Check it out! In the Santa Fe New Mexican Journal:
Our View: Don’t worry, be happy
Citizens of the United States are proud that up front, their nation recognized the right of people to seek happiness. It’s right there, in the Declaration of Independence, listed among the truths that the people of the still-emerging country believed: “We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.”
What happiness is, of course, and how best to pursue it, remains up to each individual some 200-plus years later. What is evident, though, is that for too long, the notion of happiness has been tied up with material goods — so much so that people work and work to achieve a certain quality of life, only to discover they are too tired to enjoy it. The emphasis on consumption and growth and always wanting more can be hard on the planet. Sustaining growth in a world with limited resources is a difficult balancing act.
How then, to be happy?
In the country of Bhutan, rather than measure success by economic growth or consumption, the index is Gross National Happiness, GNH for short. By replacing the economic Gross National Product for GNH, the focus is on quality of life and peace of mind. The term was introduced in 1972 by Bhutan’s fourth Dragon King, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, who is credited with opening the country to the modern world. In doing so, the king wanted to build an economy and way of life that would respect his country’s traditions. Today, that notion of national happiness is used to guide the country’s planning, focusing on four pillars of happiness: Sustainable development, conserving the natural world, preserving cultural values and establishing good governance. People are happier, evidently, when their government operates efficiently and without corruption.
Now, starting with an initiative in Seattle, cities in the United States are bringing their communities together to discuss happiness as a concrete goal, not just an ideal. The Happiness Santa Fe movement kicks off this Saturday — Pursuit of Happiness Day across the country on Thomas Jefferson’s birthday — with events at the Santa Fe Farmers Market and continues through an Earth Day celebration on April 22 with a variety of activities. The project can help us remember that success is more than a fat salary or big house. Success can be more basic: People to love who love you, eating healthy food, serving the community, taking a walk at sunset, living without fear and having enough to eat. To take stock of your own happiness index, visit www.happycounts.org and take the survey.
On Saturday, beginning around 9:30 a.m. at the Santa Fe Farmers Market, a city proclamation will declare it Pursuit of Happiness Day. There will be art projects, portrait-taking and other activities, with more events to follow as the days progress. We particularly like an event next Tuesday, a 6:30 p.m. film, “Happy,” at CCA, followed by a discussion and a Happiness and Chocolate reception. The initiative is being supported by the Center for Emergent Diplomacy in partnership with the city of Santa Fe, spearheaded by volunteers Zélie Pollon and David Rogers and countless other citizens and businesses who are assisting. It’s more than just a day, too. It’s also a movement to use what we learn from the happiness survey to affect policy. Eventually, our town will become a place where happiness thrives.