city to implement a measurement of life satisfaction, is parlaying Bhutan’s indicators—psychological well-being, physical health, work/time balance, education and capacity building, cultural vitality and access to arts and culture, environmental quality and access to nature, apt governance and material well-being—as part of its own Sustainable Seattle Happiness Initiative. Spearheaded by Sustainable Seattle Ex- ecutive Director Laura Musikanski and her team with encouragement by City Council President Richard Conlin, it may become America’s first GNH city. Initial survey results, intended to
spark conversations that matter, will be discussed at future town meetings in Seattle neighborhoods and used to recommend policies for consideration by the city council. Repeating the survey every couple of years will reveal progress.
Interest in a similar Happiness
Initiative is growing in cities and towns from coast to coast, such as Napa, California; Bowling Green, Kentucky;
Duluth, Minnesota; Santa Fe and Roswell, New Mexico; Bellevue, Nebraska; Portland, Oregon; and Eau Claire, Wisconsin. Some 100 colleges and universities also are beginning to apply the Happiness Initiative survey.
How to Become Happier To improve our own well-being within any economy, we need to attend to our security, social connections and the way we balance our time. Choosing to live with less stuff and lighter debt supports a better life with less income but more time, lower stress and better health. As individuals, we can:
n Focus more on matters of family and community and on building trust.
n Devote less attention to maximizing incomes and more attention to acts of generosity.
n Ask our employers for more time off instead of higher pay.
In our local communities, we can find ways to design more relationship-
friendly places such as farmers’ markets, where shoppers tend to engage in many more conversations than in supermarket aisles (Worldwatch Insti- tute). In cities, we can call for public and private spaces that facilitate social connection, instead of discouraging it via urban sprawl.
Create a Personal Plan that Works
How do we keep our personal econo- my strong and contribute to the kind of world we want to live in? How do we walk the vital path of local sustainabil- ity in every part of our life—including work, investing and buying necessities? Mark Anielski, author of The Econom- ics of Happiness: Building Genuine Wealth, explains five ways to take action that are worth exploring.
Investments Move the majority of money reserves out of the stock market and into com- munity banks that loan money in their neighborhoods.
Eliminate debts in order to have more discretionary income and ulti- mately, more time to pursue the things that make life worthwhile.
Work Join up with and pursue clients that are contributing to all of their stakeholders and the environment in positive ways.
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Create a personal business plan with a goal of income sufficiency—having just enough income to meet the basic needs for a good life. Live with one vehicle, rather than two, and ride a bike to places where friends gather.
Volunteering Get involved in community activities, such as participating in the local town council, neighborhood association and service groups.
Purchases Buy local whenever possible. Choose the local pharmacy instead of the big chain, the farmers’ market rather than a multi-state supermarket. Examine each purchase and consider its ramifications. Avoid buying clothes that need to be dry-cleaned and patronize green clean- ers that do not use toxic chemicals. Buy goods in the local economy, so that dollars remain in the com- munity. Purchase from locally owned
businesses that employ neighbors and other locals.
While material possessions and luxuries are nice, having too many means too much routine maintenance, fixing things and dusting. Once we’ve reached a “maintenance stage” of life, a time when most material needs have been realized, direct energy and funds to maintaining the integrity of the home (built capital). The payoff in- cludes more time for passions outside of work and more time with friends, family and neighbors.
Offset part of the family’s ecological footprint by donating to organizations that supply clean power or plant trees. Assist the community’s poor and home- less by applying available time, talent and treasure.
Source: Adapted from The Economics of Happiness, by Mark Anielski.
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