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Don't Worry, Be Happy

Published: February 06, 2013

CHENEY, Wash. - Cheney, can you measure happiness? John de Graaf, co-founder and senior partner of The Happiness Initiative and Barbara Brock PhD, from Eastern Washington University think so. The first comprehensive survey of happiness in this region is about to begin with de Graaf's lecture in the EWU Library at noon on Thursday, Feb. 14, and you are invited to get on board.

"You get what you measure," says de Graaf. "For too long we've measured the wrong things - Gross Domestic Product doesn't tell us whether we have a good quality of life or a sustainable society. This survey, which includes 10 domains of wellbeing, not just income, is a good way to start measuring the important things we care about, so we can actually achieve them."

"We're thrilled to take the lead in this exciting project," adds Barbara Brock, PhD, EWU happiness director. "This is the first project in the U.S. using objective and subjective indicators of wellbeing to provide a truly powerful look at how well we are doing in all areas of life. We hope the project leads to positive action for greater happiness, social justice and both economic and environmental health."

There are links available on the Happiness Survey for four segments of our population: 1) Cheney community, 2) EWU students, 3) EWU staff and 4) EWU faculty. The survey will be available at the EWU Happiness Initiative Facebook site as of Valentine's Day, Feb. 14, and you will be able to take the survey through April 22:

Anyone may take the survey and receive an immediate evaluation of personal wellbeing for each of the 10 domains of happiness identified by international researchers: psychological wellbeing; physical health; time balance; work experience, education; cultural vitality and access; social connection; good government; environmental quality and access to nature; and material wellbeing. Their representative group will also receive an individual score which can be used as a baseline to measure the 10 domains for years to come.

The survey takes a holistic approach to wellbeing and asks poignant questions that allow reflection and insight. "It takes about 12 minutes to complete," says Laura Musikanski, executive director of the Happiness Initiative, a national project. "But you'll find it's worth the time because it really makes you think about your life and how to improve it. It's part of an exciting new effort to add quality of life and sustainability to our assessments of progress. It's being used in many countries now, but this is the first opportunity for Americans to take the survey. The results will be useful to individuals, organizations and policy makers who want to base their efforts to increase wellbeing on solid science and comprehensive information."

The EWU Happiness Initiative is seeking other partner businesses and organizations that will encourage members and staff to take the survey and use the results to improve their own internal wellbeing practices. The results of that scientific survey will be combined with objective indicators of wellbeing (e.g., greenhouse gas emissions, life expectancy) for each of the domains to create a scorecard for the area that can be updated on a regular basis. More information on the entire project can be found at

The survey was developed by a team led by San Francisco State University's Dr. Ryan Howell, who says that "When you take into account both time efficiency and comprehensiveness, I firmly believe this is the best wellbeing survey out there anywhere. Individuals, organizations, academic institutions and governments can all benefit from using this survey." A representative sampling of Americans has been taken to provide baseline data so communities and individuals can compare their results. Each survey-taker receives a personal score, comparing the taker's wellbeing in each of the 10 domains with a national average score.

Check out the site, get your friends and family on board, and get ready to take the survey after Feb. 14.


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