Frequently Asked Questions

What is sustainable happiness?

Sustainable happiness integrates research from positive psychology with sustainability. This means that we are not solely looking at an individual’s happiness and well-being in isolation from how the choices they make impact other people and the natural environment. Research from positive psychology has revealed a great deal about the benefits of positive emotions as well as measures we can take to increase our life satisfaction and enhance well-being. Exploring how our happiness and well-being are intertwined with the well-being of other people and the ecosystems that sustain us expands the significance of positive psychology. It demonstrates the vital fact that our well-being and desire to flourish can contribute to, or detract from, human and environmental health and well-being. We can choose to live in ways that contribute to well-being for all, sustainably.

Is sustainable happiness about sustaining my happiness and is that even possible?

The focus of sustainable happiness isn’t only on sustaining your happiness but on recognizing how your happiness and well-being are interconnected with other people and the natural environment. It’s about discovering how we can live more gently and compassionately with ourselves, with other people, and with Nature. Yes! Bringing sustainable happiness into your life can lead to more consistent experiences of happiness and well-being. How is that possible? That depends, to some extent, on how committed you are to addressing patterns in your life that are not beneficial to you and making choices to enhance your well-being. Since most of us haven’t learned about sustainable happiness through our formal education there is lots to learn!

A great place to start is to sign up for a sustainable happiness course!

An exploration of sustainable happiness prompts you to reflect on the choices that you are making on a daily basis that contribute to, or detract from, your well-being, the well-being of others, and the well-being of the natural environment. Inevitably, participants in sustainable happiness courses identify steps that they would like to take to enhance their well-being. We often incorporate a sustainable happiness project. For instance, participants may set goals around healthy eating, physical activity, and obtaining adequate sleep and then set their plans in motion. Taking charge of your well-being can be liberating and uplifting and once this is experienced you can set a virtuous cycle in motion where you want to continue to experience the positive benefits of these choices.

How does sustainable happiness apply to individuals whose income doesn’t enable them to purchase organic food, electric vehicles, and other kinds of expensive but environmentally-friendly products?

This is an important question. One of the first things to recognize is that sustainable happiness isn’t only about environmental sustainability. Nevertheless, inexpensive possibilities for living a more eco-friendly life are flourishing in communities around the world. From growing your own food (at home and in community gardens), choosing to walk instead of drive for short trips, having clothing swaps with friends, helping to fundraise for community initiatives, reducing our consumption of water, and exploring sustainable food options through vegetarian or vegan menus, tiny houses, and diverse forms of collaborative consumption, we are seeing ever increasing opportunities for all income earners. Sustainable happiness is not an expensive undertaking. And, it can even save you money.

There are many choices within everyone’s control that can be made to enhance happiness and well-being. For example, we can look at the health of our relationships, expressing gratitude and appreciation, giving generously of our time, attention, and skills (through volunteering for instance). And ultimately, sustainable happiness can foster more compassionate and caring communities as well as policies that lead to greater social justice and poverty alleviation.

I’m an educator. How do I bring sustainable happiness to school?

My book, Education for Sustainable Happiness and Well-being, was written to support educators to explore sustainable happiness both personally and professionally. Also, if you are an elementary teacher, the Sustainable Happiness and Health Education Teacher’s Guide (free on this website) has many lesson plans to get you started. If you are interested in discovering how educators are bringing sustainable happiness and well-being for all to life in their classroom or school take a look at the Living Schools Facebook page!