The Happiness Initiative--Vital Conversation for the Week of 11/26

How is new data on happiness transforming our understanding of community, society and the economy?

Podcast of Monday Cafe Call now available here.

Link for beta testing social webinar function for Tuesday Connect2012 Cafe Call here.

Take the happiness survey and then help us start this dialogue here on the forum. Then join the Cafe Call on Monday, 11/26 as well:

8-10a PDT | 11a-1p EDT | 3-5p GMT
Click here to register for all our Monday Vital Conversations

This theme will also inform our Tuesday "Connect2012" and Thursday "Occupy Heart" calls.

We are delighted to feature Laura Musikanski, Executive Director of The Happiness Initiative, as our conversation starter for next Monday's Cafe Call.  She will discuss the work of the initiative, which is taking action here in the US inspired by Bhutan's development of the Gross National Happiness Indicator and other efforts around the globe to drive policy based on measures that matter.

In a sign that the New Economy movement is going mainstream, The UK has just announced that it is joining Bhutan and other European nations in incorporating a measure of national well being as a core driver of government policy.  Conservative Prime Minister David Cameron states:

It's time we admitted that there's more to life than money and it's time we focused not just on GDP but on GWB – general wellbeing... Wellbeing can't be measured by money or traded in markets. It's about the beauty of our surroundings, the quality of our culture and, above all, the strength of our relationships. Improving our society's sense of wellbeing is, I believe, the central political challenge of our times.

Meanwhile, here in the USA, The Happiness Initiative, in collaboration with several other organizations, is providing a stepping stone towards similar policy shifts with a Happiness Index survey tool that allows groups, neighborhoods and entire cities to collect valuable data on happiness.  Please take the survey as a member of the Occupy Cafe community in an exercise to help us understand this dynamic tool.  We will discuss the data during upcoming Cafe Calls, and learn about ways in which this tool is being used as a conversation starter for small groups and as part of The Compassionate Action Network's Compassionate Cities Campaign.

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This was an interesting test/survey.  It seems pretty well done to get some kind of standardized index.  I would find it most interesting to correlate reasons for unhappiness to see if I could substantiate my crackpot theory.  That is, we want 'things' that we think will make us happy (hence try to acquire them).  Anything that interferes with getting what we want is bad, and that which enables it is good.  This applies in re-naming things to positive & negative too.  And it works in reverse also... to avoid pain or discomfort.

In fact, it may all boil down to pain and pleasure... perceiving our life task is to duplicate pleasure and avoid pain (sounds pretty mechanical, no?).  Is happiness simply a sense of pleasure with the absence of pain?

By the phrasing of many questions I can infer, how at least the test creators see, people's values, money habits, employment, etc.. For example a scale implies one spends their disposable money only on either material objects or experiential activities.  That tells me they think all people do this... or else their question is flawed.

There are also judgements strewn here and there in Q/A choices, using words like "Good" and "Positive" and "Optimistic."  This implies an assumption that we (public) act, respond, and think in terms of arbitrary judgements of what is good or bad.

...this makes me happy.

I feel your unhappiness, Bradfield.  

... wish you could taste of my happiness for a day. 

Perhaps we are sharing something, after all.

Or perhaps not, Dyck.  Looks like C.A. has left the Cafe, and deleted all his posts in the process.  Wow.  He must have spent hundreds of hours on this forum.  Much as I often found his posts to be an irritant due to his frequently critical (and at times complaining) message, I feel sad that he is gone.  The loss of all his writing feels even more sad, in a way.  Like piece of the history of this place has been cut out, leaving a gaping hole.  So many exchanges that will no longer make sense.  

[As an aside, this is a reminder to check into the options we have for archiving and also to see if this automatically happens every time someone leaves or if it is an option they need to choose--I do know that once they are deleted, they can't be restored without an archive that we currently do not maintain].

Thank you for the call today! Here are the survey results for the 38 who took the survey

occupy café sample size 38 National Average Occupy Cafe Sample
Satisfaction with Life   77 73
Psychological Well-Being   76 79
Physical Health   71 66
Time Balance   60 65
Community   63 72
Social Support   76 77
Education, Arts & Culture   73 69
Neighborhood   78 71
Environment   76 76
Government   59 56
Material Well-Being   68 62
Work Experience   70 66

 A list of the domains is on this page (scroll down). Also, two suggested reads on happiness 

If you want to read a book on happiness these are the two I suggest - one on individual happiness, the other on policy: 
The How of Happiness by Sonja Lyubomirsky - to learn more about your own psychological state and its impact on your happiness 
Wellbeing for Public Policy by Ed Deiner, John Heliwell et al - to learn more about your community and its impact on your happiness and wellbeing
A TON of  resources: http://zacharydavidwalsh.com/
You can download the tool kit here  http://www.happycounts.org/toolkits/
And I am happy to issue anyone a unique code!

Thanks for the follow up resources, Laura. Looking forward to exploring what might come next on this afternoon's Connect2012 Cafe Call.

It's great to see that a number of people took the time to complete the survey (something the rest of you can still do, by the way!).  I wonder what stands out for you in the data?  I see that we're ahead of the averages in terms of community and time balance, but lag in neighborhood and physical health.  Not sure how big a margin makes something statistically significant.  Also wondering about looking at absolute levels of the data, rather than just the comparison to the national average.  

Thinking humbly about the strategy of helping the world become a place that serves everyone.

With the Connect Call yesterday it's making me think of tactics too. Perhaps this Happiness INdex appeals not only to the left brain functions of measurement and change. But, it also seems to engage the ego. This takes us in differing directions and for me makes things more confusing... not that its bad to be confused as that leads to something else with perhaps more clearness.

One scenario is that we imply acceptance of a terribly broken system (by appealing to government to use the HI (Happiness INdex) and make changes, then re-measure. Yes, this may help some people but will it also hurt the effort to radically change our society? Another artifact is it would ostensibly appeal to the masses (ego) and could foretell engagement and participation in their destiny... But, being motivated by self interest would this really serve or interfere with the high purpose of "seeing that it is all about caring about others" which will bring about 'a world that serves all.'

ps, I sent a msg to admin about this format having changed appearance & function.

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Regular Calls are no longer being held.  Below is the schedule that was maintained from the Fall of 2011 through Jan 10, 2013.

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