Monday, January 31, 2011

Puppet Show Teaches Pakistani Children about Peace and Happiness

From TheSpec.
Today TheSpec reports on a new puppet/storytelling/art show that aims to teach the children of Pakistan about peace and happiness, states of mind that children in especially war-torn regions may have never experienced.

As Jahan Zeb, the project leader, says, "When we were growing up, there was peace. There was happiness in those villages … towns and cities. Now our children, our (second and third) generations, they don’t know. Was there happiness? Was there some hope? They don’t believe. They don’t know what is hope."

Zeb became motivated to start a peace project when the Taliban took over the Swat region of Pakistan, where his wife's family lived. He created the Art and Peace Education Exchange (or APEX) with Journey of Peace.

The project itself is a 16-part series of stories told through puppets. The stories deal with a displaced Afghan family and have been included in the school curricula of Afghanistan provinces Kandahar, Kabul, and Samangan since 2007. In Pakistan, the stories will be translated and adapted from dealing with landmines, which are prevalent in Afghanistan, to dealing with terrorism and suicide bombing.

The project just had their first show in Canada at The Pearl Company.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Casual Friday: "Happiness Tips for the Unemployed"

Thankfully the streets don't look like this
just yet. From The Omaha Project.
It's been awhile since I've read any new books relating to happiness, so again I turn to the Internet for guidance. Today I found this interesting article by Aaron Jacobsen and Michelle Santos of Tiny Buddha. It's a list of five tips to help you avoid despair if you are unemployed (which you very well might be, according to the latest figures).

Some of these tips may be common sense, but even if they are, hearing/reading them from an outside source can help. Again, you should read the actual article for explanations, but here is a summary of the list:

  1. Identify your emotions. When you think about what you're feeling and give it a label you can act accordingly instead of reacting impulsively.
  2. Keep going to social activities. Negative emotions tend to amplify in isolation.
  3. Try to think positively. This may be hard to believe, but studies show that positive thinkers actually have a more accurate view of the obstacles in their life, while too many negative thoughts can give you tunnel vision.
  4. Stay open to different career paths. You'll find more opportunities if you're willing to change from a banker to a nurse (for example) than if you always try to stick to one career.
  5. Take advantage of your free time. This may sound a bit callous, but losing your job DOES give you more free time. Since you're not on the job from 9 to 5 anymore, you might as well take advantage of your free time by doing any hobbies that make you happy or by developing any of your lesser-used skills.
Anyway, these are just some tips to keep in mind. Just remember that getting back on your feet may be difficult, but it doesn't have to be impossible!

Thursday, January 27, 2011

Sleep Important for Happiness

By Mui-Joo Wee. From Fine Art America.
Here's a story that might be obvious, but it's good to know anyway:  according to this news item from WebMD, people with sleep deficiencies are as much as three times more likely to experience poor mood during the day. This comes from a new Mental Health Foundation report entitled "Sleep Matters". The foundation sees poor sleep as a public health concern and is using the new report as a starting point to raise awareness of the importance of sleep.

As Dr. Andrew McCulloch, Chief Executive of the foundation, says, “Whilst great emphasis is rightly placed on the importance of diet and exercise, sleep has for too long been neglected as a major influence on the physical and mental health of the nation. Up to a third of the population currently suffers from insomnia, and with stress and longer working hours on the rise in the current economic climate, it is crucial that we now treat the issue of sleep problems as the major public health concern it is.”

The study is based on data from the "Great British Sleep Survey," which gathered responses from 5,328 people (1,376 men and 3,952 women). Compared to those with normal sleep patterns, respondents with insomnia were four times as likely to experience relationship problems and three times more likely to have trouble getting work done. Since insomnia is often caused by stress in the first place, having these symptoms can create a downward spiral where stress leads to insomnia, which leads to more stress, which leads to more insomnia, etc. etc.

If YOU have trouble sleeping, head over to The Mental Health Foundation's "How Did You Sleep?" website, where you can take their one question survey and read free sleep tips. You'll be happy you did!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Google Hosts Art Competition for Students to Draw Happiness

From the Doodle 4 Google website.
Today in Irish news:  according to this story from The Anglo-Celt, Google is running its third annual Doodle 4 Google competition, in which K-12 students submit artwork relating to a theme. This year's theme is "To me, happiness is..."

As an example of the process, the Loreto College in Ireland received 80 submissions. The student council then picked six entries to go on to the regional competition, during which four made it to the national competition. Now a round of online voting will decide the next finalists. You should vote on your favorite doodle on the website by January 31. The winner gets their art on the main Google page for 24 hours, a laptop, and a €10,000 technology grant for their school.

Google is also doing this competition in other countries, but each one has a different theme and deadline. This seems like a pretty great contest, so remember to vote!

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

New British Charity Aims to Spread Happiness

Mark Williamson, director of the
charity. From The Young Foundation.
Hot on the heels of yesterday's story comes this one from the BBC. A charity called Action for Happiness will be spreading happiness tips to anyone within ear- or Internet-shot. They have a PDF workbook called the Happiness Challenge that you can download here. You can also watch the former Buddhist monk Andy Puddicombe give an introductory mindfulness lesson in the news story itself.

From their website, Action for Happiness already looks quite well-connected through Facebook and Twitter. We'll keep an eye on them to see what effect they have, but for now there's not much more to report. Britain and a lot of other countries could certainly use the help, though!

Monday, January 24, 2011

One in Four British Workers Unhappy with Their Job

From Marc's Leadership Lessons.
Today the Press Association reports on a new survey that shows around 25% of British employees are unhappy with their job, while around 30.5% are merely "ambivalent," with employees in finance and law being the unhappiest. These results come from the recruitment firm Badenoch & Clark, who surveyed around 1,000 office workers.

Heidi Waddington, associate director of Badenoch & Clark, says, "Economic uncertainty over the past year has put tremendous pressure on employees. This trend is particularly evident in professional services, which has resulted in heightened intensity in the workplace and increasingly poor morale."

I would be interested in seeing figures like this for lower class workers (not in an office), but we may have to wait until Britain completes its happiness study. I'd also be interested in results for America and other countries. You can read more stories about employee happiness by clicking here. Corporations may especially want to pay attention to this one, which shows a correlation between higher employee happiness and higher stock value.

Friday, January 21, 2011

Casual Friday: "9 Easy Ways to Be Happier"

From Real Simple.
In my quest to do as little work as possible, sometimes it's nice to have a helping hand. Today I can get away with even less work than usual because Julia at The Thank You Project tipped me off to this article by Marcia Menter from Real Simple. It's a look at nine easy ways to be happier.

You should go to the actual article to look at the pretty pictures and read the explanations, but here's a summary of the list:

  1. Cool yourself off. Cool temperatures apparently produce better moods than hotter temperatures (could have fooled me).
  2. Remember happy times in your past. Nostalgia can be a great mood booster.
  3. Don't obsess over past failures. This goes hand-in-hand with the previous tip.
  4. Give away money. As I've said before, generosity toward others makes YOU feel happier.
  5. Eat a snack around 2 p.m. This is the time of day when serotonin levels dip, and a snack can help.
  6. Exercise. It boosts mood and helps your brain.
  7. Limit your choices. This may be counterintuitive, but too many options at once can produce unnecessary stress.
  8. Learn a new skill. This gives you variety and sense of accomplishment.
  9. Make your bed. Eh? Well apparently doing little tasks like this can make you more satisfied throughout your day.
Anyway, it's a good, easy list with some stuff I've never read before. Also, I love getting tipped off because it means I don't have to scrounge around for something to post! If you'd like to make my job easier, go ahead and tip me off to interesting articles, books, or videos in the comments section or through email. See ya!

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Reaching Age 50 May Make You Happier Than Ever Before

From She Knows.
Are you over the age of 50, yet feel happier than at any other period of your life? According to this story from The Times of India, you're not alone. These results come from an Engage Mutual survey of 1,500 people aged 50 or older. Forty percent of the respondents said they are happier than ever before, and 66% said they are more confident.

So why might middle-aged and older people be happier? Respondents theorized that it may be because they have paid off their mortgages, achieved some success in their careers, and felt the satisfaction of watching their children grow up and settle into adult life.

"It is heartening that so many are finding that being in your fifties can be the most rewarding time of your life," a spokesman for Engage Mutual says. "With increased life expectancy, being 50 is considered to be relatively young these days."

So what do YOU think about all of this? I find the results encouraging because they give me something to look forward to. However, according to some researchers (most notably Daniel Gilbert), people are utterly terrible at remembering past emotional states, which means these survey results may be invalid. A more accurate method that doesn't rely on memory would be to do a multi-decade study, surveying people's present emotional state over the course of many years.

This study from October, which basically came to the same conclusions with better methods, is more what I'm talking about. But the more approaches the better, I guess!

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Seattle's Happiness About to Be Measured, Too

From Queen Ann View.
Okay, this is getting repetitive. Now Seattle is getting in on the happiness measures, according to this story from Queen Ann View. The effort comes from a group called Sustainable Seattle in what they are calling the Seattle Area Happiness Initiative.

In an approach inspired by (what else?) the Gross National Happiness indicator of Bhutan, Sustainable Seattle is asking the community to take their online survey, which measures happiness based on the "nine domains of happiness". I haven't tried the survey yet, but if you do, be advised that it takes 20 to 30 minutes to complete, and can't be saved for later once you start. You're in it for the long haul with this survey, but at the end you'll be rewarded with a readout of your scores in each category, so you'll easily see how you might improve your life.

Members of Seattle's government apparently support the effort. Seattle Councilman Mike O'Brien says, "You get what you measure. For too long we’ve measured the wrong things—Gross Domestic Product doesn’t tell us whether we have a good quality of life or a sustainable society. This survey, which includes nine domains of well-being, not just income, is a good way to start measuring the important things we care about, so we can actually achieve them."

Again, click on my Gross National Happiness tag to read other news stories about groups/countries measuring happiness. Expect to see a lot of repetition. At this point it might make more sense to list countries NOT measuring happiness because it's getting hard to keep up!

Monday, January 17, 2011

Germany Apparently Wants to Copy Rest of World, Measure Happiness

A view from Munich. From Geographic Guide.
According to this story from The Swedish Wire, Germany may join fellow bandwagon members Britain, France, and Canada in measuring Gross National Happiness. Speaker of parliament Norbert Lammert led the happiness committee, which will give its recommendations two-and-a-half years from now. They are considering a method that would survey quality of life along with GDP.

As many of you probably know by now, Bhutan has been the trend setter when it comes to happiness measures. They've measured Gross National Happiness since 1972, an unorthodox choice for a developing country. In the past few months, we've seen a flurry of countries start to think about national happiness measures for some reason. Why are they starting now? I have no idea, but maybe the economic depression has something to do with it.

Take a look at my Gross National Happiness tag for the most recent happenings on this topic.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Casual Friday: Eiji on CNN Asia

From CNNGo.
Today we have a very interesting story that many of you already know, but it's cool to see in the media anyway. Our friend and producer Eiji Han Shimizu was featured on CNNGo, CNN's Asian division. Eiji is known for creating BioGraphic Novels, his line of graphic novels about real life heros like Gandhi and Mother Teresa. Also featured is Tom Shadyac, one of the most successful comedy directors ever and our executive producer.

Anyway, the story is pretty good, and features pictures that even I haven't seen, so give it a read!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Experts Figure Out that Cats and Dogs Make People Happy

Is it possible to feel sad after looking
at this picture? From DesktopNexus.
Who could have seen this coming? Tarumanagara University in Jakarta, that's who. According to an AsiaOneNews report, researchers are finding more and more links between pet ownership and happiness. Monty P. Satiadarma, a psychologist at the Indonesian University, says, "Having a pet allows a person to learn to take care of something and elevates the sense of caring, which positively supports the development of well-being." Satiadarma recently oversaw research on the benefits of pet companionship to the elderly.

In some cases, pets can be even better sympathizers than humans. For instance, a dog's powerful sense of smell can pick up on pheromones secreted by humans in times of emotional distress--signals that other people may not notice.

The benefits are not only emotional, but physical. According to an Australian study, pet owners have lower blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and lower triglyceride levels. They also have a reduced likelihood of heart disease than those without pets. These results apply even though pet owners consume above-average amounts of meat and fast food for some reason.

So what's the deal with pets? Do you like them or not? Unfortunately, the article doesn't settle the question of which animal is superior--dogs or cats--but feel free to post your opinions on the matter in the comments.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Return of the HAPPY Blog

From The Evanstonian
Yes, apparently it's time to come back. I had a wonderful vacation that consisted of me packing hundreds of DVDs into individual envelopes and then driving to the post office almost every day. Needless to say, The HAPPY Movie has sold extremely well. The money we made will be put toward getting the film a proper theatrical and DVD release (since this is a truly non-profit independent film, we don't have a studio to shoulder those costs, which are greater than you might realize).

If any of you have had problems receiving your order, either post a comment here or email and we'll take care of it. We have tracking numbers for almost all domestic orders, so we should be able to figure out what happened to any lost packages. International orders have been trickier, as we don't have tracking numbers for them and we can't prevent customs from holding them up.

Anyway, happiness news is still a bit slow this early in the year (as I said before my disappearance), but I should be able to start doing my regular updates again. See ya around!