By Laura Schmidt, Office of Sustainability
Like other overworked individuals, social equity and environmental activists get burned out. Between the low pay, the habit to overextend, and the barrage of more depressing news from news outlets, Twitter, Facebook and other social media, it is easy for energy to fade into apathy.
To keep fighting the good fight, we have to find ways to sustain ourselves. Embodying happiness is one of the keys to sustenance.
Filmmaker, author, and activist John de Graaf wants to help us learn to better balance the heaviness of life with positive emotions. De Graaf will speak about “Happiness, Time, and Sustainability” on Thursday from 3-5 pm at Hinckley Caucus Room (OSH) 225. He will present lessons from the “New Development Paradigm” created by the King of Bhutan’s expert panel and advice from his own work on ending time poverty in the U.S.
Bhutan’s paradigm takes a nonstandard approach to measuring national success by using the gross national happiness (GNH) instead of the gross domestic product (GDP). Using the GNH has worked for the people of Bhutan for four decades. The “New Development Paradigm” considers nine aspects of well-being that the Bhutanese people measure: ecological sustainability, living standards, health, education, culture, community vitality, time balance, good governance, and psychological wellbeing. Perhaps we can learn how to incorporate the “New Development Paradigm” into our measures of success and live happier, healthier lives.
How are happiness and sustainability related? Genuine feelings of happiness and joy refuel our passions and remind us who we are and what we care about. In my environmental leadership course this past summer, I learned that painting a picture, playing a game with friends, or writing a gratitude list can help elicit positive feelings by taking us out of our reptilian brain. As the oldest part of our brain (in evolutionary terms), it is the place that determines our “flight, fight, or freeze” reactions and is responsible for preserving the self. Much of our depression, despair, and hopelessness come from this portion of the brain. However, forward thinking, problem-solving, and feelings of joy and happiness come from the highly-evolved neocortex. Engaging in creativity and play quickly move our thinking into the neocortex, and away from our reptilian brain. If we don’t take time to pursue happiness and joy, we will quickly burn out in our jobs and daily lives. It all comes down to balancing our work with activities that sustain us.
Join de Graaf this Thursday to see how you can incorporate happiness into your daily life.
Laura Schmidt is a graduate student in Environmental Humanities. She is a graduate assistant in the Office of Sustainability.