Switch off, chip in, be happy, say activists

LONDON Tue Apr 12, 2011 12:18pm EDT

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LONDON (Reuters Life!) - If you want to be happy, elect your boss, take a break from your mobile phone and give to charity -- that's the advice from a new global movement for happiness whose members include the Dalai Lama.

Action for Happiness was co-founded by Richard Layard, an economics professor at the London School of Economics, and is supported by more than 4,500 members from 68 countries and organisations such as the British Psychological Society.

The movement, set up last year and inaugurated on Tuesday, rejects individualism and the pursuit of material wealth and provides alternative practical tips for a happier life, which it says are based on scientific evidence.

One of the less obvious recommendations came from Henry Stewart, head of training organization Happy Ltd, who asked an audience of about 200 people at the launch in London: "How would you feel if you could choose your manager?"

The response from the packed-out hall was, presumably happy, laughter.

The group's website www.actionforhappiness.org -- which Layard said was receiving 4,000 hits per minute on Tuesday -- advises happiness-seekers to help others, exercise and pursue goals, as well as meditate, take a break from technology and organize a street party.

"Average levels of charitable giving across the world correlate better with happiness than levels of GDP," said Geoff Mulgan, co-founder of Action for Happiness and a former senior British government official.

In further support of its arguments, the movement says that surveys of Britons and Americans show they are no more content now than in the 1950s despite substantial economic progress.

"The main external factor affecting a person's happiness is the quality of their relationships, at home, at work and in the community. And the main internal factor is their underlying mental health," it said in a statement.

Governments are becoming increasingly concerned with assessing national well-being, using data outside traditional economic measures to help mold policy.

Britain will soon start asking new questions in its regular household survey to establish how satisfied people are with their lives.

For its part, France has asked Nobel laureate Joseph Stiglitz, a former World Bank chief economist, and a group of international experts, to find new ways to measure economic progress taking into account social well-being.

(Editing by Steve Addison)

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