Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Time for Happiness?

Here's another idea whose time has come: a national Happiness Index. We all know that money doesn't buy happiness, and with the current state of the economy, that message has hit home, hard, for many of us. So if happiness doesn't come from financial prosperity then where does it come from? The little country of Bhutan seems to think it knows.

Bhutan has implemented a national Happiness Index, called the Gross National Happiness, to measure the success of its people and its government policies. Built on the "four pillars" of sustainable development, environmental protection (more than 25% of its landmass is protected forest), cultural preservation, and good governance, Bhutan has seen dramatic improvements in literacy, infant mortality, and the general health and welfare of its population.

Now other countries are studying the model, hoping to develop their own models of health and happiness that go beyond economic success. Both Great Britain and Canada have implemented national indices of well-being. Perhaps it's time for the U.S., too, to shift its focus away from increased consumption towards an increase in quality of life.

For more on Bhutan's Gross National Happines index:

"A New Measure of Well-Being from a Happy Little Kingdom," The New York Times, Oct. 4, 2005.

"Bhutan's Enlightened Experiment," National Geographic, March, 2008.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Time for Peace?

Have you heard about The Peace Alliance? The Peace Alliance is a grassroots organization lobbying the U.S. Congress to establish a Department of Peace. This cabinet-level position will bring best practices and educational models to resolving conflicts both domestically and abroad.

Too many times, individuals as well as nations react to violence with more violence. Special interest groups often encourage a culture of violence and war because they, directly or indirectly, benefit from it, escalating conflicts beyond control and beyond any hope for reconciliation.

Well, the old models clearly aren't working. It's time to change our way of thinking. We need to replace our current paradigm of competition with one of cooperation, replace conflict with consensus and reconciliation, move away from a world segregated along special interests to one united under humanitarian interests.

Let's try some new ideas, let's try peace.

Vote for Peace:

Read more about
The Peace Alliance.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Feeling Better

I scanned the headlines today in the Washington Post and felt like crying. Bad news everywhere: war in the Gaza Strip, Ford and GM revenues down more than 30%, $50B Ponzi schemes allowed to run amok by the very regulators who are supposed to be protecting us, and on and on.

Then I came across this quote by one of my favorite people, His Holiness, the Dalai Lama:

"Choose to be optimistic. It feels better."

I realized that there is little or nothing I can do about the many national and global crises we seem to be facing lately, but I can certainly do something about my own attitude. Rather than focusing on the negative and getting more and more depressed, I can focus on what I truly believe in: the inherent goodness and resiliency of people everywhere.

No matter what trials and tribulations we may be facing currently, I heartily believe that we can and will get through this.

I choose optimism because it does feel better.

Saturday, January 3, 2009

Simplify: Less is the New More

Everything seems to slow down for me in January. January and February are two of the slowest months for my shop, Mindful Hands. The holidays are over, days are shorter and nights longer, no vacations planned. I always find January to be a good time to take stock of all the "stuff" Chris and I have accumulated over the years - from old clothes no longer worn, books no longer read, videos no longer viewed, and assorted knick-knacks we no longer have the use or room for.

All of it goes into one big pile in the basement. When we're satisfied we've combed through all our belongings as thoroughly as we can, we box and bag it all and leave it by the curb in front of our house to be picked up by The Lupus Foundation. It's a "win-win" - we get rid of our stuff and they get the funds from the sale to thrift stores.

If you're interested in un-cluttering your life and giving away your stuff, try these resources: