We all want to lead a happy life. But in our quest for 'progress' we've been pursuing priorities that put our happiness at risk - not just for us as individuals, but for society as a whole.
Our collective aim should be a society with the greatest possible human happiness and wellbeing - with policies, institutions and social attitudes that help people to lead flourishing lives. This is the spirit behind a resolution which was adopted last year by all 193 United Nations member states, calling for "a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth", and one which promotes "happiness and the well-being of all peoples".
To support this emerging shift in priorities, the very first United Nations International Day of Happiness is being held on 20th March this year. In the UK and all around the world people will be taking action to encourage a greater focus on happiness and also to celebrate Happy Heroes - the unsung people and organisations who do so much to bring happiness to others.
But what does a happier society look like and how can we make it happen? As Director of UK-based Action for Happiness, a growing global movement of people who care deeply about this topic, I've had the privilege to meet with many of the world's leading experts as well as engaging with many of our 80,000 supporters and followers to hear their views.
My conclusion is that a happier society is possible - and rather than being some nebulous or idealistic dream, there are some clear actions needed to make this happen. It will of course require a shift in priorities for our governments and institutions. But it will also only happen if we as individual citizens play our part, particularly by choosing to live in a way that contributes to the happiness of others.
So below is my 12-step manifesto for a happier world, which calls for change not just from our leaders but from all of us. I'm not pretending these are simple changes or can happen overnight. But if we were to put these ideas into practice I'm certain we could create a society which is not only happier, but also more productive, caring, fair, responsible and sustainable.
For our political leaders:
- Ensure a Stable Economy. A healthy economy is the foundation for happiness and wellbeing. We need an equitable economic system which puts long-term stability and high levels of employment ahead of "growth at all costs".
For our institutions:
- Healthcare for Mind And Body. Mental health is just as vital as physical health. We need a healthcare system that prioritises both mental and physical health and provides high quality support for all those struggling with anxiety, depression or other mental illness.
For each of us as individuals:
- Family Values. Happy homes are the bedrock of a happy society and, above all, we need to cultivate warm and loving family relationships. For our children, our priority should be their emotional health and helping them to develop positive values and attitudes.
Together our actions make a profound difference. We can call for change from our leaders but we can also "be the change" in the way we approach our lives and the way we treat others. So if you share this vision for a happier and more caring world, please take the pledge to create more happiness and do whatever you can to support the Day of Happiness on 20 March.
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