Who knew that happiness could be so important?
Parents can attest to the quicksilver barometer of childhood happiness. Smiles can turn to tears and back again, offering a temporary reprieve from interpreting when the next nap, feeding or change of diaper is in order. A picture may be worth a thousand words but for many, the happiness of our children speaks directly to the quality of life to which we would all aspire.
As life gets more layered, so does happiness. No matter the bells, whistles or benefits available in a program, whether or not a child is happy in an activity will determine their involvement. Happiness becomes an assessment tool: are you happy At the Y
with a haircut? With a purchase? With your performance? A smiling emoji has become the gold standard, whether you’re leaving a washroom or reading online reviews. In both service and retail, the weather vane of customer satisfaction has become whether or not the consumer is happy.
But the UN is trying to draw the understanding of happiness back from such first world interpretations. For the past five years, the World Happiness Report has assessed nations on the main factors found to support happiness: caring, freedom, generosity, honesty, health, income and good governance. While the rankings speak to the intrinsic value of such intangibles, it reminds us of the social and personal foundations to happiness. The western world still dominates the top of the list – Canada currently ranks seventh – but it is apparent that those happiest with their lot in life live in countries where such intangibles are intrinsic to the political and social foundations. Mental health, physical health and personal relationships are all identified as key components to personal well being.
It’s these pillars that build a strong community, whether defined by a municipal boundary or the walls of a building. They are central to the YMCA’s mission statement, and part of what is offered to everyone that walks through the doors, no matter what may have initially brought them there. The Y doesn’t offer a “one size doesn’t fits all” product or approach; rather, it encourages everyone to find what works for them as an individual. And offers that opportunity in a place that is supportive, inclusive and dedicated to its community.
It turns out happiness is a lot more complicated, and essential, than once thought. The Y might be a good starting point to start working on your own version of it.