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Friday 20 March – The International Day Of Happiness

March 20 – The International Day Of Happiness
19 March 2020

Given the sense of panic that has engulfed the world recently, it's hard to conceive of an International Day of Happiness – but it is just around the corner on Friday 20 March 2020.

The day has been coined by the United Nations and is co-ordinated by Action for Happiness, a UK non-profit movement of 176,179 people from 180 countries, supported by a partnership of like-minded organisations.

Action for Happiness also boast of half-a-million social media followers and is backed by the Dalai Lama. Even Ban Ki-moon (Secretary-General of the United Nations from January 2007 to December 2016) endorses UN International Day of Happiness – the first of which took place in 2013.

Action for Happiness also has national chapters with associated non-profit partner organisations in Australia, Germany, Italy and Czech Republic.


Happiness – a priority


The day has grown in recognition as a profound shift in attitudes continues all over the world with people and employers recognising that progress should be about increasing human happiness and wellbeing, not just growing the economy – and that growing productivity without happiness is a retrospective notion.

All 193 United Nations member states have adopted a resolution calling for happiness to be given greater priority.

“The World Happiness Report offers the world’s governments and individuals the opportunity to rethink public policies as well as individual life choices, to raise happiness and wellbeing."

–Jeffrey Sachs

Professor & Member, Action For Happiness

World Happiness Report


The World Happiness Report ranks countries by their happiness levels. The 2019 report had a special focus on the theme of Happiness & Community.

The 2020 report will be published on 20 March 2020. To take a look - Click Here


2019 report key findings


  • Finland topped the happiness rankings again
  • Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands completed the Top 5
  • Governments should take happiness more seriously if they want to stay in power
  • Social media is making young people unhappy

"We are in an era of rising tensions and negative emotions and these findings point to underlying challenges that need to be addressed,” continued Professor Sachs.


The Action for Happiness course that can make you happier than getting married or finding a job


New research has found that taking a happiness course can raise your life satisfaction more than getting a long-term partner or finding employment.

The findings came in the same week as Blue Monday – fictitiously the most depressing day of the year.

The Exploring What Matters course developed by Action for Happiness has been evaluated by a Randomised Controlled Trial (RCT) carried out by academic experts from the Centre for Economic Performance at the London School of Economics, the Wellbeing Research Centre at Oxford University and University College London as part of the evidence programme of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing.

Nancy Hey, Director of the What Works Centre for Wellbeing, said:

"Britain faces an important challenge around mental health issues and loneliness, yet surprisingly little research has been done previously to evaluate ways to improve wellbeing for the general population, especially in local communities. The Action for Happiness course takes a unique, evidence-informed approach and the results of this research are extremely promising. Running these courses more broadly across the UK could potentially make a really big difference in improving people's lives and increasing national wellbeing".

The course is currently led by volunteers and takes place face-to-face in local communities over 8 weekly sessions. It is offered on a donation-basis – so it remains accessible to everyone – and has already ran in hundreds of locations across the UK.


Life changing


Dr Mark Williamson, Chief Executive of Action for Happiness, said: "This course brings people together face-to-face in a supportive local group to explore what really matters in life. There's no magic formula for happiness, however the course helps people feel more connected to others, discover a greater sense of purpose and identify simple actions they can take to be happier and to help others. This new research backs up what hundreds of people have already told us - taking part in these groups is life changing."


Life satisfaction


In terms of personal wellbeing, Life Satisfaction increases by around one whole point on the 0-10 scale, from an average of 6.4 out of 10 before the course to 7.4 after the course. This increase (+1.0) is greater than those from other major life events such as being partnered as opposed to single (+0.59) or being employed as opposed to unemployed (+0.7), when compared with findings from other cross-sectional studies of wellbeing in the UK.

For the full academic study - Click Here

The Action for Happiness response to COVID-19


The organisation says: 'Having researched thoroughly and had much discussion, our recommended response in brief is:

  1. Listen to the experts: Leading health authorities tell us that our actions now can reduce the burden on the healthcare systems and help save lives. We all need to respond.
  2. 2. Keep calm (but don't carry on): In light of the latest expert advice, our recommendation is to avoid non-essential face-to-face gatherings for the time being to help slow the spread of the virus.
  3. 3. Make wise & kind choices: We can all help to reduce the impact of this virus by looking after our own health, washing our hands, self-isolating if needed and being kind and considerate to others.


“This International Day of Happiness is more than just a fun celebration, it also remind us all that the world is a better place when we connect with and care about the people around us”

–Dr Mark Williamson (March 2015)

Member, Action For Happiness


Picture: March 20 is the UN International Day Of Happiness when we should all try to be kinder and happier. In January 2011, Action for Happiness partnered with BBC Breakfast to produce a Happiness Challenge Workbook (from which our image is taken).

To access a copy of the Happiness Challenge Workbook - Click Here

Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 19 March 2020


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