Skip directly to content

International Day of Happiness

This year Pharrell Williams will promote the International Day of Happiness, to remind us that there are much better ways of measuring global progress than economic growth.



The man who made "Happy" famous, top recording artist Pharrell Williams, is joining the United Nations Foundation to promote the International Day of Happiness on March 20th.  Beginning on Monday, March 10th, fans are invited to post YouTube videos of themselves "demonstrating their happiness" to Pharrell's song "Happy," using the hashtag #HAPPYDAY.  Videos can then be submitted to Pharrell's site 24 Hours of Happiness. On March 20th, the best submissions will be featured at noon in each time zone.


(From an earlier post)


On March 20, 2013, the world for the first time in history celebrated the International Day of Happiness, established by the United Nations General Assembly in July of 2012.


The new yearly commemoration is the result of a diplomatic push by the Bhutanese Government to recognize happiness as the key parameter through which global progress should be measured.  Advocates of the initiative say that the since the ultimate goal of all economic policies is the happiness of a given population, happiness itself should be the main indicator used to assess human progress.


The adoption of the resolution is a sign of an accelerating international trend to seek alternative ways to measure human well-being.  Gross National Product (GNP) and Gross Domestic Product (GDP)– traditional, classical economics indicators that measure the monetary value of goods and services owned by citizens and produced in a country, respectively– are widely believed to be inadequate in representing the well-being of nations.    Using these indicators alone to develop and adjust economic and social policies often results in political decisions that do not benefit long-term social, environmental, and economic development.


It has long been held that the more wealthy a nation is, the happier its citizens generally are.  And while financial prosperity accounts for a considerable level of individual well-being, other aspects of life like cultural and intellectual development, time spent with family and friends, and a clean environment are equally important.  However, these are not measured by GNP or GDP, and this is why more and more economists have become skeptical that these indicators are a sufficient measure of global well-being.


An example of GNP’s skewing effect is the cleaning of the Gulf of Mexico in the aftermath of the Deepwater Horizon oil spill.  The disaster had deep social and environmental consequences– such as the cost to clean-up the mess– which will not only not be reported by GNP, but will actually add to it, suggesting that the spill was on the whole beneficial.  The inability to incorporate so-called "externalities", like lost biodiversity and shattered communities, is among the key arguments against using GNP.


Bhutan, a small Himalayan monarchy, introduced Gross National Happiness (GNH) as the basis of its state policy in the 1970s.  A stark contract to GNP, GNH is a more human-centered indicator, focusing on cultural and intellectual development, environmental and social sustainability, as well as good governance and active citizenship.  Its 33 indicators are grouped in nine domains: Education, Psychological Well-being, Health, Time Use, Cultural Diversity and Resilience, Good Governance, Community Vitality, Ecological Diversity and Resilience, and Living Standard.


A growing number of other countries, organizations, and individuals are starting to experiment with indices othan than GNP and GDP.  Among them are Costa Rica, which puts strong emphasis on environmental sustainability, the United Kingdom, which is trying out national well-being as a policy-guiding instrument, and the State of Maryland, which adopted its own Genuine Progress Indicator to measure the long-term impacts of development activities.  Other examples include the Happy Planet Index, Genuine Progress Indicator, the Satisfaction with Life Index, Green National Product, and the Quality-of-Life Index.   


Check out our media gallery to learn more about these and other efforts to more adequately measure human well-being around the planet.