your personal health and maintain a positive outlook for you, your friends and family.

What does the data say?

We pulled data all the Happiness Index in 2019 for those who answered the question about their perception of their health (12,486 respondents). We separated the data for people who said their health was very good or excellent (2,975 respondents) from those who said their health was good, fair or poor (9,511 respondents). 

The visualization bellow tells a story.  Those who perceive themselves to be healthy are much happier as well.  When compared, those with a very good or excellent perception of their health scored higher in each of the other domains of happiness, by a wide margin of 14.2 points on a 100 point scale.

What does the visualization say? 

People who perceive themselves to be in very good or excellent health are more satisfied with their exercise and feel they live in a healthy environment. This indicates that a connection to nature and spending time in nature, when your environment is healthy, and spending time is good for your health.  These are findings that science backs up  (White et al., 2019)

It also says that  people who perceive themselves to physically healthy are also psychologically healthy. They are more satisfied with their lives, more likely to feel their lives are worthwhile, more optimistic and more likely to feel their lives have a purpose and meaning. They are also happier. 

What is more, these people are less lonely and feel more of a sense of belonging to their community.

What does this mean to you?

Spend time in nature.  Go for a walk in a park. Garden. Go skiing. Admire your neighbors garden. Go to the beach or a lake.  Take the time to do whatever it is you love to do in nature. 

Take good care of yourself.  Learn about how to change your habits (of thought and deed) and change your mind by developing happiness skills. Talk with a friend or a therapist about the things you feel ashamed about or have grief over - life is hard and most everybody goes through things that are too hard to process alone. Join an Al-Anon group if your life is affected by someone (past or present) with addiction. 

Spend time with the people you love. Taking precautions for your health does not mean you should isolate yourself. Follow good health practices, but don't isolate yourself for long periods of time.  Instead, spend extra time when you feel afraid for your health with the people you love and who love you. 

With love and our hope for your health and happiness,
The Happiness Alliance

Tuesday, February 25, 2020

Who Trusts National Government in USA? Hmm...

One of the six factors that the World Happiness Report examines to understand what makes people happy is perception of corruption in government. 

Our Happiness Index measures perception of corruption, sense that public officials pay attention to what people think, as well as trust in national and local government.  

Who cares? 

Trust in government, sense of corruption and sense that public officials pay attention to what people think are more important to happiness than most people think (Ott, 2011).

A few propositions why good government is important to happiness:

Trust in government sets a tone. When you can trust your government, you are more likely to trust other institutions: businesses, schools and colleges, nonprofits.  When you live in a nation where you feel you can trust institutions, you are more likely to be trustworthy yourself and more likely to trust other people. 

Honesty (as opposed to Corruption) allows people to feel safe and secure. We all know that safety and security are basic human needs. Safety in our personal live is tied to safety in our systems, including governmental, economic and social. 

Paying attention to what you think is an important aspect of esteem. Esteem and respect are also basic human needs. A government that cares about what you think about has the information it needs to secure and protect your inalienable right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness.

This month's happiness report focuses on sense of corruption in local government and trust in national government.  We look at the data gathered in 2019 for people who responded that they live in the US. This comes to 4,687 people. 

In Most States People Think Local Government is Not Corrupt

sense of corruption in local government

State by State, Trust in National Government is Low

trust in national government states

Scores for sense that local government is corrupt are, for the most part a bit above neutral, meaning people generally do not think government is corrupt, but would not say with certainty that it is not corrupt.  The average score for all states is 51.9- not bad, but not good

Not so for trust in national government. The average score is 30.03, meaning people do not have confidence in national government. 

The Wealthy Think A Bit Better of Local Government

sense of corrpution by income

Wealthy or Poor, Trust in National Government is not Great

trust in national government by income level

Income level does not make a big difference when it comes to trust in national government or sense that local government is corrupt. There is a slight trend up, meaning as your income goes up, your trust goes up a little, and your sense of corruption in local government goes down. 

The average score for sense of corruption across all income levels is 56 out of 100. 

The average score for trust in government across all income levels is 30 out of 100. 

Men Trust National Government a Bit More than Women

Men trust government more

trust in national government by gender 3The question is:
Please indicate how much confidence you have in the following organizations:

National Government

(We ask the question for Local Government as well, and will focus on that in another report.)

The possible answers are:
  • No confidence
  • Not very much confidence
  • A fair amount of confidence
  • Quite a lot of confidence
  • A great deal of confidence 

A score of 0 would be the lowest, and a score of 50 would be for a fair amount of confidence. 

All Genders Are Fairly Neutral About the Question of Whether Local Government is Corrupt

Gender has little to do with sense of corruption in local government 

sense of corruption by gender 2
The question is:
State your level of agreement with the following statement:

Corruption is widespread throughout the government in my city or town.

The possible answers are:

  • Strongly disagree 
  • Disagree
  • Neither agree nor disagree
  • Agree
  • Strongly agree 
A score of 0 is the lowest score, for strongly agree that corruption is widespread, and a score of 50 is for neither agreeing or disagreeing. 

You can interact with the data by clicking the image or here.

Next month we will explore more data for happiness and government, and give you some suggestions for how to make a difference. 

In the meantime - Vote! 

& if you voted, Thank you!

About the Data

All of our data is from a convenience sampling. It reflects the people who took the survey, and may or may not reflect the general population, The more data we have, the better picture we get of the state of happiness.

In some states, we have very little data. 

How can you help? Encourage people to take the Happiness Index.  

Donate! Your Donation Makes Happiness Work.

Did you know we are a 100% volunteer organization. And it takes money to keep us alive. Your donation is necessary for us to continue contributing towards world change. 


Friday, January 31, 2020

Happiness Index Scores for 2019: Not So Happy

Was 2019 a hard year for you?  If so, you are not alone. 
Happiness Index Scores for 2019 are in & it's not looking so good.  

In most every domain of happiness - community, education, health and many others, Happiness Index scores declined between 2017 and 2018. Particularly concerning are the declines in satisfaction with life, psychological well-being and community because these are the domains, in simple terms, matter most to a happy life. The domains with the lowest scores compared to the other domains - government and time balance - saw a smaller downward slope, but there is little solace in this.  Interact with the scores here. 

Happiness Index Scores in 2017 in many domains took a dip down, with some recovery in 2018.  We asked our newsletter recipients for their happiness wisdom with the question: What do you need for your happiness? (You can answer too)

Some of the answers we got were:

  • More Connection.
  • More planned community activities (and better advertising for these events and gathering).
  • Shift the news both on TV and in the papers to a more positive perspective. Until that happens, though, just stop watching TV news and buying newspapers.
  • Improve housing opportunities for the poor. 
  • Safety, access to green spaces, transportation ease in order to spend more time with family and friends instead of commuting. 

We will share more answers in our next Happiness Report Card (sign up for our newsletter so as not to miss one). 

In 2019, data was gathered from 12,480 surveys taken, with about 68% of people living in the US. The data is from a convenience sampling, meaning people chose to take the Happiness Index

Thursday, September 5, 2019

Announcing: The Happiness Policy Handbook

Happiness is and should be the purpose of government. The word government comes from Greek κυβέρνησις  meaning to steer a ship. Inherent to the idea of steering, and governing, is the notion that there is a destination.  The north star of those steering, or governing, any nation, is the happiness of the people.  

But how does a government steer the nation towards happiness when, for most, the concept is fuzzy at best? The same way anyone finds their way when they are lost. By tethering themselves to something they know.  Sometimes you have to look back to find the way forward. 

For some, government seems like a ship lost at sea, bobbing about this way and that with the tides and storms. They need a chart. They need a way to understand whether people really are happy or not, who is suffering, and how to alleviate misery and safeguard happiness.

Looking backwards to the founders of modern democracy, in the words of John "the happiness of society is the end of government" (meaning the purpose, not the demise - in fact, when happiness is not the purpose of government, it can start to feel like the end of opportunity and quality of life). 

Looking back at the work we at the Happiness Alliance have been doing since 2010, working with small and national governments, with community organizers, researchers and businesses, and looking forward to a future where happiness is not only the purpose but also the business of government, we wrote the Happiness Policy Handbook. 

It is choke full of lessons, experience-based knowledge and tested tools and resources for transforming how we think about- and do- business.  

We hope you will buy this book and feel empowered to change your town, city, region and nation for  world were all people have equal opportunity to be happy, and no one is left in misery.  Buy on Amazon, or directly from our most wonderful publishers, New Society Publishing,