From my perspective, happiness is undeniably a global health issue, because of the strong evidence for the connection between mental health and well-being and physical health. As many people know, the effect runs both directions; physical health challenges can be taxing emotionally, and mental health stresses can take a toll on your physical health.
This connection has consequences and implications for global development practitioners, because individuals and communities must be mentally and physically healthy to be able to benefit in the full measure from development initiatives designed to reduce poverty and improve peoples’ lives. This is why it is so important to consider global health from a holistic perspective, taking into account the real and profound connection between mind and body, and the importance of happiness.
Today’s International Day of Happiness, first observed in 2012, is a reminder to us that experts in global health, international development and human rights at the highest level recognize happiness as a, “fundamental human goal” and a core objective of international development and peace-building. But to me, the United Nation’s work to establish this day is essentially officially affirming something that most of us already know and believe. Is there hope for a “happiness” indicator in the suite of Post-2015 Sustainable Development Goals, I wonder?
So, what makes people happy?
“Happiness may have different meanings for different people. But we can all agree that it means working to end conflict, poverty and other unfortunate conditions in which so many of our fellow human beings live.”
Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon
Message for the International Day of Happiness, 20 March 2014
I would agree with Ban Ki-moon in the most literal interpretation of his message; for me, working to end conflict, poverty and to promote health in my career is what I believe will ultimately lead to satisfaction and happiness for me. In a broader interpretation, I also agree that this work, undertaken and approached by committed people in a multitude of professional fields (informationists, lawyers, medical professionals, teachers, social workers, human rights advocates, peace organizers, public officials, etc.) will lead to happiness for our fellow human beings all over the world.
If you need further inspiration, and by some chance you have not experienced the pop-culture Pharrell “Happy” phenomenon, check out the world’s first 24-hour, interactive music video. Tap your toes. Maybe even join in the dance party. Global happiness starts with you.