According to the United Nations and the founder of the International Day of Happiness, “happiness and well-being [are] universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world.” Key aspects to the goal of universal happiness include a thriving planet, the eradication of poverty, tolerance of others, and giving back to the communities we live in.
Each March 20th, the International Day of Happiness, the UN picks a theme for the year that embodies their “holistic approach to development.” The theme (and hashtag) for 2020 is Happiness for All Forever. If you’re wondering how you can get involved and to learn more, be sure to visit the program’s official website.
I plan to celebrate by getting inspired to do more for myself and others. As you can already guess, one of my go-to methods for discovering ideas is to listen to an audiobook. Here are some the titles I have marked for getting into the spirit of the International Day of Happiness.
Near the top of the UN’s recommendations for celebrating March 20 is to “do what makes you happy.” Some of things that make me happy are traveling, being in the outdoors, and spending time with my family. In her essay collection SURFACING, Kathleen Jamie talks about many of these same activities. I’m looking forward to listening to Jamie’s stories of archaeological digs, trips to foreign countries, family, and the beauty of the natural world and how her experiences have shown her strong and clear interconnections between all humans, around the world and through time. The essays are narrated by Cathleen McCarron, whose Scottish accent and “musical phrasing” make this an award-winning audiobook.
In 2015, the UN detailed specific developmental goals that will ultimately lead to universal well-being and happiness. Working to end poverty and create more equitable economic conditions for individuals and communities will go a long way to promoting happiness. In THIS FIGHT IS OUR FIGHT, Elizabeth Warren explains the struggles of the working poor and why the United States has such a great economic divide. The audiobook, which is read by Warren herself, is filled with personal stories to illustrate how most Americans are on the brink of a personal economic crisis. Warren, of course, has “a plan for that” and details doable, specific actions we, as citizens, can take right now to turn things around and help ourselves and others escape the pull of poverty. It’s an inspiring treatise that will encourage you to get involved.
There are few better feelings than the joy we get from bringing happiness to other people though our own actions. The next two audiobooks are all about how ordinary people can make an extraordinary difference in the world.
One of the most successful and well-known organizations for changing lives in a tangible way is Habitat for Humanity. Jonathan Reckford’s OUR BETTER ANGELS focuses on the principal qualities that have bolstered the foundation from its beginnings. Among these virtues are joy, kindness, and community, which mirror those advocated by the International Day of Happiness. Fueled by volunteers, Habitat for Humanity has a mission to build homes with and for those in need. Many people who have joined a Habitat for Humanity crew say it was one of most gratifying experiences of their lives. This inspiring audiobook, which is read by Robert Petkoff, proves that each of us can be an ambassador of happiness when we contribute our time and a little muscle power to help those in need.
WE FED AN ISLAND, by José Andrés and Richard Wolffe, is the story of how one man and many volunteers stepped up to do what’s right, despite the threats of red tape and bankruptcy. Just days after Hurricane Maria left Puerto Rico without shelter, food, and water, Chef Andrés worked tirelessly to find a way to feed thousands of citizens. With a “do it and the money will follow” attitude, he and many volunteers found a way, despite the failure of FEMA and the Red Cross, to provide hot meals and cold sandwiches to keep the islanders alive. The audiobook is read by the author, who lets his passion for humanitarian aid shine through. His story is a celebration of the UN goal of spreading happiness throughout the world.
Another key aspect of the International Day of Happiness is protecting the planet. Clean air, clean water, and reversing climate change promote happiness through better health and a brighter future. Back in the 1970s, we used to say “Think globally, act locally.” I know it’s hard to believe that our small acts could make a difference, but they can. Author/narrator Elizabeth L. Cline, in THE CONSCIOUS CLOSET, tells us about a surprising way we can cut down on pollution. It’s by being more aware of the clothes we buy. Fast fashion and the clothing industry in general are responsible for a measurable percentage of carbon emissions and have a reputation for paying poverty wages. This audiobook presents specific steps for making smart choices, including how to care for our clothes, how to buy ethically, and how to sustainably purge our closets. I plan to listen and then change my habits.
The International Day of Happiness also supports inclusiveness, tolerance, diversity, and equality. The UN encourages everyone to get involved and to use hashtag #HappinessForAllForever. On March 20, be sure to smile widely and often, and don’t forget to “Do what makes you happy.”
Photo by UN Photo/Martine Perret.