What defines happiness? LEADPrep students will be researching this question on their 17-day service learning trip to Guatemala. In a few weeks they will become immersed in Guatemalan home stays and the Spanish language. They will volunteer at local schools and visit an ex-refugee camp. Throughout all of this, they will be encouraged to challenge the U.S. definition of happiness.
The Happy Planet Index/HPI (happyplanetindex. org) compares sustainable wellbeing to ecological footprint of a country. Costa Rica tops the list as the happiest country on the planet. Guatemala is tenth on the HPI. The United States falls far behind at 105th. Economic activity is often mistaken as happiness. U.S. rise in teen anxiety, depression, and eating disorders suggest we have work to do; we need to shift our values from economics to overall wellbeing.
As people who care deeply about our youth, we need to redefine happiness. We need to retrain ourselves and our teens. We need to return to consciousness and honoring the wisdom of our bodies. To breathe. To shorten our busy to-do lists. Start by intentionally taking time for play, gratitude, and face-to-face connection. We can shift to living as happier, more productive global citizens. Let’s commit to one act of happiness each day…start now!