Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Happiness in the House - What GNHUSA is going in Vermont is REVOLUTIONARY

A repost!

Happiness in the House: Vermont Adopts Genuine Progress Indicator

By Laura Musikanski, Executive Director, The Happiness Initiative
On Wednesday, April 9th the Vermont House of Representatives opened the 93rd Day of the session with happiness.
It all started with a walk.
Two years ago, my friends Linda Wheatley and Paula Francis decided to walk from Vermont to Washington DC. They wanted to hear people’s reflections about the idea that we all have an “inalienable right to life, liberty and pursuit of happiness.” They called it the Pursuit of Happiness Walk.
They walked from town to town, word spreading of their journey before them. In most towns they were received by a host who provided them food and shelter. Just as they came to the border of Vermont, they met Cynthia Martin. She offered them a place to stay in her inn. That evening they had a lively discussion about gross national happiness, the use of a gross national happiness index rather than just economic metrics and the work of GNHUSA.
It turns out Cynthia Martin is a House Representative in Vermont State Legislature. She was inspired by their conversation that summer, and she stayed inspired.
On Wednesday, Cynthia opened the session with the statement:
“(Measuring what matters) is important as we tend to ‘get what we measure,’ so it is critical that we are measuring the right things when we seek greater wellbeing and an ever-improving quality of life.”
She introduced Linda, Paula and my other friend from GNHUSA, Tom Barefoot.
It was not the first time members of the House of Representatives and Senate for Vermont had heard of gross national happiness and measuring what matters. On May 8, 2012, the Vermont Legislature had been the second state in the U.S. to pass the Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) Bill, following Maryland.
GPI is an objective measure that starts with Gross Domestic Product (GDP), takes out the “bads” such as revenues from disasters, crimes and illness, adds in the “goods” not counted in GDP such as volunteering and caring for children or elders, and normalizes long-term infrastructure expenditures.
The difference between Vermont’s GPI bill and Maryland’s GPI bill is that Vermont includes a subjective indicator, allowing the state to get a real pulse on where people perceive themselves to be hurting or thriving.
When they passed the GPI bill, Linda told me, Vermont State Senator Anthony Pollina said, “Oh, this is my report card.” Last summer, the Gund Institute’s Eric Zencey presented the firstGPI Progress Report. Last fall, GNHUSA, working with the University of Vermont’s Center for Rural Studies used the Happiness Initiative's Gross National Happiness Index to conduct a random sampling of Vermont.
On April 9th, Linda, Tom and Paula introduced the elected officials to the GHN results. You can see from the graph, Vermont is a pretty happy state to live in.
I asked Linda, Paula and Tom what their thoughts were about this milestone in their work. Paula said,
“They knew about the importance of happiness, and have respect for it. The giggle factor and questions about the word ‘happiness’ are gone.”
Linda’s excitement grew as she spoke:
“The next bill coming through is the Results Based Accountably (RBA) Bill. Some of the senators and representatives are seeing the connection with the GPI bill, the People’s Budget, which passed the same time as the GPI bill and states that the state budget be based on meeting basic human needs and rights, and the RBA bill.
“They can see that the RBA bill is the third piece of the puzzle. John Murrand from Brattleboro told me ‘if this is how we measured how well we are doing, we would not be dealing with all these problems.’ We still need to help them understand how other efforts, like the GMO and Sick Leave bills fit into happiness and wellbeing. We need to help them use GNH language in those bills so they can see how it is all connected.”
I could tell Linda was inspired by the synchronicity of it all, and with the idea of making that clearer.
Tom also was pleased.
“I think they want to understand how different communities in Vermont are doing, and we will see lots of community uses of the Gross National Happiness Index. This will help us understand differences, and also where we can best leverage resources for the better of all in Vermont.”
So what's next?
All three agreed: they wanted to keep in closer touch with the legislature and to send them special invitations to the 5th North American Gross National Happiness conference to be held at the end of May in Vermont. There they hope to set the stage for more deeply involving Vermont’s representatives in using happiness data and adopting happiness policy, and further the happiness movement across the U.S.

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Happiness Transition Town for Earth Day - Thank you Joni Carley

Joni Carley is conducting a Happiness Initiative as part of her Transition Town work.  Read about it here:

And an event:

Our Common Happiness
with James Quilligan
& Dr. Joni Carley
Wednesday, April 23, 7:30 PM
Community Room, Media Borough Building
301 N. Jackson St, Media, PA

Research and experience throughout the world is becoming clearer and clearer: populations hit high economic, psychological, social and cultural development benchmarks when they adequately value and account for happiness and wellbeing.

The data also shows that common happiness requires ecological sustainability, social justice, and personal and communal vitality.
So how do we get there? Join us to explore:
Why is it important to be happy?
How do natural and political boundaries impact happiness?
What new forms of social and ecological participation are emerging?
How does happiness factor in to economics, policy and development?
Can activities like gift economies, permaculture, and biomimicry make us happy?

How do we find happiness in the midst of climate change, political extremism and hyper-competition for food, water and energy? Local and regional communities are rediscovering their commons* as the means to maintain their carrying capacity and to ensure the biodiversity necessary for well and happy lives.

All are welcome to this informational and inspirational look through the lens of our commons* at strengthening happiness and wellbeing in our community.
(no charge, donations welcome)

James Quilligan is an international advisor on economic policy, development and the commons*. Dr. Joni Carley, an expert in values-driven leadership and cultural development, was working with departmental leaders at the United Nations when the General Assembly voted unanimously to start convening toward a New Economic Paradigm based on Happiness and Wellbeing. Both James and Joni have backgrounds in philosophy, ethics, social policy and transformational practices in business, NGO’s and government.

* commons - resources that we share like air, water, food, forests, oil, minerals, genes, culture, the human spirit, information, civic infrastructur

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

The Happiness Initiative is now the Happiness Alliance! And check out our new website

About a year ago I went to give a happiness talk in Arizona.  When I got there I was greeted with a big sign stating "The Happiness Initiative" with our logo.  My first thought was "hey- that it our logo" quickly followed by a lightbulb. Yeah.

Let's find ways for people to use the Happiness Initiative's logo - and name - all over the US.

It has been a while, and a lot of work. Today we (soft) launch our new name and website: The Happiness Alliance, home of The Happiness Initiative and Gross National Happiness Index. One of the tools in our toolkit is the Happiness Initiative logo.

Next week, on earth day, we will officially launch the new name and website - for now it is all up and ready for your input - including typos to be corrected (please send them to me:

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Happy You - Gems from our Flickr Account

We soon will have a new website (and new name!)  So, in housecleaning, found some gems from our Flickr Account

Re-Post! Can Mindfulness Training Help Us Shift Toward a New Economic Paradigm?

Forum 21: Can Mindfulness Training Help Us Shift Toward a New Economic Paradigm?

Mindfulness training is big in corporate suites, but the connection between mindfulness, compassion and sustainability needs to be promoted.

By Laura Musikanski, Executive Director, The Happiness Initiative
April 2, 2014, was a big day at the United Nations. It was a day for the for-cause/non-profits (“NGOs”) to gather together and explain who they are and what they do for governments at the UN. They call it the CoNGO.
It was also the day a small group of UN-affiliated NGOs came together in the heart of Manhattan to change the world.
The meeting was held by my friend Ken Kitatani, who leads an international spiritual organization called Center for Spiritual Development, Rick Clugston, a mover and shaker who bridges the world of sustainability (he was involved early days in the Earth Charter) and spiritualism, and Kurt Johnson, longtime inter-spiritualist and author of The Coming Interspiritual Age.

Sustainability Development Founded on Spiritual Growth

These three are leading the change to develop a set of spiritual principles that speak to everyone, even the agnostics CoNGOand humanists. They hope such a set of principles will foster the transformation of our economic, social, natural and personal environments.
Their theory is that spiritual growth is foundational to sustainable development, the fruition of the happiness movement and a new economic paradigm. Ken likes to say we need to connect head, hand and heart. They call their effort Forum 21 – named after Agenda 21, the sustainability action plan developed after the first Earth Summit in Rio.

Sacred Activism

The day started with Ken, Kurt and Rich setting the stage followed by Grove Harris from theTemple of Understanding. She spoke about what she calls “sacred activism.” With a passion, she urged the spiritual leaders in the room to step into their power and use their practice to support their activism through hyper-local solutions. She gave examples of a low-income community coming to its own aid by growing and sharing food. And then she added:
“Stay at the level of profundity. Think deeply and to use your power for freedom of all and reconstruction of current systems. Be humble. Partake and enjoy pleasure.”

People's Treaties on Sustainability

She was followed by Uchita Zoysa, who flew in from Sri Lanka to talk about his project, People’s Sustainability Treaties. He was equally passionate, telling the story of a young man living in South Asia who worked two full-time jobs seven days a week.
When Uchita asked the young man what he planned to do with his life, he responded, “This is what I will do – I must support my family, my mother, father, sisters.” Uchita punctuated his talk with an exclamation: “That is slavery!” He went on, “when people live with the level of consumption of the U.S., Europe and Canada, by force there will be slavery.”
Uchita's message: a transformation grounded in the sort of principles Forum 21.

Happiness & Community: Youth Take Action

I had been brought in to share information about the Gross National Happiness (GNH) Index. I explained that the origins of The Happiness Initiative were in sustainability and over 33,000 peopleSpring-Off had taken the GNH Index. I also told the story of a youth council at the Vietnamese Friendship Association.
They had taken the GNH Index survey and scored lower than others on every domain.
With a small budget, the council decided to hold a “Spring Off.” About 200 youngsters gathered together at a local community center to learn how to make fresh spring rolls, an important food in their culture, followed by a spring roll eating contest. After that, the local police force sat down with the young people and answered questions in an effort to build confidence and trust in local government. At the end of the day, the children were happy with what they had accomplished.

Four Pillars of Spiritual Social Change

I also emphasized the need in our country for connecting personal happiness with social change for a new economic paradigm referring to the four pillars Kurt had mentioned earlier: the golden rule, ethics, social justice and contemplation. Grove had talked about the need to convey complexity in simple terms.
Ann Hughes was also in the audience. She is bringing an understanding of mindfulness to children, families, schools and communities. She had not spoken during the day but for her introduction, and sometimes that is enough.
Ken, in his introduction, had talked about one of the goals of Forum 21 was to integrate mindfulness training into public schools. I sat down after my talk and caught my breath. Once in a while you get a moment of clarity.

Mindfulness Training: A Pathway to Compassion?

Mindfulness training has become all the rage in a handful of Fortune 500 companies. Google is doing it. McKenzie is doing it. Aetna, Procter & Gamble and Apple are doing it. Mindfulness training is one of the business-person-meditating-breathepathways to compassion. It can connect the mind, hearts and hands. At the end of my day, I wondered if the simple language to convey incredible complexity could be expressed in one word, and if Kurt’s four pillars, in a sense, constructed of the same material: breathe.
Perhaps the Fortune 500 companies have it right. Perhaps the path to connecting happiness and wellbeing at the individual and organizational level is mindfulness – a focusing on the breath or other object for meditation. Perhaps with mindfulness training we can, as a people, a nation, the human race, connect our own happiness to the wellbeing of others and the planet.
For now, my one word to convey the incredible complexity of sustainability, the happiness movement and a new economic paradigm is this: breathe.

Friday, April 4, 2014

Repost from Beautiful Ginny Sassaman - A happiness conference and savoring the momen

If you’re like me, reading those words “quick and easy” probably awoke your skeptical self.  Perhaps you’re thinking this sounds too good to be true — but in this case, it isn’t.  I am utterly sincere.  Savoring is quick, and easy, and can provide a valuable boost to anyone’s happiness levels.

To be sure, many personal happiness strategies are challenging.  Forgiving ourselves and others, for example, is emotionally daunting and time consuming, as well as ultimately quite rewarding.  Another critically important happiness strategy is to quiet the nasty little voice of social comparison in our heads — especially in light of the environmental devastation wrought by consumerism and our sad efforts to keep up with our neighbors.  Even though I believe passionately in the need to move to a gross national happiness paradigm, this one is still really tough for me.  If I see someone in a cute little sundress or a shiny new Prius, I want, want, want!
So I’m no believer in quick and easy happiness fixes overall.  But, here’s a ritual I just started that is working so well I want to let you all in on the secret: everyday at noon, my phone is set to chime.  That is my reminder to stop whatever I’m doing and simply savor.  I’m only on day five of this new ritual, but each day has provided me with about five minutes of totally mundane magic.

I’ll get back to those magical moments shorty, but first a little background. This new savoring routine is an outgrowth of a much, much more extensive happiness exploration I’m on — a 10-month Certificate in Positive Psychology program through Kripalu.  The program includes a series of dynamic online lectures by Tal Ben Shahar.  In one lecture, he presented the work of Barbara Frederickson and her Positivity Ratio; basically, when our personal happiness to negativity ratio pushes past 3:1, we are in the golden land of flourishing.  To shift our individual positivity ratios, we can add more happiness experiences and moments, and, try to limit the negativity in our lives.  Because it’s cumulative, every little bit helps.
Solidifying new happiness habits and discarding negative ways that no longer serve us takes time and determination.  In another of Tal’s lectures, he emphasized the difficulty inherent in making long-lasting change in our lives.  He suggested we switch our mind-set away from “Self-discipline” and toward “Rituals.”  Each of us was encouraged to choose or create very specific happiness rituals, set dates to begin each ritual, and just do it.

Since I’ve loved savoring since I read Sonja Lyubomirsky’s “The How of Happiness” in early 2012, it made sense to build a savoring ritual into my life.  My husband helped me set my phone alarm on Sunday March 31st, ready to start chiming every day at noon starting on Monday April 1st.
Thank goodness for the assistance of modern technology!  When the phone chimed on Monday, I had already forgotten my midday savoring plan!  But when I heard the phone, I just stopped and looked around me to see what I could savor.  It was amazing.  Suddenly, with this very simple intention, I was seeing objects in my living room with fresh vision.  Because I’m a painter, and spent many years on the art/craft show circuit, my living room is filled with wonderful pieces of art that I normally barely glance at.  On Monday, in savoring mode, I was awed and overwhelmed by their beauty and flat-out wonderfulness.  My happiness level
soared.  Magical.

Tuesday, seemingly the first sunny day in months, the phone chime prompted me to dashed out to my deck.  I closed my eyes and basked in the warmth and glow of our The Sun!  Again, a magical happiness boost.
Wednesday, I took time to savor my big country kitchen with its cozy woodstove, perfect for life in Vermont.  Then I thought, oh yeah, I live in Vermont!!  I looked out the window to savor the view and the very fact of living in this beloved state.  You guessed it — more happiness magic.

Thursday was harder.  I was in a parking lot when the phone alarm went off.  I looked around me at the piles of melting dirty snow.  Melting snow!  In early April, that is well worth savoring, dirt or no.  Ta-da, the happiness boost was there again.
It just makes me grin that every single one of these moments was both magical and totally mundane.  That’s why I love savoring — it is an option that is almost always available to us, and it works.

Savoring works in part because it’s so interwoven with gratitude.  Often, savoring is also about being mindful, being fully present — ie, taking the time to truly see and appreciate what is in front of us all the time.

But, another beauty of savoring is that it can be focused on the past or the future as well.  I just got back from a week visiting my granddaughter for her second birthday, and I am constantly savoring those early morning moments when she came walking quietly up to me in the dark and we hugged and kissed and began our day together.  Savoring in the past tense is actually not always easy for me, because I can feel grief at what is gone.  Yet I find that if I really focus on reliving the sensations I felt then, the past can once again bring me pleasure.

As for the future, well, no problem there! Here again, modern technology is a reliable assistant.  When I have trips planned, I love to visit the websites of places I am going to, and imagine the delights  I’ll experience there.  This future-savoring is in full swing for me right now, as I will soon be traveling to Kripalu for a week long immersion in the positive psychology program, followed by a week leading a Joyful Creativity Retreat on the beaches of North Carolina.

There is an important caveat about anticipating and savoring the future.  Once again, mindfulness is key.  I know that I cannot hold too tightly to my idea of what will happen at Kripalu or in North Carolina.  There is a delicate dance between anticipation and expectations.  I am a big supporter of happy anticipation, as long as one is willing to experience what actually does unfold, whether or not events conform with expectations.  So I’m excited about the upcoming trips, and, hoping I can just go with the flow.

When I return, I will have plenty more to savor, in five minute chunks and in the big picture.  Especially savor-worthy is the upcoming conference I am helping to plan,“Happiness and Wellbeing: Building a National Movement.” I invite you all to visit the conference website, and start savoring with me!
I also invite you to set your smart phones or other alarms to a time of day when you could take five minutes to savor.  If you adopt this ritual, please let me know how it works for you.  I hope you also find these moments to be magically happy (but I won’t hold too tightly to any expectations!).