Happiness got a special celebration day – created by the United Nations

„Happiness For All, For Ever“,is the motto of this year’s International Day of Happiness. In times of Covid-19 this rather sounds like wishful thinking of times long ago. Walking through the supermarket, the empty noodle shelves rather point to the end of the world than to a world of happiness or even bliss. Maybe in times of crisis we need a Day of Happiness more than ever. World Happiness Day was proclaimed by the United Nations for the first time in 2013 and has since been celebrated every year on 20 March. Based on an initiative of the state of Bhutan, which discovered at a very early stage that a happy and contented life of its inhabitants depends less on material wealth but rather on an equal alliance of social conditions, environment and culture, and appears to be absolutely right with this approach. The citizens of Bhutan, one of the poorest countries, are considered to be among the happiest in the world – and, excitingly enough, even measure the country’s development in a “gross national happiness” metric (instead of gross domestic product).

Photo by Caique Silva on Unsplash
„Happiness For All, For Ever“ and Covid-19 – how does this fit?

The motto of this year’s Day of Happiness calls for looking rather at what unites than what divides human beings. And thus hits the nail on the head with this crisis. 
From all sides we are told to keep distance , to respect distance, to minimize the risk of infection. Spatial separation seems to be the wonder weapon to fight the big pandemic in some way.. To avoid social contacts is the order of the day. 
At the same time a new sort of social solidarity is developing Whole Italian cities arrange to sing songs together, everyone on his own balcony but still connected by the music, minutes of thunderous applause resound through entire Madrid, with which the inhabitants express their appreciation and gratitude to the many people in the medical service, suddenly there are notices in the hallway of condominiums and people who have lived anonymously side by side for years offer help and support. 
Maybe it is partly in the nature of man to reflect in crisis what really is important in life, what really is necessary for the little and the big happiness. From a scientific point of view, commitment and appreciation are also two essential pillars for a fulfilled life.

The refreshing opposite side of stagnation or how a new kind of joie de vivre is created

Due to the corona crisis we are in a situation in which something has happened that interrupts almost all routines and normal operations, and here lies a great opportunity. The standstill that is just emerging has a refreshing opposite side. We experience decelerations, learn that not everything collapses immediately if major events fail to take place or the eternal flood of goods stops. If not everybody is always running and rushing around, new forms of communication are made possible and we develop new coping strategies to deal with this situation. Copingmeans: to cope. Neurobiologically, the adrenalin of fear is in this case replaced by dopamine, a kind of endogenous future drug. While adrenaline leads us to flee or fight (which is not very effective in the fight against corona), dopamine opens our brain synapses: We wonder what will come next, are curious, looking forward. When we have a healthy dopamine level, we make plans, we have visions that bring us into forward-looking action. Surprisingly, this is exactly what many are experiencing in the Corona crisis. A massive loss of control suddenly turns into a veritable euphoria for the positive. The Italian sociologist Franco Ferrarotti, for example, predicts an “explosion of joie de vivre” for his country, as the Tagesschau put it in its current issue (https://www.tagesschau.de/ausland/italien-coronavirus-101.html; as of 19.3.2020).– After a period of bewilderment and fear, an inner strength arises. The world “ends”, but through the experience that we are still here, a kind of newness arises within us.

We suspect that everything could be quite different – even for the better

Change starts as a transformed pattern of expectations, of perceptions and world connections. But sometimes it is precisely the break with routine, with what we are used to, that releases our sense of the future. The idea and certainty that everything could be totally different – even for the better. German trend researcher Matthias Horx, founder of the ‘Zukunftsinstitut’, assumes “that in the new world, wealth suddenly no longer plays the decisive role. Good neighbors and a thriving vegetable garden are more important. As a result of the crisis, we will once again focus our attention more on humane issues: What is a human being? What are we for each other?”. And this brings us right back to the motto of this year’s International Day of Happiness (which, by the way, was established long before the Corona crisis): “Happiness for all, for ever”. I believe that we have significant evidence that we can achieve just that. For me personally, by the way, March 20 was already a happy day before the United Nations introduced it. It is the birthday of my daughter ! #happybirthdayella

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