International Day of Happiness aims to inspire 100m people

The first ever International Day of Happiness encourages people all over the globe to reflect on what really matters, and to have lots of fun doing so

Thousands of people around the world have pledged to spend next Wednesday, 20 March 2013, focusing on creating and spreading happiness.

The first ever International Day of Happiness, designated by the United Nations, will see those keen to boost positivity across the globe take part in a host of activities designed to bring happiness to others, and by extension, themselves.

Under the acronym ACT, those involved will: Affirm the happiness pledge, Cheer Happy Heroes, and Take part on the day.

The #HappyDay initiative – a campaign to promote the day – has already reached more than 500,000 people from over 130 countries. The organisers Dr Mark Williamson, director of Action for Happiness – the mass movement to promote happiness, and Farhad Mohit, founder of Cheers – a mobile app promoting happiness, are hopeful the campaign can help spread the message of happiness to 100 million people.

Thousands of people have pledged that “I will try to create more happiness in the world around me.” Many of these individuals have then gone on to sing the praises of their ‘Happy Heroes’ online, which range from loved ones and generous colleagues to kind strangers and the smiling staff that pour their morning coffee. Those involved are also being encouraged to tell the world about their Happy Heroes on the go, through a free iPhone app that will spread the cheer across social networks.

A raft of events and activities will take place on 20 March 2013 to mark the day itself. There is the Happy Lunch event in Brussels, for example, or the thought-provoking Economics of Happiness conference in Australia. Those in Washington DC can expect a flood of happiness when the free hugs flashmob takes over, and passers-by at London’s Liverpool Street train station will be inspired by groups of people holding up boards and banners with positive messages written on them.

One of the most ambitious events is the launch of Happathon, a 12-month effort to crowdsource a new definition of wellbeing and what makes people happy. The project will then create the digital tools to use this information to drive global contentment and build a new economy based on a more holistic sense of value.

“People are now recognising that ‘progress’ should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy at all costs”

Organisers of the #HappyDay initiative believe that a profound shift in attitudes is underway all over the world. “People are now recognising that ‘progress’ should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy at all costs,” they said.

The International Day of Happiness was established by the UN general assembly in June 2012, and promises not to be just another date in a growing catalogue of global awareness days.

193 UN member states historically pledged their support for the day, vowing to push forward efforts within their own countries – and with others – to promote the message of happiness which underpins solid, fair and sustainable societies across the world. It follows the adoption, in July 2011, of a UN resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority on a global scale.

During the assembly, UN secretary-general Ban Ki-moon said: “We need a new economic paradigm that recognises the parity between the three pillars of sustainable development. Social, economic, and environmental wellbeing are indivisible. Together they define gross global happiness.”

The day chosen is no coincidence; 20 March is an equinox, when day and night are of equal length, giving extra weight to the day’s message of stability and peace.

A number of organisations are partnering with Action for Happiness and Cheers to support the campaign, including Positive News, the Gross National Happiness Centre in Bhutan and the Mental Health Foundation. “We hope to reach 100 million people with this message, and respond to Ban Ki-moon’s inspiring call for gross global happiness,” said Dr Mark Williamson.

He added: “Creating a happier society requires action at all levels, from political leaders and institutions, but also from us as individual citizens too. When we do things to bring happiness to others, everyone benefits.”