Adopt Happytalism

International Day of Happiness poster

A decade ago, the United Nations held its first ever conference on happiness and established an International Happiness Day to remind us that being happy is a human right and worth celebrating.

This year the significance of International Happiness Day on March 20 and the belief that happiness is a fundamental human right is playing out on the world stage as we watch millions of Ukranians refugees and citizens who have had their happiness ripped from them overnight with every Russian rocket, bomb and artillery strike.

In 2011, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution that made it a “fundamental human goal” to give happiness as much priority as economic opportunity. In 2015, the UN launched the 17 Sustainable Development Goals, which seek to end poverty, reduce inequality, and protect our planet. It also recognized the need for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples.

What’s interesting in all these resolutions is there is no mention of war or conflict and its impact on happiness; the focus is solely on economic factors.

Most likely that’s because in war, there is no happiness.

As we face this global crisis, let’s find positive ways to look after ourselves and each other and adopt Happytalism.

The UN secretariat for the International Day of Happiness is calling on all 7.8 billion people and all 206 nations and territories in our global community to take the “Ten Steps to Global Happiness” challenge and call to action. You can find all ten steps here. I’ve listed my top five, with the last one being my own:

  1. Celebrate the day. Do something special, just don’t let it pass by.
  2. Attend a world happiness event. There are live and virtual events on almost every topic imaginable, from education, health, technology, self and work. See the full list of events here. There’s a small cost to the virtual events, but in many cases, the proceeds go to helping others, like sponsoring a teacher that is helping underserved populations.
  3. Do what makes you happy. Happiness is about practicing self love, mindfulness, acting consciously, and with purpose and intention, positive energy and mindset, and celebrating the things you love that make you happy.
  4. Tell everyone. Spread the word and mission of #InternationalDayOfHappiness. Post something that makes you happy on social media, write a song or letter, make a poster.
  5. Support the people of the Ukraine. Make a donation. This CBC story lists charities you can support.

This week’s #HappyAct is to adopt and spread a more holistic, inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to the world order that promotes sustainable development, eradicates poverty and war, and focuses on the happiness and the well-being of all peoples.


Why women should rule the world

Vladimir Putin

Like all of you, I have been watching in horror and disbelief the unconscionable war in Ukraine. I have my Master’s degree in Russian history, did I ever mention that? Anyone who has studied Russian history might contend that this war was inevitable.

For centuries, Russian tsars and leaders have annexed territories, withdrawn freedoms, broadcast propaganda, and imposed their will in the name of Russian nationalism, for the greater good of “mother Russia”. When Gorbachev ushered in the era of glasnost, for many Russians, it was seen as a sign of weakness.

On Tuesday, I’ll be participating in some International Women’s Day events, and this past week, I can’t help thinking that if only we elected women rulers, we’d have a better chance at peace.

History is replete with male dictators: Attila the Hun, Genghis Khan, Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, Uganda’s Idi Amin.

And then you only have to look at the modern-day roster of dictators: Omar Al-Bashir of Sudan who has been accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity for tragedies in Darfur, Kim Jong-II of North Korea, Muammar al-Quaddafi of Libya, and Vladimir Putin.

There have been a handful of cruel women monarchs and leaders throughout history. The religious crusades against Protestants of Queen Mary of England in the 1500’s earned her the nickname Bloody Mary.  Madame Mao persecuted her enemies to further the Cultural Revolution of communist China in the early 1900s. But there are very few examples of modern female leaders who have committed atrocities, started wars or committed crimes against humanity.

In this Forbes article, If Women are Better Leaders, Then Why Are They Not in Charge?, scientific studies have consistently shown that on most of the key traits that make leaders more effective, women tend to outperform men. For example, humility, self-awareness, self-control, moral sensitivity, social skills, emotional intelligence, kindness, a prosocial and moral orientation, are all more likely to be found in women than men.

Further, “men score higher than women on dark side personality traits, such as aggression (especially unprovoked), narcissismpsychopathy, and Machiavellianism, which account for much of the toxic and destructive behaviours displayed by powerful men who derail”.

This week’s #HappyAct is to elect a woman the next time you go to the polls and pray for the people of Ukraine, and all of Europe.

Sleeping with an elephant

On Tuesday, Americans will go to the polls in what some are calling the most historic U.S. election since Abraham Lincoln was elected President in 1860.

As the tiny mouse living next to the mammoth elephant*, Canada is holding its breath to see who will be President when all the votes are counted on Tuesday night.

There is so much at stake, but I won’t waste time recounting the issues that have filled our airwaves and papers for the past six weeks.

One thing is certain, I have never been more happy to be Canadian.

Over the past decade and the past year in particular, it feels like the great divide between our two countries has deepened to a wide chasm.

We have been physically divided by a closed border due to COVID-19. Our countries have been divided on foreign policy, racial injustice and climate change. The greatest divide, I’ve come to realize, is cultural.

If America had a motto, other than America First, it would be “every man for himself”. In Canada, it would be “all for one, and one for all.”

I don’t think it would have mattered who was President during the pandemic—the country would have wound up in exactly the same place. The culture of, I’m going to do what I want, it’s my god-given right and no one can stop me, has resulted in the U.S. having the highest infection rate in the world.

So as we hold our breaths and await the results Tuesday night, let’s collectively give thanks and continue to cherish and hold dear what makes us uniquely Canadian. We the north, all for one and one for all.

*In 1969, Prime Minister Pierre Elliott Trudeau, in a speech to the Washington Press Club, described living next to the United States by saying, “Living next to you is in some ways like sleeping with an elephant. No matter how friendly and even-tempered is the beast, if I can call it that, one is affected by every twitch and grunt.”