Action for Happiness helps BoCo residents find cheer in troubling times.
By Janine Frank
“The purpose of our lives is to be happy.”
– Dalai Lama
His Holiness the Dalai Lama said existence is predicated on the desire to achieve contentment. Our unalienable right to the pursuit of happiness is even written into our country’s Declaration of Independence.
But in recent times, the world has felt heavy. Daily headlines barrage us with issues that seem beyond our control: epidemics, war, political chicanery; the list goes on and on. Each day feels like a new onslaught of natural disasters and moral atrocities.
How do we reach that elusive state of joy when our senses are bombarded with bad news on a daily basis?
Action for Happiness, an international organization with a mission “to create a happier and kinder world, together,” has some answers. With chapters all over the world, including one in Boulder County, the nonprofit’s chosen patron is none other than the Dalai Lama.
Action for Happiness’ Boulder chapter is run by Jody Manning and Yvette Francino, who both work in the field of positive psychology. The local group’s free online meetings on the second Tuesday of every month are open to everyone, with no commitment or expectation. Find your local chapter and sign up for meetings at actionforhappiness.org/groups.
Meetings last about an hour and focus on one of the 10 Keys to Happier Living, research-backed methods of finding happiness. These include giving to others, connecting with others, being resilient, living in the moment and accepting yourself, to name a few. You can read about all 10 at actionforhappiness.org/10-keys.
“We spend the first part of the meeting learning a little bit about the ways that month’s key can improve our lives, then sharing ideas on how we can take action to use that key in our day-to-day lives,” Manning says.
How much happiness is enough? Do we need to live in a constant state of joy? Manning and Francino agree there is no perfect happiness ratio and say it’s more about having a healthy relationship with all emotions, good and bad.
“Personally, I would love to be one-hundred percent happy, but I know that’s impossible, and so now when something happens that makes me unhappy, I recognize that this is a necessary part of life and look for ways to move toward happiness,” Francino says.
Manning adds, “The more time we spend with our positive emotions, the more resilient and better equipped we are to handle the hard times.” She says practicing these behaviors can also lead to less depression and anxiety.
Francino believes that “globally, the world is grieving the losses and societal changes that have occurred in recent years,” but all is not lost.
Manning sees a silver lining. “I think there are many sad things happening in the world right now, for sure,” she says. “But there are also some pretty wonderful things, too. It’s easy to focus on the things that seem really bad and so insurmountable. But it’s so important to remember that there are things we do have some control over and that we can influence, including how we react to the challenges and obstacles life throws at us.”
Research has shown that 50 percent of our happiness is genetic, 40 percent is in our power to control and 10 percent is circumstantial, Francino explains. “Action for Happiness can help us learn techniques to increase 40 percent of our happiness,” she adds.
If you don’t want more video meetings in your life, you can sign up for the “10 Days of Happiness” online program, which prompts you to take one positive action each day. The organization’s website also offers “Happiness Resources,” including dozens of videos from experts on how to achieve connection, resilience and joy. A downloadable phone app provides daily inspirational messages, as well as a way to engage with others on the forum.