This site is on hiatus and the happiness survey for Tacoma is no longer valid.

While the happiness survey for Tacoma (and links to it on this web page) are no longer operational, you have a couple of other options if you are interested in taking a similar survey to measure your happiness.  One option — Happy Counts — is managed out of Seattle and offers both the option of taking the survey and getting involved in the Happiness Movement.  Here’s a link to it:

Another alternative for you is to learn more about Gross National Happiness efforts in the USA.  If this is your interest, please visit:

Kate Stirling, one of the original co-creators of the Happiness Initiative in Tacoma, teaches a class in the Economics of Happiness at the University of Puget Sound.  If you are interested in talking to her about these issues, please email her at

Thanks for your interest!



Give Happiness~Get Happiness

Give Happiness~Get Happiness

How can we make HAPPINESS last beyond those euphoric first moments of Pleasure?

His Holiness the Dalai Lama has said again and again:

“If you want others to be happy, practice compassion. If you want to be happy, practice compassion.”

Functional MRI studies also reinforce the neuro-scientific validity of this statement: when subjects carry out acts of altruism, researchers see increased activity in some of the brain’s pleasure centers, meaning that it truly feels good to do good for others.  Click on the link below for an interesting full-perspective on the HAPPINESS research being done these days.




“Hurting others or destroying property is not the answer. No matter what the grand jury decides, I do not want my son’s death to be in vain. I want it to lead to incredible change – positive change, change that makes the St. Louis region better for everyone.”

MICHAEL BROWN SR., ahead of a grand jury decision in the case of his son Michael Jr., who was killed by a police officer in Ferguson, Mo., this summer.

What could you do that would you make you happy? Right now? Today?

Benjamin Disraeli quotes

Happiness is not a bus stop! Simply standing there won’t do us any good—we have to step out and grab it ourselves. If you purposefully take actions like practicing gratitude, identifying and striving towards your goals, or treating others with kindness, over time, you’ll be happier. And there’s thousands of scientific studies to back it up!  (Source:

Need some inspiration?  Below Jonathan Fader, Ph.D. Clinical Psychologist, offers three key ideas.

“We all want to be happier: a simple sentence, only six words long. And yet every time it crosses my mind, it’s a powerful reminder of why my job—psychologist—even exists; every patient I work with wants my help in order to enjoy their life more. These individuals come from all walks of life, and each has his or her own story, but this desire is perhaps the only thing that they have in common with each other—and, for that matter with you or me. They all want to “be happier”.

So: what’s the number one thing you can do to make that happen?

During my first meetings with them, people often suggest large, sweeping changes to their lives. I could quit my job. I could leave New York. I could get back with my ex. I could shave off my beard.

All valid ideas. But here’s my suggestion: I could try to find more enjoyment in my life as it exists right now.

It is so clear that enjoyment of life is linked to so many other positive outcomes. Some point to the possibility that enjoying exercise will lead to better performancein physical activity. But are there things that you can do practice enjoyment? What concrete behavioral changes can you make to begin your quest to enjoy your life with more vigor?

Here are three ideas for you to practice:

1. Have a daily ritual around enjoyment

Upon waking, ask yourself, “What do I look forward to most today?” At the end of your day, ask yourself, “What was the most enjoyable part of my day and why?”

You could actually take it one step further and document your enjoyment ritual. Each night, you could write down one thing you enjoyed about your day on a slip of paper, and drop it in a jar. A year from now, empty the jar and re-read the slips. I love this method because of its double-pronged benefit: not only do you get to dwell on your enjoyment every day, but you can relive it all at once, long after the fact.

2. Whenever you eat try to focus on the taste of your food for just one minute.

What does it taste like? Try to identify the different sensations. Salty? Sweet? Bitter? Sour? If you are eating with someone, comment to them about each observation.

This tip comes out of the research which suggests that eating smaller portions of food with more mindfulness can increase your actual enjoyment of what you are eating. (Of course, the trick is the smaller portions–read my post on changing a behavior for that one!)

3. Put a reminder on your phone, computer or calendar that reminds you to enjoy whatever is most important in your life.

I have a small cartoon sticker of a shining sun that my daughter gave me that’s on my phone case. In the midst of any stressful day, it reminds me to focus on what I can enjoy and divert my attention from the rest.”

Jonathan Fader, PhD is a licensed clinical psychologist. He is an assistant professor of Family Medicine at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine and teaches in the Beth Israel Residency Program in Family Medicine in New York City/Institute for Family Health (IUFH). Dr. Fader is also a team psychologist to the New York Mets baseball team, writes a blog for Psychology Today entitled The New You, and is bilingual in Spanish.





How The Happiest Country On Earth Hacks Winter!

How ‘hygge’ can help you get through winter

The vague cultural concept doesn’t translate easily into English, but it has helped Denmark become the ‘happiest country on Earth’ despite long, dark winters.
cabin on a snowy night
“Hygge” may sound alien outside Scandinavia, but its ethos of coziness and camaraderie could warm up winter anywhere. (Photo: Shutterstock)
Denmark is the happiest country on Earth, according to the United Nations, which may seem odd for a small, subarctic kingdom where the winter sun often sets before 4 p.m.
Yet Danes are almost defiantly merry. Not only did their country rank No. 1 in both the 2013 U.N. World Happiness Report (WHR) and the inaugural 2012 edition, but it has topped the European Commission’s well-being and happiness index for 40 years in a row.
So what’s behind all this boreal bliss? It’s partly a regional phenomenon, since the U.N. also lists Scandinavian neighbors Norway and Sweden among its five happiest countries, along with nearby Switzerland and the Netherlands. But Denmark stands out even in euphoric Northern Europe, suggesting the country has an emotional ace up its sleeve.
Denmark isn’t short on reasons to be happy. Its population is only about 2 percent of the United States’, but its per capita gross domestic product is four spots ahead of the U.S. at No. 6 in the world. Its citizens enjoy easy access to health care, low crime, high gender equality and relatively clean air (half of Copenhagen residents commute by bicycle). They also get at least five weeks of paid vacation per year, which probably helps morale.
But beyond all that, Denmark endures dreary winters with the help of an arcane cultural concept known as “hygge.” It’s not an easy word for outsiders to pronounce — it sounds sort of like HYU-gah — and it’s even harder to translate. Hygge apparently has no direct analogue in English, and related words like “coziness,” “togetherness” and “well-being” only cover a fraction of its nebulous definition. Still, in hopes of shedding light on Denmark’s world-class happiness, here’s a closer look at the hazy nature of hygge.
 Cold hands, warm heart
Hygge, originally a Norwegian word for “well-being,” first appeared in Danish near the end of the 18th century, according to Denmark’s tourism bureau. It has evolved into a big part of Danish life since then, absorbing connotations over time like a semantic snowball. The dark winters of Denmark helped turn hygge from a mere word into a kind of cultural panacea, manifested in various ways to buffer Danes against cold, solitude and stress.
“In other languages the word for hygge or coziness is more a physical thing, and hygge is more a mental thing,” explains Lotte Hansen, a library science student from Aalborg, Denmark, who’s interning at the Museum of Danish America in Elk Horn, Iowa. “It’s like a feeling, and it’s big at Christmastime. The candles, the food, being with your family.”
“It’s not only Christmas, though,” she adds, noting hygge is a pervasive, year-round spirit. “It’s like a mood you have. We can see hygge in many things, in many situations.”
This flexibility of hygge is a major reason why English words like “cozy” don’t do it justice. “Coziness relates to physical surroundings — a jersey can be cozy, or a warm bed — whereas hygge has more to do with people’s behavior toward each other,” writes author Helen Dyrbye in “Xenophobe’s Guide to the Danes.” “It is the art of creating intimacy: a sense of comradeship, conviviality and contentment rolled into one.”
Danes don’t have a monopoly on these concepts, but they do take pride in their holistic way of looking at them. It’s not unlike the American idea of thankfulness around Thanksgiving and Christmas, which refers to a general sense of gratitude as well as the implied presence of family, festivity and homemade food. Yet while holiday cheer doesn’t last all year for many Americans — despite its potential health benefits — hygge has become embedded in the Danish consciousness.
“My feeling is that American life is so rushed that we often forget about doing things and creating these events of hygge,” says Michele McNabb, librarian for the Museum of Danish America. “Americans vary so much in their family connections and friend networks, but you have to slow down for it. Hygge is not something you can do in a rush.”
How to hygge
The word is useful as a noun or a verb, McNabb adds — “you can hygge by curling up on the sofa with a good book” — and as an adjective by converting it to “hyggeligt” (HYU-gah-lee). It generally has a social component, but there are wide-ranging interpretations across Denmark, allowing it to describe anything from a person or a building to an abstract ambience or sentiment. And for Danes who travel or move to America, the lack of a clear English translation can feel linguistically limiting.
“It’s often connected to some social thing, but also a house can be hyggeligt, or different places can be hyggeligt,” says Hansen, who came to the U.S. from Denmark just a few months ago. “We use it really often. When I came over here, I had to take a moment to think, ‘What word can I use to describe this when I can’t use hygge?'”
Of course, it’s hard to pinpoint how much hygge fuels Danish happiness, but as the U.N.’s WHR points out, mental health and social support are known to affect national well-being. “Mental health is the biggest single factor affecting happiness in any country,” Columbia University’s Earth Institute reported after the first WHR release in 2012, adding that “stable family life and enduring marriages are important for the happiness of parents and children.” And while happier countries tend to be rich, it noted, “more important for happiness than income are social factors like the strength of social support.”
If Denmark’s happiness really is a product of hygge, as the country’s tourism website suggests, maybe it could be exported to less jubilant nations? The U.S. ranks No. 17 globally in the 2013 WHR — behind both Canada and Mexico, as well as Panama — but perhaps an extra dose of hygge could lift American spirits a bit?
“I think it should be universally adapted,” McNabb says. “I’m sure in other cultures there are some things that are similar. I just think the busier our lives get and the more on-call we are 24/7, there’s a tendency to overdo things and be overstressed. The concept of carving time out for simple things is very important.”
Russell McLendon is science editor at Mother Nature Network. Follow him on Twitter and Google+.


YES! More on Sustainable Happiness


YES! Magazine. Powerful Ideas, Practical Actions

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Sustainable Happiness: Live Simply, Live Well, Make a Difference
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At YES! Magazine, we’ve been exploring the meaning of real happiness since our founding in 1996. This thoughtful and uplifting new collection brings together scientific research, in-depth essays, and compelling personal stories on the nature of happiness.

Some of our favorite YES! contributors, including Annie Leonard, Matthieu Ricard, and Vandana Shiva, weigh in on how to cultivate a happiness that is sustainable in every sense: not only nurturing and enduring for ourselves, but also just and life-affirming for the world at large. For what is true happiness if it doesn’t include the happiness of others and the health of a living planet?

Enjoy the eloquent writing of some of the world’s most insightful thinkers on the meaning and pursuit of happiness.

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This book makes a wonderful gift. You can also take advantage of our Book Club Special and order 5 copies for just $49.95 (you save 41% off the list price).

“Somehow a working planet, a thriving society, and a satisfying personal life are hitched together—and this fine volume offers powerful clues on the search for those connections!”Bill McKibben, author and environmental leader

“I love this beautiful compilation of voices reminding us that happiness isn’t something we ‘find.’ It’s what we become as we align our lives with thriving community and life-giving Earth.”Frances Moore Lappé, best-selling author


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Ditch The GDP Or Include The GPI?

 The Gross Domestic Product (GDP) Measures The Profit of Doing Business, The Genuine Progress Indicator (GPI) Also Measures The Costs Involved In Doing Business.

The Guardian journalism smiley face

Bhutan’s gross national happiness and Vermont’s genuine progress indicator are both metrics which measure a nation’s success on metrics that go beyond purely financial. Photograph: Alamy

Double-entry bookkeeping is a bitch. I remember the first time I envisioned starting a retail business, picturing all the money I’d make before a mentor taught me the basic costs of doing business. After calculating expenditures for rent, paying staff, and overhead, I learned why it’s so critical to understand the difference between net and gross profits.

This fundamental tenet of business hasn’t been incorporated into the basic measure of value the world has used for almost eight decades. By definition, the gross domestic product evaluates gross measures to determine the supposed success and happiness for a country and its citizens. Never mind the ethical issues, as recently reported, that countries such as the US and the Netherlands are factoring in revenue from prostitution and drugs into their GDP estimates.


On a basic accounting level, GDP measures haven’t historically reported the costs of doing business in areas like the environment or employee wellbeing. And in a world of finite resources, where potable water or the amount of stress a worker can handle have limits, businesses and lawmakers alike are beginning to recognize the urgent need to move beyond GDP metrics to better measure what matters in our world and lives.


These new metrics and a focus on pragmatic change were the primary themes of the recent Happiness and Wellbeing Conference held in Burlington, Vermont last week. Subtitled “building a national movement”, the event featured dozens of scientists, lawmakers, psychologists, economists and statisticians all focused on how to foster metrics that better measure the full breadth of citizen wellbeing beyond a primary focus on wealth.


A specific measure discussed at the conference immediately relevant to the business world is the genuine progress indicator (GPI). While a great deal of attention has been paid to gross national happiness (GNH) created by Bhutan, the GPI features a similar focus on measuring multiple areas of wellbeing beyond financial metrics. As John de Graaf, a speaker at the conference, noted in a recent article for Truthout, Building A Movement for Happiness, the GPI has now been adopted by the state of Vermont: “Its legislature, with support from Democrats, Republicans and Progressive Party members, has established a state GPI, that uses some two dozen measures of health, wealth, education, leisure and sustainability to measure progress.” Maryland has also incorporated GPI into state measurements of wellbeing, and features an excellent videoexplaining how it works.


“GPI is basic double-entry bookkeeping.” Eric Zencey is a fellow of the Gund Institute for Ecological Economics and coordinator of the Vermont GPI Project. As he noted: “Any business person knows you have to deduct costs of producing benefits from the value of the benefits you produce—you have to look at net, not gross. Under GPI, policy makers will have to establish regulatory, licensing and taxation regimes that require companies to cover these costs instead of continuing to let companies impose them as an unlegislated tax on the populace as a whole.”

The good news for businesses is that double-entry bookkeeping offers new opportunities for revenue. By taking a wider measure of wellbeing, companies are improving profits in areas such as increasing employee wellbeing at work as noted in the second annual World Happiness Report: “Harter et al. (2010) found in a longitudinal study of ten large organizations that worker engagement makes a difference to productivity. Work units in which employees were satisfied and otherwise felt highly engaged with their work led to improvements in the bottom line, measured in terms of revenue, sales, and profit.”

Other speakers at the Conference such as Laura Musikanski, co-organizer for the event and executive director for The Happiness Alliance emphasized the benefits from gross national happiness and other measures, as it’s being adopted in the US. A former executive director for Sustainable Seattle, Musikanski has created a GNH Surveythat more than 30,000 people have taken in under two years. It features hard data about multiple domains of wellbeing in an interactive page on her site. The survey is being used by dozens of cities and organizations around the US, including businesses such as Place of the Future, where founder Mika Kim incorporates the GNH Survey as part of her work. “With the research conducted to date with the GNH Index Surveys in workplaces, we were able to make a determination of the direct correlation between productivity and worker happiness with a finding that the number one issue is time balance.”

It’s time to move from gross to good. While adopting GPI or GNH metrics will take some adjustment, growing evidence highlighted at the conference is proving the net gain of measuring wellbeing beyond wealth, and the happiness that results.

John C. Havens is the founder of The H(app)athon Project and author of the book, Hacking Happiness – Why Your Personal Data Counts and How Tracking it Can Change the World


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