International Day of Happiness

Posted in : Blog
Posted on : March 20, 2024

In 2013 the United Nations began celebrating the International Day of Happiness as a way of recognizing the importance of happiness and well-being in the daily lives of people around the globe1. The resolution to proclaim March 20 as the International Day of Happiness was initiated by Bhutan as a country that has focused more heavily on national happiness than national income since the early 1970s. In fact, Bhutan adopted the measure of Gross National Happiness over the measure of Gross National Product to emphasize the importance of happiness as a sign of progressive development².By recognizing and celebrating the International Day of Happiness on March 20, it can work as a timely reminder to prioritize our well-being and cultivate happiness in our daily lives and organizations 

On a very personal level in writing this blog, I took some time to consider what makes me happy, and how in times of stress I have used therapy-based approaches to cultivating a sense of happiness or well-being. Here are a few examples that hopefully can help you in your journey to cultivate more happiness in your individual life and in your communities.  

  1. Developing mindfulness: Mindfulness is about being fully present in a moment³, it can be a difficult thing to cultivate, and is one of the hardest things I have ever attempted to do. I have always wondered how someone is able to just sit quietly with no thoughts when my brain is constantly working through ideas. Worse, those ideas never seem to be in a linear train, I can jump from how to link concepts to which people I should bring together in a meeting to what I’m cooking for dinner! Over the years I have tried various different ways to be calm and present, but suggestions like doing breathing exercises for 20 minutes seems so daunting. However, to make this idea work for me, I have started by focusing on my breathing for two-minute stretches of time. Just like any habit I started small, and I make sure to do this two times a day for two minutes each time – just breathing.  
  2. Building relationships: Another way that I work to create happiness and well-being in my life is through the building of positive relationships. An important element of building relationships is fostering my own ability to communicate with diverse groups of people. In doing this, I have found ways to work through conflict with peers and colleagues, cultivate empathy by asking questions first, as well as finding safe spaces to explore and improve my communication skills. These practices have brought me immense happiness and fulfillment by starting and ending with the humans at the centre of conversation. 
  3. Self-care: A small but mighty way in which we can encourage happiness and well-being is through self-care. No matter how small! Some of the ways that I practice self-care is with delicious food, going for a walk, or not moving from my couch for an entire day. Self-care is all about listening to our bodies and what they need, so everyone will have a different way to take care of themselves, something we should listen to more often – especially since how we take care of ourselves is often reflecting in our working environments. 

One of the beautiful things about having an International Day of Happiness celebrated at the U.N. and a country which has intertwined happiness with their national goals, is that as organizations there are resources to help us consider the happiness and well-being of our employees. For example, the Bhutanese have outlined four pillars of Gross National Happiness which touch on elements such as governance and socio-economic development⁴, there are nine domains which the Bhutanese government uses to measure happiness in the country including psychological well-being and culture⁵, and the UN delivers a world report on happiness outlining the types of data that can be used to evaluate happiness and well-being on a global scale⁶. Therefore, from an organizational perspective, we can also look at a number of ways to cultivate happiness and well-being with our employees in mind. 

  1. Satisfaction guaranteed: One of the things that struck me when perusing the UN World Happiness Report from 2023 was the very simple endeavor of asking the question, “How satisfied are you with your life these days?” According to the report, asking the question about satisfaction in this way allows for people to consider their own ideas of satisfaction or happiness without needing to actually define it. So, as we look to our employee census and attempts to understand where our employees are, perhaps a question about satisfaction can help organizations in better providing resources and welcoming environments for their employees. 
  2. Work and our mental health: From an organizational perspective, there is great importance to identifying and alleviating issues around mental health for all employees. Part of this involves reducing stigma by normalizing conversations about mental health, but also understanding how and why mental health might look different for different people. The CCDI educational guide, Mental health in the workplace, includes resources that explore these topics, as well as organizational strategies for supporting employee mental health. When employees are mentally healthy, work relationships also thrive.  

This International Day of Happiness, I would like to encourage everyone to join me in a commitment to prioritizing our well-being and doing things that make us happy. Even beyond ourselves as individuals, let us each find ways to create a world where happiness thrives, where compassion knows no bounds, and where the pursuit of happiness becomes a shared endeavor both personally and organizationally. 

- CCDI Research Team  

References (click here to review the sources)

Mental Health in the Workplace:  

[1] United Nations, International Day of Happiness:

[2] History of GNH, GNH Centre Bhutan:

[3] What is mindfulness? Mindful Staff:

[4] The 4 Pillars of GNH, GNH Centre Bhutan:

[5] The 9 Domains of GNH, GNH Centre Bhutan:

[6] World Happiness Report 2023, Helliwell et al.:

Tags CDNDiversity DEI International Day of Happiness CCDI

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