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International Day Of Happiness

In June of 2012, the United Nations general assembly adopted a Resolution designating March 20 as the International Day of Happiness. The actual Resolution is short and sweet (1 page), and expressly links happiness to the notion of wellbeing. So do I, and even though not everyone is a fan of the UN, I'm personally delighted to be in such good company!

Happiness is hard to pin down, definitionally, but we all know it when we're feeling it. For those of us who may insist on a clear definition (like most lawyers) we're likely to be disappointed, but for those of us who may be a bit more visceral in our reality-check mode, happiness is something we understand very well.

Five years ago, National Public Radio ("NPR") published a piece authored by a psychology professor at UC Berkeley that asked the question: "Is happiness really a human right ?". The conclusion reached in the article was, "no"-- aspirational goal? -- "yes".

Why? Because happiness doesn't mean the same thing in every culture. As demonstrated in a study conducted by Brett Ford and her colleagues, the concept of happiness (not to mention the link between happiness and wellbeing) can vary dramatically from one country to another.

If one were to limit the geographic reach of the question to the United States, for instance, the definition would be predominantly individualistic in focus, while in other countries the definition of happiness would be more social, or relational. In other words, the values we are raised with, bear a direct impact on our happiness-- as well as our sense of wellbeing.

Who'd have thunk it? Happiness (like wellbeing) is complicated.
And multi-faceted, as well as multi-dimensional. As much as my reductionist mind would like to simplify everything, it's obvious that one size does not fit all.

As the NPR article concludes: "In celebrating the International Day of Happiness, we might do well to examine rather than reaffirm our tacit assumptions about happiness and its pursuit. And we might do well to join the UN's resolution in aspiring to the wellbeing of all peoples, not only our own happiness as individuals".

May we all happy... and well!


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