Six Sustainable Happiness Skills for a Fulfilling New Year
Six skills to guide people to a state of sustainable happiness
After having survived the tragic year of 2020, the world moves forward with hope and optimism for what lies ahead in 2021. Each of us with our own to-do lists and aspirations in the hopes that this year can be safer, brighter, and better. On a global scale, we have various priorities that we must continue to work towards, two of these being our fight against climate change and prioritizing our well-being.
The term ‘sustainable happiness’ addresses these two concepts eloquently as it fuses together studies on sustainability, positive psychology, and happiness. Developed by Catherine O’Brien from Cape Breton University, sustainable happiness is defined as “the pursuit of happiness that does not exploit other people, the environment, or future generations” (O’Brien, Page 290).
Breaking down the term a bit more, let’s recall that ‘happiness’ is described as “the overall appreciation of one’s life-as-a-whole” (in other words, how much one likes the life one lives) (Veenhoven, 2008). Keeping this baseline in mind while convening it with the precedent need for sustainability, one can come to realize why aiming for sustainable happiness, as opposed to short-term happiness, can be both beneficial to the individual as well as the global society.
The following are six sustainable happiness skills that were developed by LG Experience Happiness and the Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley (LG):
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is when one is aware of one’s current thoughts, feelings, and surroundings without judging oneself. The practice of mindfulness can help lead to better focus, emotional balance, and resilience (LG).
Human Connection: Human connection is the relationships that exists with significant others, friends, and peers. Strong relationships are crucial to happiness and well-being, thus, those with close bonds have a higher likeliness of being secure with oneself, happier, and less lonely (LG).
Gratitude: Gratitude is when one is thankful and aware of their privilege and identifies the sources of goodness that exists outside of themselves. The acts of appreciating and being thankful for the good that life and others have brought assists in fostering genuine happiness (LG).
Positive Outlook: When one is positive, one is able to imagine a prosperous outcome and motivate themselves to strive for that positive experience. One can go about viewing life more positively by allowing themselves to be honest, curious, open-minded, hopeful, grateful, humble, etcetera (LG).
Purpose: Having a sense of purpose can assist in contributing to sustainable happiness. When one has a sense of purpose, one may live according to their values and aspirations, and, with that, aim to impact their external communities positively. In doing so, one is able to transcend their self-interest, which unconsciously may increase their sense of happiness (LG).
Generosity: At the root of generosity, is the desire and ability to assist and be kind to others. When one is kind to themselves and those around them, happiness and altruism sparks via the production of endorphins and this encourages the individual to continue being kind (LG).
Moving away from short-term happiness and, instead, aiming towards a sustainable state of enjoyment, fulfillment, and well-being is one we should all work towards in 2021. Each of us have endured our own unique lessons that 2020 has taught us. Now we must move forward and visualize the kind of lives we want for ourselves, our loved ones, and the world at large. Sustainable happiness teaches us the importance of balancing how we go about attaining our personal desires all while being mindful that our choices impact other humans and the environment.
Book recommendation: Sustainable Happiness: Live Simply, Live Well, Make a Difference by Berrett Koehler (2015)
Greater Good Science Center at U.C. Berkeley https://greatergood.berkeley.edu/article/item/where_can_we_find_sustainable_happiness
O’Brien, C. (2005). Planning for sustainable happiness: Harmonizing our internal and external landscapes. Paper prepared for the international conference on Gross National Happiness, Nova Scotia, Canada. Retrieved November 18, 2007, from www.gpiatlantic.org/conference/ papers.htm
O’Brien, C. (2008). Sustainable happiness: How happiness studies can contribute to a more sustainable future. Canadian Psychology/Psychologie canadienne, 49(4), 289–295. https://doi.org/10.1037/a0013235
Veenhoven, R. (2008). Healthy happiness: Effects of happiness on physical health and the consequences for preventive health care. Journal of Happiness Studies, 9, 449–469