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20 March 2014

Christian charity supports UN Day of Happiness

Christian charity supports UN Day of Happiness

Alliance member Livability, the UK's largest Christian disability charity, are offering their support to the United Nations (UN) International Day of Happiness, which takes place today.  

Livability's Community Engagement Team has recently developed the Happiness Course in response to the rising levels of hopelessness, depression and anxiety witnessed in communities across the UK.

The Community Engagement Team work with some of the poorest and most disadvantaged communities across England to help them overcome problems in their daily life.

The four week course is designed to help churches engage with the local community and explore various subjects including the meaning of happiness, forgiveness, gratitude and relationships.  The Happiness Course draws on scientific research, ancient wisdom and real life experience which aims to encourage people to reflect on what constitutes a good life.

The first International Day of Happiness was in 2012. The day recognizes that happiness is a fundamental human goal, and calls upon countries to approach public policies in ways that improve the well-being of all people. It aims to focus world attention on the idea that economic growth must be inclusive and equitable, and that, in order to attain global happiness, economic development must be accompanied by social and environmental well-being.

The initiative to declare a day of happiness came from Bhutan – a country whose citizens are considered to be some of the happiest people in the world. Bhutan has championed an alternative measure of national and societal prosperity, called the Gross National Happiness Index (GNH). The GNH rejects the sole use of economic and material wealth as an indicator of development, and instead adopts a more holistic outlook, where spiritual well-being of citizens and communities is given as much importance as their material well-being.

Hundreds of people have attended the Happiness Course which has been delivered across the country including Liverpool, Dorset, Rotherham and London.

Former doctor, church leader and Livability team member, Andrew Parnham, is the course creator. He said: "Everyone wants to be happy - but how do we achieve it? A lot of research has gone into that question over recent years, with sometimes surprising results. For example, those who take time to enjoy nature, practice gratitude, faith and spirituality, and nurture healthy relationships all find greater life satisfaction than those who don't." 

Ryan Ahern, Pastor of Staplehurst Free Church in Kent who has been running the course, said: "Fun, challenging, fascinating and life changing are all words I have heard to describe the Happiness Course.  Since launching our first course in February this year, we are mid-way through our second one with two more already scheduled to start in May.  Those on the courses have benefited significantly both personally and in their relationships with others."