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Happiness is Serious Business

CCA LiveE | Thursday December 29th, 2011 | 0 Comments

The following post is part of the course work for “Live Exchange” the foundational course on communication for The MBA Design Strategy Program at California College of the Arts. The rest of the posts are presented here.

By Catalina Garcia, Co-founder of The Happy Post Project

The Happy Post Project is a social experiment using art and creative endeavors to spread happiness by empowering people with a simple question: What makes you happy? Our mission is to spread happiness.  We strongly believe that the power of happiness can change everything — companies, governments, and especially people.

In a world where every day conversations revolve around economic crises, political conflicts and natural disasters, it is no wonder that there is a newfound interest in the subject of happiness. As co-founder of The Happy Post project, I join an ever-growing group of people that are dissatisfied with the path that humanity has taken and the consequences it is having on our planet. As all subjects related to sustainability become increasingly popular, I reflect on the sustainability of the human race and the important role that happiness plays in it.

Throughout the years we have seen the subject of happiness move from the bookshelves and psychologists’ couches into the boardrooms of many companies and even into government offices. As levels of depression and suicide continue to escalate worldwide, policymakers are beginning to question whether governments should pursue happiness rather than economic growth.

Traditionally, success has been measured by economic standards. Does a higher Gross National Product (GNP) represent increased well-being for its citizens or does it represent higher productivity at perhaps a higher environmental cost? Countries are compared by their GNPs, but what does this mean? Who is happier, he who has more or perhaps he who needs less?

Happiness must find its place on a government level if we want our planet to be “sustainably happy.” A tiny country in the Himalayas has already taken the lead. In 2008, Bhutan’s king implemented a new measurement index: GNH, Gross National Happiness, to measure the progress of the country not by its economic benefits but by the happiness they produce.

In addition to the various GNPs and Bhutan’s GNH, there is the Happy Planet Index: an index that combines environmental impact with human well-being to measure the environmental efficiency with which, country by country, people live long and happy lives. The results obtained by the measurement of this index have shown that the nations we have traditionally considered successful, like the US and UK, are in reality not succeeding at all.

Surprisingly, the countries that have obtained the best HPI results are Latin American countries, traditionally classified as third world or developing countries, like Bhutan. These countries have been found to have a more balanced situation and better results with regards to life expectancy, environmental impact and overall happiness. This supports the idea that high levels of resource consumption do not reliably produce high levels of happiness, and that it is possible to produce high well-being without excessive consumption of the earth’s resources. In this case, less is more. We should not desire richer, more productive countries at the expense of our environment.

Given the times and context of today’s world, perhaps governments should take Bhutan’s lead and aim to pursue sustainable happiness rather than focus on achieving immediate economic growth. Robert Kennedy once stated, “The Gross National Product measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.”  Perhaps the time has come to focus on indicators and indexes that concentrate on what makes life “worthwhile” in order to reach long-term sustainability. Our goal should be to have happier people and, in turn, a happier planet.


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