Hap­pi­ness 101

The Amherst News - - NEWS - Jan Matthews Jan Matthews writes her col­umn for the Cum­ber­land YMCA.

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.

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