Between Love, Happiness and Sustainability

By NARG

Everyone wants to be loved, because, ultimately, everyone wants to be happy. This is the fundamental truth that I have been discovering over the past year. Love is what moves the world. Love is what makes my kids rise to their full potential when I assured them they have a piece of my heart, and love is what they will share with others. Love is also what oppressors crave when they tyrannize their people; they want to be loved by any means, either by captivating hearts or capturing fearful eyes. Everyone wants to be loved, because love guarantees happiness.

Over the last decade, the idea of happiness has been pouring all around us, and even countries like Bhutan, have implemented, in their constitution, the concept of Gross National Happiness (GNH). This is an approach/ philosophy that redirects the government’s focus from economic growth to collective happiness. The GNH, like other holistic philosophies I have studied, emphasizes harmony with nature and traditional values (Ura et al., 2012). But when we think about countries with a strong focus on their citizens’ happiness, we conceive this as a limitation to their economic growth and development (Cloutier, Jambeck, & Scott, 2014); for us, economic progress is the path to achieving happiness. However, this understanding of happiness is problematic, because we correlate happiness to material consumption and the exploitation of natural and social resources. And this path to “happiness” creates unsustainable individuals and societies.

Today, in our pursuit of love and happiness, we have managed to disconnect ourselves from our real needs for love, nature, and harmony. Although we are a social species by nature, our social isolation has been growing in part due to new technologies and our economic system. Technological advances replaced outdoor activities and physical partners, and our capitalist ideals removed cultural practices in the name of progress. And thus, today we have given birth to children that do not see the imperative in caring for and relying on others, hindering their capacity to live a healthy, happy life. Consequently, depression levels have increased, diseases are rampant and cared for in isolation. Trust has become scarce, and personal space keeps expanding while we perish in our illusion of unsustainable, material happiness.

But if we put aside our consumerist behaviors, our economic greed, and individualism, we can engage in a sustainable and happy world (Corral-Verdugo et al., 2011). There is a strong correlation between sustainability and happiness (O’Brien, 2013). Studies have shown that sustainability behaviors such as pro-ecological, frugality, and altruism can also promote a state of psychological restoration (De Youong, 1991; Iwata, 2000; Corral-Verdugo et al., In press). In other words, a state free of stressors that make us unhappy (Corral-Verdugo et al., 2011). Then, if sustainability is relevant not only to the well-being of our planet but also to our happiness, we found our golden ticket. Like O’Brien (2013) says “Happiness, meet sustainability; Sustainability, meet happiness.” In this couple, we have the tools to promote a healthy and joyful society. We have the tools to create connections based on altruism, mindfulness, and ultimately love, love for ourselves, for others, and love for all living organisms in this world. Once we achieve love, sustainability will be a norm and happiness our everyday.

 

References

Cloutier, S., Jambeck, J., & Scott, N. (2014). The Sustainable Neighborhoods for Happiness Index (SNHI): A metric for assessing a community’s sustainability and potential influence on happiness. Ecological Indicators, 40, 147–152. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.ecolind.2014.01.012

Corral-Verdugo, V., Mireles-Acosta, J., Tapia-Fonllem, C., & Fraijo-Sing, B. (2011). Happiness as correlate of sustainable behavior: A study of pro-ecological, frugal, equitable and altruistic actions that promote subjective wellbeing. Human Ecology Review, 18(2), 95–104. https://doi.org/10.3390/su5020711

De Young. R. (1991). Some psychological aspects of living lightly: Desired lifestyle patterns and conservation behavior. Journal of Environmen- tal Systems, 20, 2\5-2

Iwata. 0. (2001). Attitudinal determinants of environmentally responsible behavior. Social Behavior and Personality, 29, 183-190

O’Brien, C. (2013). Happiness and sustainability together at last! Sustainable happiness. Canadian Journal of Education, 36(4), 228–256.

Ura, K., Alkire, S., Zangmo, T., & Wangdi, K. (2012). An Extensive Analysis of GNH Index. The Centre for Bhutan Studies.

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