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International Day of Happiness

First celebrated in 2013, International Day of Happiness was created by the United Nations to highlight the role of happiness in helping people lead fulfilling lives around the world. On June 28, 2012, the United Nations General Assembly adopted resolution 66/281, which proclaimed International Day of Happiness to take place on March 20 each year. The resolution recognized "the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world and the importance of their recognition in public policy objectives," and 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." All 193 United Nations member states adopted the resolution.

The resolution was initiated in part by Bhutan, a country that had earlier adopted the goal of Gross National Happiness (GNH) instead of Gross National Product (GDP), after beginning to focus on national happiness over national income in the early 1970s. In April 2012, Bhutan hosted the "Happiness and Well-Being: Defining a New Economic Paradigm" conference at the General Assembly. This was the first high-level meeting about happiness at the United Nations, and over 30 countries were in attendance.

Jayme Illien, a special advisor to the United Nations, also played a large role in getting the day started. He came up with the idea for the day and brought it to senior United Nations officials. Another important lead-up to the creation of the day was the adoption of a resolution by the General Assembly in July 2011. It said that happiness is a "fundamental human goal" and called for “a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes the happiness and well-being of all peoples."

In 2013, the first year in which the day was held, a focus was put on celebrating those who bring much happiness to communities, who were known as "Happy Heroes." Inaugural events for the day were held at the United Nations and the United Nations Foundation. The day was also launched with an event at the TedXTeen conference in New York City, with Ndaba Mandela, the grandson of Nelson Mandela, as well as Hillary Clinton and her daughter, Chelsea, in attendance.

How to Observe

According to the resolution that created the day, the United Nations General Assembly "Invites all Member States, organizations of the United Nations system and other international and regional organizations, as well as civil society, including non-governmental organizations and individuals, to observe the International Day of Happiness in an appropriate manner, including through education and public awareness-raising activities." The United Nations also said they invite "each person of any age, plus every classroom, business and government to join in celebration…" So, anyone can celebrate, whether individually or as part of a group, and two of the focuses are on education and public awareness-raising. The overall goal while celebrating the day should be to spread happiness to all.

The official website of the day, which is partnered with the United Nations, lays out some ideas on how to celebrate the day. Action for Happiness has coordinated a campaign each year to go with the day. They bring together many organizations and also run a website that illustrates some ideas on how to celebrate the day.

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