Wondering why there are so many videos of people singing Pharrell Williams’ “Happy” going viral this week? Here’s the answer:
March 20 is the second annual International Day of Happiness!
The United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution in 2012 recognizing March 20 as a day to acknowledge that “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal” and recognize “the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples”. This year, the United Nations Foundation and Pharrell Williams are teaming up to encourage people to support the United Nations’ efforts to create a happier world for people everywhere.
Some people are already asking why in the world we need a day to celebrate happiness. What could an international day and a celebrity singing an upbeat song possibly do to make an impact on serious global problems?
Personally, however, I am looking forward to International Happiness Day. The way I see it, we already have more than enough aspects of our human nature to divide us. When people focus on what makes us different – our religion, our ethnicity, our skin color – it often leads to violence and conflict. Lives are shattered in big ways and small. But every human has a very basic need, not to mention a strong desire, for something very simple. We all want to be happy. We all want to see that our children and the others who who we care about have the opportunity that they deserve to be happy.
Our human capacity to feel happiness is a basic characteristic that we all share, regardless of our differences.
In my line of work, I deal with a lot of human unhappiness. So I think about these things all the time. You would expect that it would make me cynical about people in general – and particularly about something like an international day of happiness, complete with a celebrity and an upbeat hit song.
But I strongly believe that our human capacity for happiness is a strength, and one that should be nurtured and celebrated in the midst of all that is dark and dangerous and painful in our world.
I took the photo above the last time I was in Nepal. I keep it as my screensaver to remind me every day of the simple fact that we humans all have the potential to experience intense joy. It makes me believe that our human capacity for happiness must one day trump our human proclivity to hurt each one another. And this photo reminds me every day that everyone – every single person, regardless of who they are or where they live in world – should have the opportunity to feel happiness in the way that these kids in Nepal were so clearly feeling it.
International Happy Day is also a call to action. It is a reminder that there is more that each of us can do to ensure that everyone is able to live their lives to their fullest human potential in safety, dignity, freedom, and equality. For all of us, these are the basic human prerequisites to happiness. We need to keep moving towards the concept that none of us can be truly happy, until all of us have an equally fair shot at being happy.