WashU Expert: UN ‘Happiness Day’ has serious side

International Day of Happiness

While cynics may scoff at the United Nations’ March 20 observance of International Happiness Day, a positive psychology researcher at Washington University in St. Louis says it’s high time for happiness to be taken seriously.


“Happier people live longer, get sick less often, are more productive at work, more engaged in their communities, more likely to help those in need, and enjoy higher-quality relationships,” said Tim Bono, who teaches courses on the psychology of happiness in Arts & Sciences at Washington University.

Bono, whose research focuses on science-based techniques that people can use to become happier in their day-to-day lives, said decades of behavioral research supports the growing consensus among world leaders that improving human happiness and well-being are just as important as growing a nation’s economy.

“All around the world, people value happiness,” Bono said. “When researchers travel the globe to study the diversity of behaviors, attitudes and beliefs among various cultures, one of the commonalities they find is that people everywhere rate happiness as important. Even in cultures that are illiterate or that do not have language to describe happiness, they nonetheless have the capacity to experience it and benefit from it.”

Established by a resolution of the U.N. General Assembly in 2011, the International Day of Happiness recognizes happiness as a “fundamental human goal.” Now observed on March 20 by 160 countries worldwide, the celebration calls for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples.”

“An international day of happiness provides an opportunity — in a world otherwise divided on many fronts — to unite around a common ideal and encourage practices that can increase our own personal well-being and that of the world at large,” Bono said.

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