Feature

The happiness fix

How to chase your happiness

Credit: iStockphoto

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Globalisation vs localisation

Some say the anti-globalisation argument is outdated, but Norberg-Hodge argues that globalisation and its flow-on effects are very relevant to addressing many of today’s environmental, economic, psychological and personal crises. She is working with the International Society for Ecology and Culture in the UK to encourage localisation through decentralised economic structures that encourage bottom-to-top planning for a healthier environment and a healthier society.

“We’ve got to begin localising our politics, localising our economies, localising our spirits!” Mohau Pheko, coordinator of the African Gender and Trade Network, says in The Economics of Happiness.

Localising begins also with the simplest of things, such as our everyday food sources. “Moving away from natural-based food and getting imported food not only destroys the health of the environment, but it’s also destroying the health of individuals,” says Ian Cohen, Greens member for NSW, who shops at his local farmers’ market. “I think that whole movement back towards community-based values is important for the planet in terms of lowering the food miles, cutting out dependence on multi-national chains and big businesses, and in many cases getting food with less chemical input. This is all part of a healthy lifestyle.”

Cohen also believes that, in order to prevent unhappiness, “the connection of people of like minds is extremely important. The feeling that one has some use.”

“Working for people and working for the environment I think is a step in the direction of giving people satisfaction and also working towards getting back to community, whether it is spending time in an aged care facility where people are really longing for some companionship, or working in a community garden, or working out on a project that is going to make a change, working politically toward green goals in their many forms – these are all part of what can make people happy.”

“We need to go back to some older values,” says Mardie Townsend, associate professor of health, medicine, nursing and behavioural sciences at Deakin University in Melbourne, who has researched the importance of green spaces to our mental wellbeing. “To say, do I have enough to eat, do I have enough to drink, do I have love and affection and companionship, and do I have pleasant surrounds, and if I do then I’m fine!”

Gross National Happiness:

In 1972, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, King of the Republic of Bhutan at the time, coined the term ‘gross national happiness’ as a more holistic way of assessing a nation’s wellbeing than ‘gross domestic product’ (GDP). These days more countries are embracing the importance of such measures. Britain’s Office of National Statistics recently announced they would be collecting information about psychological and environmental wellbeing as part of the existing annual General Household Survey.

14 ways to chase your happiness

It takes only the simplest of ideas and actions to start fostering a sense of contentedness in your life.

1 Buy your food locally. More conversations happen at farmers’ markets and the local bakery than big supermarkets, so make grocery shopping a social outing rather than
a chore.

2 Join a community garden. Grow your own vegies, green your neighbourhood and learn from the other green thumbs in your area.

3 Build meaningful relationships. Make time for family and friends and inspire them by helping to brainstorm ideas, solve a problem, or make a connection with another friend of yours.

4 Be near nature. Just getting out into the park will dramatically lift your mood, so make a regular habit of a walk in the outdoors.

5 Declutter. The more we have, the less we seem to savour, so remember that less is actually more and donate your excess goods to someone who will use them.

6 Sleep. Get into a regular sleeping pattern and don’t burn the midnight oil too often – that way you’re getting enough rest and vitamin D.

7 Cook for friends. Share good food and good conversation with appreciative people who make you laugh.

8 Get some chickens. Being around and caring for pets helps to keep their owners happy and healthy; and chickens are a very eco-friendly addition to any household.

9 Donate your time where it’s needed. You could visit the elderly, remove weeds from bushland or clean up the local river.

10 Join or start a local group. It could be anything from a community choir to a book club. But allow for flexibility and don’t overload your schedule.

11 Help organise a local fête. Recreate vibrancy in your local community and celebrate what’s special about your area.

12 Ride your bike. Exercise is a great mood-booster, plus it’s an emissions-free transport option.

13 Write to your local MP. Share your ideas about what you’d like to see happen to make
your local area even better.

14 Attend a political rally challenging consumer culture. Or get involved with groups such as Global Trade Watch, The Australia Institute, Cultivating Community, or Pigs Will Fly.

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The film The Economics of Happiness is screening in various locations across Australia in the coming months. Click here to see screening dates, times and venues.

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