Happiness Matters

Here at SCOPE, our mission is to connect and inspire citizens to create a better community. Why do we do this? One reason is, happiness matters. Happiness tells us a great deal about our community’s strengths which concurrently helps us understand weaknesses as well. It matters at an individual level and at a community level. If you looked around a happy community, what would it look like? Do you think that Sarasota County is a happy county? SCOPE_HappyLogo-Final

Now, let’s talk about how community happiness leads to individual happiness. A 20 year study in Framingham, Massachusetts surveyed over 5,000 people and the social ties. In the Framingham Heart study of social network’s effect on happiness, up to three degrees of separation (a friend, of a friend, of a friend) affected an individuals’ happiness. This was diverse among a diverse number of social ties, be it brother, friend or wife. So, when we look at our community it truly is in our best interest to see happy people all around us. What would a unanimously happy social network look like to you?

Happiness is a feeling, denoting joy, positivity and pleasantness. When we are trying to understand measured happiness for an individual, we can just have a conversation with them. In the latter half of Jonathan Harris’ TED talk, he describes the artistic method he used to interview Bhutan residents on their happiness using number of balloons to visually represent happiness. When measuring happiness at a community level, we look at indicators of well-being. In the SCOPE blog archives, Colleen talks about Seattle’s creation of a happiness report

 card. Here, she touches on the influences from Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness and their quality of life indicators in her March Data Byte .

In 1972, Bhutan’s king, Jigme Singye Wangchuck’s response to a Western view of Bhutan’s low Gross Domestic Product (GDP) was that while the GDP of his country was poor, his Gross National Happiness (GNP) was high. What makes GNH beautiful is that it considers sustainable development, cultural integrity, ecosystem conservation, and good governance. Instead of GDP’s which focuses on production which results in increased consumption and expansion.  When surveying residents, Bhutan’s indicators of well-being were based on economic, environmental, physical, mental, workplace, social, and political wellness. How would you score your own happiness based on Bhutan’s measures? Bhutan, a country nestled in the Himalayans with less than 800,000 citizens, has very different culture, demographics, and lifestyle from the United States. So what would Sarasota County’s indicators be if we were surveying for GNP?

In order to help answer the question of which indicators of well-being matter most to Sarasota County, SCOPE is launching a Happiness Matters Community Video Campaign. You are encouraged to think of a moment that you were truly happy. A story that really embodies what life forces must come together for your happiest moments in Sarasota County to flourish. So do some soul searching, search for that happiness story and share it with everyone, making them happy. After all, according to the Framingham Heart study, you’ll probably end up being happier too!