On my radar: Because I’m happy

2014-06-27 10:00

Hi, my name is Dion and I’m a happy person.

You’ll have to forgive the somewhat Pollyanna tone to this week’s column but I’ve just completed a social media challenge called 100 Happy Days.

It is a global movement started by the 100happydays Foundation, which aims to spread happiness in the world – and the world could do with a bit more.

The challenge seemed simple enough: can you be happy for 100 consecutive days?

It is actually more difficult than you think.

If you want to take up the challenge, you are required to register on their website (www.100happydays.com), choose a social media platform and, for the next 100 consecutive days, post one picture a day of something that makes you happy.

Then tag your post with the hashtag #100happydays. Like I said, it sounds simple enough. But surprisingly, staying upbeat requires dedication and mindfulness – skills, I now realise, we’ve ceded in a digital era.

The website warns that 71% of people who sign up never complete the challenge and the most common excuse is they “don’t have the time”. The registration page for 100happydays takes this into account and asks an uncomfortable question: “If these people simply do not have time to be happy, do you?”

As we reach the midpoint of the year, and early fatigue sets in, it is a very good question to ask ourselves. If we don’t have time to stop and be happy, what’s the point?

Questioning our state of happiness seems to be a growing trend in 2014, with Pharrell Williams’ song Happy being the undisputed anthem. The song was released in November last year and was also the signature soundtrack for the animated movie Despicable Me 2.

As the song’s popularity grew, people across the world began creating their own music videos for the song. To date, there are versions made by people in countries and cities across the globe, from Fukushima and Kyoto in Japan to our own versions produced in Joburg and Cape Town (and I have to grudgingly admit – as a Joburger – that the Cape Town version has the edge).

Controversially, in May this year, a group of Iranian fans created their Happy video tribute, and were promptly arrested because, as the police chief put it, “the song represented vulgarity and also hurt public chastity”.

The Iranian president later criticised the arrest on Twitter, saying: “#Happiness is our people’s right. We shouldn’t be too hard on behaviours caused by joy.”

The creators of the video were subsequently released and happiness became a topic of discussion.

Other key mainstream pop culture influencers like Beyoncé also seem to be on a quest to promote happiness. In her song Pretty Hurts, which deals with perceptions of beauty and what girls put themselves through when entering beauty pageants, she is asked the question (as a beauty pageant contestant): “What is your aspiration in life?” To which she replies after much hesitation: “To be happy.”

It is interesting to note the song title has subsequently been adopted as an urban slang phrase, which shows that the message is filtering through.

Another pop culture indicator is an unusual cyberself-help industry on the rise in Silicone Valley. California is known to spawn some rather bizarre trends, but while seemingly esoteric, this new industry makes complete sense in a digital era.

Conferences like Wisdom 2.0 and The Rise of the Buddhist Geek (yes, those are actually conferences) aim to balance our online and offline worlds, acknowledging that we now essentially live, work and play in both a virtual and a physical world.

So it came as a surprise that a challenge conducted in cyberspace could bring me happiness in the physical world.

The 100happydays challenge turned out to be a protracted meditation of sorts using social media: strange but true. The pressure – as that is what it came to on the days I was frenetically busy – to find a happy moment in every day was a revelation.

As promised on the 100happydays website, my mood improved and, by being constantly reminded how happy I am, I slowly but surely became more optimistic and relied less on our national pastime: complaining.

In 100 days, I’ve become that Silicone Valley Buddhist geek.

On the 99th day of my 100happydays, I had to attend a funeral, which got me thinking about the transience of life and how one should spend it. Death always throws things into perspective.

I realised that when the Grim Reaper finally comes knocking, all you really want is to have lived a happy life.

And every day spent with negative emotions is a day robbed of happiness. So even though my challenge is complete, I’ve discovered I’ve subconsciously been trained to look for those happy moments (however fleeting they may be), every day.

I highly recommend this challenge. It’s not a bad way to view the world.

Chang is the founder of Flux Trends. For more trends, visit www.fluxtrends.com

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