This year, you have a choice. Though International Day of Happiness is a great excuse to celebrate happiness one day a year, why not use the day to kick-start your happiest year ever?
Sounds good so far, but the question is how? Well, the truth is that happiness looks different for everyone, both locally and globally. The Project Happiness team was recently invited by ReThink, Trinidad, to visit Guyana to hold a training on happiness and emotional resiliency. With Her Excellence, Sandra Grainger (the first lady of Guyana)'s support and attendance, the training was held in the Ministry of Education with 70+ teachers, public health personnel, social workers, and national administration. Having recently been identified as the country with the highest suicide rate per capita in the world, the Guyanese we met welcomed tools to create a positive impact and seed hope in their community. At the end of our time together, the participants reported feeling uplifted, energized and excited to implement what they had discovered.
Here are some inspirations from that trip to help you get your happiness in gear:
1. Start with Respect: Emotions are like a boomerang; what you send out comes back to you. If you treat others with respect, chances are they will respond in kind. When we first got to the country, it was unclear if we were going to be regarded as just another organization trying to impose our "solutions." When they understood that we were there to share ideas and actually learn from one another, it changed the tone to one of sincere communication. Self-respect was another aspect. In these all-too-busy times, we shared that it's important to respect yourself too! This includes your time, your energy, and even your inner voice. It all matters.
2. Walk in Someone Else's Shoes: In order to have a real conversation with anyone, it helps to know what they are dealing with now and what challenges they have faced. In Georgetown, Guyana's capital, there had just been a riot in the local prison, and it was burnt to the ground. Many people were enraged. Yet, the First Lady, Mrs. Sandra Grainger, who attended part of the training, spoke of empathy. "These men were someone's son, or brother or friend. You never know what had happened to put them in that place, or what hardships they had to deal with." Everyone was touched. The takeaway: even though we may come from different experiences, it is important to consider what lies beneath the surface. Empathy can go a long way.
3. Adults Like to Play Too: Who said fun was limited to children? Research has shown that play is one of the best ways to recharge, restore and jumpstart creativity. Especially when times are tough, find ways to lift one another up and laugh. Music and dance are universal elixirs. When we asked the group to get up and break out into a happy dance, the enthusiasm was palpable. One of the fastest ways to shift out of a bad mood is to shake it! Music crosses all boundaries - let it be your fuel.
4. The Power of a Circle: A highly effective strategy to bounce back from stress is to show and receive gratitude or appreciation. In Guyana, we had participants form appreciation circles of about 10 people each. They had to tell the person on their right, one thing that they appreciated about them: something that involved their character rather than their clothes. It was one of the most popular activities, so much so that we did another one at the end. People were laughing, crying, hugging... and opening up to their strengths. If you are interested in knowing more about the power of circles or starting one yourself, learn more here.
5. To Feel Good, Do Good: There have been many studies that show that people who give to others end up being happier. Not only do we feel a greater sense of meaning, but this actually promotes long term happiness. Connecting to others is also something we are wired to do - we all seek to be part of something greater. When we offered the participants the chance to become a Happiness Ambassador, to help bridge the latest in the science of happiness for people in all walks of life, you could have heard a pin drop. The idea of working with them, to tailor our programs to be sensitive to the specific needs within the community, was much appreciated - it's back to that respect thing... If this strikes an "AHA" chord in you, you can also learn more about bringing this movement for global well-being to your corner of the globe.
At the end of the day, well-being is not rocket science. It's the simple day-to-day habits that we intentionally do that shape our brains to receive greater happiness. International Day of Happiness is just a reminder of all the resources you already have inside of you. Choose to use them, and better yet, share your gifts with others all year round.