So the new government is going to conduct a survey to discover the levels of happiness in the country. At last politicians have realised that there is more to life than the economy – a reality which many of us have promoted for a long time. I just hope that given politicians habit of wanting to measure and control everything, we don’t end up with ‘targets’ for being happy – with pictures of smiling citizens lining the roads whenever a ‘beloved leader’ passes by!
Yet the pursuit of happiness and wellbeing is fundamental to being human. I can’t recall meeting anyone who has set out either to be miserable, or to be unhealthy. It is the changes, chances and realities of life which erode our sense of wellbeing and undermine our happiness – and this is something which politicians need to understand.
If the government is really committed to happiness then they have to accommodate the simple truth that it is very difficult to be happy if you have lost your job; it is hard to be happy if your benefits have been cut or removed; it is impossible to be happy if the chaos of poverty becomes your everyday experience. But most importantly they need to understand that for many of us, we cannot be really happy ourselves when we know that others are suffering and have become victims of the need to balance the budget.
But ultimately happiness is an inner and spiritual quality beyond the reach of legislation and politics. Happiness is something about how we shape our lives and order our priorities. Indeed we can do much to promote our own happiness and well being. Learning how to love, to be loved and forgive are sure foundations to a happy life. Discovering how to value others and preserve one’s own dignity are each ways of securing our sense of wellbeing. Controlling our anger, greed and sexuality each contribute to stability in life from which we can live at peace with ourselves and our neighbours.
Governments have a responsibility for providing a context and an economy which promote happiness, but in the end it is how we live our lives, relate to each other and share out the good things of life which secures our future. It is all summed up in a verse from the Bible written many centuries ago, it just says – do justly, love mercy and walk humbly with your God.