Do We Need a Special Day to Be Happy?

Do We Need a Special Day to Be Happy?

International Day of Happiness 2024 10 das of strengthening connections and sharing joy - promotional social media image to raise awareness of the 10 day challenge
© 2024 Frederika Roberts

Since 2013, 20th March has been celebrated as the International Day of Happiness with online resources and challenges encouraging us to get involved. This year, as I launched a 10-day happiness challenge to lead us into 20th March, this thought-provoking response was posted on Facebook: "Isn't it a bit sad that we need special days to spread happiness and joy? Shouldn't we do this every day anyway?"

International Day of Happiness, established by a United Nations resolution, is fast approaching again. On 11th March, I launched the #10daysHappierTogether social media challenge in line with the “Happier Together” theme chosen by Action for Happiness. The online challenge encourages participants to share daily acts that promote joy and strengthen relationships.

As someone who is known as “The Happiness Speaker” and who has spent the past decade teaching, promoting and researching wellbeing, why am I asking people to take simple steps to unite in shared moments of joy? Shouldn’t we be doing that every day?

Humans are social creatures. In his brilliant book, Social: Why Our Brains Are Wired To Connect, Matthew Lieberman explains that we crave connection “because it is linked to our most basic survival needs”. When we are born, we are completely dependent on others to keep us alive. Yet, in our fast-paced lives, it is easy to forget the importance of social connections. Just google “loneliness kills” – it makes for sobering reading!

Simple acts of connection – such as calling someone you haven’t spoken to for a while, going for a walk with a friend or family member, or chatting about your day with your partner while cooking dinner – may seem trivial, but can make a huge difference. We can know tons of people and interact with others every day, yet still be lonely.

“But we already know all this,” you might think.  And yes, many of us do, that’s true.  How many of us, though, know that regular exercise, plenty of sleep and staying well-hydrated are good for us, yet spend day after day glued to our computer screens and hunched over phones, drinking coffee and eventually dozing off in front of the telly until late into the night? Come on, let’s be honest with each other … I’m guilty of most of those, a lot of the time, and I have literally written books on wellbeing! (Ok, I will admit, I only drink one coffee a day and the rest of my drinks are cups of cammomile tea, but I forget to finish most of them and regularly end the day as parched as I started!)

© 2024 Frederika Roberts ("Guilty as Charged", with half-drunk cammomile tea cup in hand!

Simply put, we have busy lives and busy minds, so it’s easy to forget to do things that are good for us.  How often do we mean to arrange that catch-up with a friend, only for months to go by without making contact? Having a day every year that reminds us to prioritise our wellbeing and that we can’t be happy in isolation is not merely “nice” – it is essential.

According to the well-established PERMA Theory of Wellbeing, in order to flourish, we need to experience positive emotions such as joy and gratitude.  We need opportunities to engage in stimulating activities, to connect with others, to have a sense of purpose, and to strive for and celebrate achievements.

This year’s International Day of Happiness theme, “Happier Together”, is a much-needed reminder of what really matters. On my #10daysHappierTogetherwebpage, I have listed over 20 simple ideas to connect with others and share joy. Most of them take minimal time and effort, such as holding a door open for someone, smiling at every person you meet for a day, or sharing a funny meme or video on social media.

So, isn’t it a bit sad we need special days to spread happiness and joy? Maybe, or maybe it’s just human to forget despite our best intentions. Shouldn’t we do these things every day, anyway? Yes, and many of us do, without even realising it.  However, as Sonja Lyubomirsky explained in The How of Happiness, “the key to happiness lies … in our daily intentional activities“. Happiness days, events and challenges remind us to intentionally prioritise our wellbeing every day. And if we forget again, there’s always next year’s International Day of Happiness to give us a gentle nudge!

If you’d like to know more about how to intentionally put wellbeing at the heart of your organisation (school, business, charity, public sector …), get in touch for an informal chat.

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