catapult magazine

catapult magazine

Vol 12, Num 7 :: 2013.03.29 — 2013.04.11


Investing in happiness

For the last three years, Huss Future Festival which takes place at the Huss Project in Three Rivers, Michigan, has called people to imagine, to wonder, to build happiness and foster ridiculous joy in their community. One of the goals in reclaiming an abandoned old school in Three Rivers has been to ask: how can we foster happiness in a community? With the sounds of children’s laughter during weekly events at the school and through the growth of a flourishing garden, the Huss Project has been a hospitable host for happiness. It invites happiness to roam freely throughout its halls. The renovation of Huss School in Three Rivers is an attempt to build healthy and wealthy community that is based on happiness and joy. Researchers are showing that happy, positive individuals tend to live longer and healthier lives, and this goes for communities as well! The longevity of a healthy community is based on fostering a happy expression together. A healthy community knows how to celebrate together through joyful outbursts. A healthy community takes time to foster a collective sense of wonder and curiosity. A healthy community knows how to laugh out loud together.

The old saying contends that “laughter is the best medicine.” Sure, this saying might be overused and a bit trite, but imagine if we took it seriously. How different would our lives be if we sought laughter and happiness over wealth and power? We would certainly choose to use our time differently. We would invest in places and events where happiness can be fostered in a community. In fact, we would probably use our money in different ways, too.

In 2009 Dr. Laura Dunn and a group of social psychologists began researching the correlation between a person’s happiness and the way that he or she spends money. They wanted to tackle the age-old question: can money buy happiness? Their findings were simple: “The problem isn’t money, it’s us.” Dun explains, “For deep-seated psychological reasons, when it comes to spending money, we tend to value goods over experiences, ourselves over others, things over people.” But her research concluded that when it comes to making happiness, it is the giving that makes us happy. Throughout her various studies, Dunn attempted to show that it is not the investment in material things that provides happiness; it is the investment in relationships and communities which causes an increase in happiness. Putting money toward fostering relationships and building communities may have a payoff every bit as real, and possibly more beneficial, than putting it in an investment fund or savings account. Seen in this way, the study suggests that happiness is tied to the communities, the friends and the charities where money is given. The relationship of this exchange is cyclical: the more you invest in your community, the more you become a happy person; the more the community is invested in, the more it becomes a place of happiness.

Dunns findings might change the way we think about using our time, energy and money as investments in happiness. It is necessary to invest in places where happiness can grow exponentially throughout a community. It is necessary to participate in community events and programs where the augmentation of happiness is encouraged in the community. If we hope to get a healthy return on our investments, it is necessary to crack a joke or throw down on the dance floor. It is necessary to celebrate and make merry together. It is necessary to encourage kids to explore and run free, and it is also necessary for adults to feel empowered through cheerful expression. That is what healthy living is all about. Happiness is what community development is all about.

your comments

comments powered by Disqus