You may have heard that Denmark has the title of the happiest country in the world. But did you know that they were just pipped for this title by Norway in 2017? Both Scandinavian countries have been long practicing something called ‘hygge’, which roughly means a warm feeling created by enjoying the good things in life with good people. Picture… an open fire on a cold snowy night, good food, wine, and conversation shared with friends or family. Perhaps hygge explains why both countries have some of the happiest people in the world?
The wellbeing levels of different countries, as reported in the World Happiness Report, has been measured since 2012. But the trailblazer in this area is the country of Bhutan, who saw the value of measuring wellbeing back in 1972. King Jigme Singye Wangchuck declared at the time that “Gross National Happiness is more important than Gross Domestic Product.” In 2011, Bhutan introduced the concept of prioritising wellbeing to the United Nations and it was unanimously adopted as a General Assembly Resolution, recognising the “relevance of happiness and wellbeing as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world.”
The following year, March 20th was proclaimed the International Day of Happiness to recognise that more priority should be given to increasing happiness and wellbeing for progress, rather than only measuring economic growth.
Schools can make help make wellbeing a priority in their community by not only measuring and monitoring student and staff wellbeing with the Flourishing Profile survey, but by also including days like International Day of Happiness in the school calendar. This not only starts discussions about the global focus on wellbeing, it can provide a creative opportunity for staff and students to reflect on what happiness means for them. (See Flourishing at School Summary Reports – Guidelines for Use).
For the last few years, my school community has acknowledged the International Day of Happiness in different ways to raise awareness about happiness and wellbeing.
- Staff – We have provided resources to teachers in advance of International Day of Happiness to use and discuss in their classrooms, such as these wellbeing posters. We found that by spreading different posters around the classrooms, students and staff could look out for the different tips during the day as they moved about the school. We also used the day to remind staff of the importance of their personal wellbeing needs too.
- Students – We have included information about the day in homeroom notices and used ideas from websites such as dayofhappiness.org.au or www.actionforhappiness.org.au. We have consistently found that students are most engaged when we provide content by video, such as this one about the meaning of happiness. We have also encouraged students to think of their own ways to promote happiness, with one student setting up a Day of Happiness display in the school café with a jar full of ‘happy notes’ for students to take for a little happiness boost. I have also seen students hand out compliment cards to their peers, which is a great way to show that kindness to others plays an important part in our own happiness.
- Parents – We have acknowledged the Day of Happiness via our online parent newsletter and linked this to science-backed wellbeing strategies for parents using links to websites such as the Greater Good Magazine. This has helped to highlight to parents the value we place on wellbeing at the school and how this focus is now recognised globally.
There are many ways to promote and celebrate happiness on the International Day of Happiness, even if you aren’t Norwegian or Danish!
So, how can your school community join the movement on March 20th for a happier world?
Tanya Kadak | School Psychologist
Tanya Kadak (BA Hons; Dip Ed) has been a School Psychologist since 2001, currently working at Hale School and People Diagnostix in Perth, Western Australia. Tanya worked for 14 years at Mercedes College, an all-girls Catholic secondary school, where she developed a passion for Positive Psychology research and its applications. She has completed training in Positive Education with Dr Lea Waters (2013) and The Institute of Positive Education at Geelong Grammar School (2014). Tanya has been implementing wellbeing strategies and developing resources for schools, with a commitment to translating wellbeing science into practical and effective activities that are engaging for young people.