Happy and Joyous January,
I hope your Christmas was amazing and 2017 is off to a brilliant start for you.
I started my year with a question - what is happiness?
Let’s Laugh programs are filled with laughter and mindfulness and focus on personal health, wellbeing and happiness and during my programs 1 question is asked more frequently than any other – “Can you define happiness?”
For quite some time I've had trouble answering the question. I share my definition of happiness but is that the definitive answer? 2 years ago I decided I needed to do a little research…
Over the past 2 years I’ve had the honour of sharing workshops in 9 countries and the unique opportunity of asking my ‘definition of happiness' question to hundreds of people in each of the countries I visited. Over 7,000 people were kind enough to share their ideas and over the Christmas break I tallied all the responses but before I announce the results…
While I loved every country I visited the country I felt most connected to was Bhutan. Nestled in the Himalayan mountains between China and India Bhutan is a tiny country that most people know as the home of Gross National Happiness (GNH). GNH is a holistic and sustainable approach to development which places the happiness and wellbeing of the country's people, culture and environment as the highest priority. I've visited Bhutan twice, in October 2015 and again in November 2016.
On my second trip I met a lovely girl named Karma. As we walked along a path next to a beautiful river near the GNH Centre I asked her if she could tell me what happiness is. She thought for a moment and then waved her hand toward the small town we were walking towards. “Happiness is love, my family, my school, my friends”. Then she added “I’m working hard at school, I want to be a doctor, being healthy in body and mind is happiness. I want to be healthy and I will work hard so I can help others to be healthy”, then she waved her had towards the river and the mountains and said “This is happiness, my country is happiness.” She put her hand over her heart and said very quietly “Happiness is here, you feel it here. If here is contented then this is happiness.” I asked dozens of other Bhutanese how they would describe happiness and almost without fail their responses were similar.
As a parting gift Karma shared this exercise:
Close your eyes,
think of the people you love,
think of the things you love doing,
think of how you love moving your body,
think of how you love beautiful views.
Happiness is love and you feel it here (in your heart).
Over the Christmas break I set up a spreadsheet and tallied the 'definition of happiness' responses. While there were almost 150 unique definitions (I grouped like responses together) 4 were by far the most popular, and those 4 definitions were the ones shared by Karma and the Bhutanese people in general;
Family, friends and community.
Health and wellbeing – both physical and psychological.
Purpose. To know that our life has meaning and that our path is leading us somewhere.
The environment. While most of the responses referred to the natural environment, from mountains to oceans and wilderness to gardens, the built environment, both historical and new was also mentioned. The overarching concept was to appreciate, care for and be mindful of the environments we inhabit.
You may or may not agree with the top 4 but you might like to stop for a moment, close your eyes, take a deep breath and practice Karma’s exercise. As you do put your hand on your heart and if you feel calm and contented then that is happiness.
In April I’m heading to the USA to attend the annual conference of the Association of Applied and Therapeutic Humour (AATH) and to speak about Gross National Happiness. Thank you Jill and Charley Knox for honouring me with the 2017 Knox Family Humour for Peace Scholarship. In June I’m off to the UK Laughter Festival to present a session on connection and later in the year, if I can make it happen, I’m hoping to return to Bhutan.
If you're in the USA or UK and would like to discuss organising a program while I'm there please contact me with your ideas. My new Laughter Wellbeing program was released on January 4th, you might like to check it out.
Plus, if you'd like to share your definition of happiness or you have any questions about GNH or Bhutan (I am now a GNH Ambassador) please get in touch.
Keep smiling and have an amazing January.