Goldie Hawn, Jeffrey Sachs and Matthieu Ricard agreed when they spoke on happiness and well-being. At the invitation of His Highness Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice President and Prime Minister of the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and Ruler of Dubai and Her Excellency Ohood AlRoumi, Minister of State for Happiness and Wellbeing and Vice Chairman of the World Government Summit, nearly 500 global thought leaders gathered in Dubai for the second Global Dialogue for Happiness. As luminaries hailing from every corner of planet discussed and presented insights on the science, policies, practices, scaling, and the future of happiness and well-being, at least three ideas emerged as clear themes.

1) Happiness and well-being are required.  But only if we want engagement growth, productivity, good health, learning, etc. etc. etc.

  • – Nicha Jagtiani, Group Director and Board Member of the Landmark Group discussed the Landmark Happiness Movement with over 50 initiatives on education, engagement and fitness to over 55,000 of our people noting that happy employees are 6x more productive than their peers.
  • – Bambang Brojonegoro, Minister of National Development Planning introduced Indonesia’s Happiness Pyramid which integrates the country’s Sustainable Development Goals into a happiness model and cited research by Li Lu (2008) that happy countries grow faster.
  • – Andrew Schwartz, Lead Investigator, World Well-Being Project, University of Pennsylvania discussed the computational linguistics research that indicated a relationship between happiness and variables such as heart disease and life satisfaction.
  • – Dr. Lea Waters, President of IPPA, Professor and founder of the Centre for Positive Psychology, University of Melbourne, shared results of a 2011 study of 3400 students which indicated that the introduction of positive education principles increased learners’ self-acceptance, optimism and grades.

2) There is a shortcut to happiness. It is not about you, but everyone else.

  • Matthieu Ricard, International Author, discussed the surest path to happiness being altruism and compassion.  He suggested, “If we want a better world, selfishness will not do the job.”
  • – After interviewing happy people around the globe for 5 years, Emily Esfahani Smith, concluded that belonging that springs from love for others was one of the four essential pillars of happiness.
  • Alexander Stubb, Vice-President of European Investment Bank, Former Prime Minister of Finland asserted that one likely reason Scandinavian countries rank higher on measures of happiness may be a tendency toward community and away from individual wealth.
  • – Meik Wiking, Chief Executive Officer, Happiness and Research Institute, Denmark pondered that Danes might actually be happy because they pay high taxes, seeing taxes as private investment to the common good
  • – Conversely, Dr. Saki Santorelli, Professor of Medicine, University of Massachusetts Landmark shared the mere presence of a technology device on a table with a couple decreased their levels of engagement and attention to one another. He also noted research suggests we grab our cell phones 564 times day!

3) Don’t worry, (you can) be happy.  But Jeffrey Sachs said it would be hard work. 

  • – Ohood AlRoumi, Minister of State for Happiness and Wellbeing, discussed the process of developing happiness through objectives and policy.
  • Dr. Sonia Lyubomirsky, Professor of Psychology, University of California, Riverside, shared research on the potential to increase gratitude (a contributor to happiness) with simple interventions that include intentionally considering, articulating and expressing gratitude.
  • –  Goldie Hawn shared promising outcomes from a school-based program, developed and supported, by the Hawn Foundation in which 83% of participants were able to “make themselves happier.”
  • – Dr. Kazuo Yano, Corporate Chief Scientist, Hitachi discussed the potential for artificial intelligence to support flourishing based on strengths and presented evidence of a 34% gain in productivity and 27% increase in sales volume related to changes in happiness and well-being.
  • – Gabrielle Kelly, Director, Wellbeing and Resilience Centre, South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute and her team, using their LIMBER model, were able to increase wellbeing and reduce sick leave in correctional facilities by 22%.
  • – Dr. Acacia Park, Chief Scientist, Happify, discussed results they are seeing with online engagement, noting that 86% of users are happier after 2 months of use. (Mayerson Academy is seeing great results with students!)

In sum, happiness is worth our attention.

To learn more of the distillation of ideas and experiments on happiness and well-being around the world check out the first Global Happiness Policy Report launched at the Global Dialogue for Happiness written by a group of independent experts.