Put a smile on your face and help save the planet on Happiness Day

By Steve Deane

A happy Hayley McGregor, of Papatoetoe, has fun in the water with 22-month-old Reign Kent. Photo / Chris Gorman
A happy Hayley McGregor, of Papatoetoe, has fun in the water with 22-month-old Reign Kent. Photo / Chris Gorman

Look around you. Are you surrounded by people who have a bit of pep in their step and a bit more upwards curl to their bottom lip? You should be. Today is the second annual International Day of Happiness.

If you're happy and you know it - send us your really cheesy smiling photos. Email us here.

A global celebration was decreed by the United Nations General Assembly in March 2012. The idea is that a more "inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples" will make for a better planet.

The concept of mandatory global joy bringing economic and psychological benefits, though, is at odds with the findings of several New Zealand-based psychological studies.

Wellington-based academic Paul Jose spent a $600,000 grant investigating happiness. His seven years of research found that material wealth doesn't necessarily equate to happiness.

Jose has also questioned the role of gift giving in our pursuit of happiness.

Part of the issue with happiness is that it's subjective. One person's brilliant day may be another's 24 hours of hell.

If, even after reading this far, you're still trying to locate your inner happy place, the problem might just be that you are scared of doing so. Or Japanese.

Another study by Wellington-based academics found that many people fear happiness. The study of global happiness trends by Victoria University academics Dr Mohsen Joshanloo and Dr Dan Weijers found that aversion to happiness can be culturally specific. In western cultures some of us worry that being excessively happy will cause something disastrous to happen to us. In some Eastern cultures people worry that their peers, an "evil eye" or a supernatural deity may resent their happiness and they will eventually suffer severe consequences.

"Many individuals and cultures do tend to be averse to some forms of happiness, especially when taken to the extreme, for many different reasons," the psychologists said.

Different cultures also place varying levels of importance on happiness. In the United States, for instance, the pursuit of happiness is taken for granted. The same philosophy doesn't apply in Japan.

Western cultures also tend to place an importance on appearing happy, while Easterners, who place a higher value on harmony and conformity than the pursuit of personal happiness, aren't so bothered about coming across as glum.

5 Ways to celebrate Happiness day

1. Bake a cake and take it to work. It might not make you happy but it will bring a smile to your colleagues' faces.
2. Don't go to work. Do something-anything-that would make you happier. Unless you find out a colleague is baking a cake.
3. Ring the United Nations and ask them who they are to tell you that you have to be happy on March 20 every year? Shouldn't they be saving Crimea or something?
4. Trim a bonsai tree. It worked for Mr Miyagi.
5. Send me a dollar. There's nothing more uplifting than the spirit of giving.

- NZ Herald

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