Sustainability is about ecology, economy and equity.- Ralph Bicknese

“There Is No Happiness Without Action”


To celebrate the first ever International Day of Happiness on March 20, declared by the United Nations in 2012, we encourage everyone to do five things that make you happy today, and stop to think about how happiness plays a role in your life.

Though happiness is a term that many throw about carelessly, its place in the sustainability vocabulary holds a potent meaning. We consider it a complex balance of satisfaction with life, physical health, a quality environment, psychological well-being, and community vitality. Happiness is a mix of internal and external factors, and our personal responses to them.

Sustainability focuses on human needs, and theories from Malsow and Max-Neef conclude that the purpose of fulfilling standard human needs is to lead then on the past towards happiness. Even governmental programs are linking happiness with sustainability efforts today. By looking at all needs, big and small, sustainable programs hope to bring a brighter, happier future for everyone.

Happiness is a goal for many, but in today’s hectic lifestyle it can often get shunted to the side. However, there is a growing focus about the individual’s level of happiness, especially on college campuses. Due to the inherently stressful college life, the 200 days a year of gray Seattle skies, and the terrible economy, happiness often seems out of reach.

But just taking the time to focus on your personal happiness has a heap of benefits. Even sitting outside for five minutes of solitary contemplation has been proven to raise satisfaction with life.

Seattle, a participant in the Happiness Initiative, which we discussed in a previous post, has been conducting a lot of research about the city’s local happiness levels, and the factors that are involved. Unfortunately, the results indicate that we live during a particularly stressful time for emerging adults.happyimages

An article in Solutions Journal states that the 2011 Happiness Report Card of Seattle indicated, “youth, ages 19-24, were the least satisfied age group. They scored low in affect, satisfaction with life, time balance, the environment, and marital well-being.” The articles cites economic stressors and lack of community ties as possible contributing factors to the low score.

Although there are no shortcuts to true happiness, there are some easy ways to foster the growth of happiness:

  • Reduce time on electronics like cell phones, laptops, tablets, television, and video games.
  • Exercise, exercise, exercise. Even 15 minutes of walking is enough to boost your mood.
  • Get proper rest. This one can be especially tricky for college students, many of whom grow accustomed to late nights and early mornings, but aiming for 7 hours of shut eye each night can make all the difference.
  • Do something you enjoy! Take some time to read, bike, connect with friends, work on a hobby — whatever brightens your day.
  • Give to others. Treat a friend, volunteer, give that man with the cardboard sign a dollar. Engage in random acts of kindness.
  • Surround yourself with happy people.
  • Spend time with a pet, either your own or a friend’s.

In recognition of the Day of International Happiness, we recommend taking some time to focus on your personal well-being, and those around you.

happy2imagesIf you are worried about your current state of happiness or satisfaction with life, check out the Student Counseling Center, where a team of trained specialists can help to brainstorm and guide you through possible ways to strengthen these areas.

Click for more resources about International Day of Happiness, the psychology of happiness, and happiness in general.

And please, comment and share what makes you happy!

Author: Sara Kenning

Sustainability Assistant at Seattle Pacific University's Office of Facility and Project Management

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