Communities around the country and world are asking, “Are we a happy place to live?” One of the best examples is Seattle which launched the Happiness Initiative, a national project designed to transform communities by using measures of civic success and well-being in place of traditional economic measures.

The Happiness Initiative is based on the country of Bhutan’s efforts to measure “Gross National Happiness.” Using this model, a community’s happiness is determined by an interactive online survey that anyone can take (you can take it now – just go to www.happycounts.org/begin-survey). The survey, developed by psychology professor Ryan Howell and a research team at San Francisco State University, is key to measuring happiness because it provides people’s own assessment of their lives and community. The survey takes about 12 minutes and contains questions in eleven areas: Satisfaction with Life, Positive Affect, Mental Well-Being, Health, Time Balance, Community Vitality, Social Support and Relationships, Access to Education, Arts and Culture, Neighborhood, Environment, and Governance.

Based on the survey results (presented in a happiness “report card”), a set of recommendations have been made for boosting Seattle’s overall happiness and well-being. The Seattle City Council adopted a proclamation that it would consult the results of the survey in making policy decisions. Cities around the country (including Santa Fe, New Mexico, and Eau Clair, Wisconsin) and world, and even some university campuses, are following suit.

Here in Tucson, there is an effort to foster dialog around our community’s happiness. In conjunction with the College of Social and Behavioral Science’s Downtown Lecture Series on Happiness, Pima County Library and Community Renaissance will host a series of facilitated conversations about happiness in Tucson.

Participating branches will include: Joel D. Valdez Main Library, Oro Valley Public Library, Murphy-Wilmot Branch Library, and the Himmel Park Branch Library. For more information about the community conversations about happiness, visit the Pima County Library’s events page at: www.library.pima.gov/about/news/?id=4879.

We hope that this dialog might eventually lead to a strategic and collaborative effort to measure happiness or “subjective well-being” in Tucson to develop a more robust picture of Tucson’s quality of life and provide suggestions for improving people’s happiness here.

What do you think? Should Tucson measure its “subjective well-being?” If you have taken the Happiness survey from the Happiness Initiative, tell us what you think of it.

Happiness Question

What is one thing that made you happy today?