If you want one year of prosperity, grow grain.
If you want ten years of prosperity, grow trees.
If you want one hundred years of prosperity, grow people.

— Chinese Proverb

Yesterday, March 20th, marked the second annual International Day of Happiness. In 2012 the United Nations General Assembly passed a resolution to celebrate happiness and encourage people to share things that make them happy. According to the resolution, “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”.

So what makes up happiness? Researchers have found that our genes account for approximately half of our happiness levels. That is, we are born with a genetic set point or range that determines about 50% of our happiness level. So when we go through periods of significant joy or pain, after time we generally return to our genetic set point of happiness. Surprisingly, as little as 10% of our happiness is said to be determined by our life circumstances—income level, social status, job, etc. This leaves a 40%-opportunity to learn to be more joyful by doing things we know will bring us happiness. Shawn Achor, happiness researcher, says “you can teach yourself optimism and happiness just like you teach yourself a new language, you’ll be just your genes unless you make positive habits in your life.”

As this post marks my 100th post, I thought I’d invite you to help me celebrate it and International Day of Happiness, and also the arrival of spring by sharing things that make you happy. The UN’s Happiness Day is about the fact that happiness really matters. It’s also about growing people by increasing human happiness and well-being—my hope for this blog.

So what makes you happy? Is it spending time with family and friends, delicious food, beautiful weather, or perhaps traveling? For me, it’s all of the above and more, and almost any dish with black beluga, the caviar of lentils. 

Lemon Capellini with Beluga Lentils

Lemon Capellini With Black Beluga Lentils
Adapted from Barefoot Contessa

1 pound dried capellini
¼-½ cup olive oil
zest and juice of 2 lemons
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 teaspoon freshly ground white or black pepper pepper
1-2 cups cooked black lentils
zest of 1 lemon, for garnish

Drizzle some olive oil in a large pot of boiling salted water, add the capellini and cook al dente. Drain quickly, leaving a little water with the capellini. Quickly toss the capellini with the about ¼ cup olive oil, lemon zest, lemon juice, salt and pepper. If necessary, add more olive oil.

Place one serving of pasta on each plate and top with a large dollop of black lentils. Garnish with grated lemon zest. Serve immediately.

Lemon Capellini with Black Lentils

3 thoughts on “International Day of Happiness: what makes you happy?

  1. This is such an interesting post. I suppose our baseline level of happiness is based on both genetics and upbringing. Part of the reason parenting is so important: if we protect, love, and nurture our kids with positivity and intention, they will be happier adults. This being said, modern psychology focuses less on drudging up our past, and more on focusing on intentional, rational thoughts, action and behavior to obtain higher levels of peace and happiness. Many of the things you mention also make me happy. My children’s laughter, quiet meals with my husband (who is my best friend), travel, exercise, reading and cultivating relationships with girlfriends (and general social time) and the enjoyment of good food all contribute to my overall feeling of well-being. Lovely job, Martine; thank you for sharing.

    1. Hi Shanna, thank you. I agree, healthy parenting is so important in helping to cultivate healthy emotional and intellectual development so children can grow up learning to lead balanced, meaningful, and socially connected lives. It’s such an awesome (and daunting) privilege to help children enjoy meaningful relationships, be caring and compassionate, and feel good about the person they are. Your children are blessed to have such a caring and thoughtful mother! Thank you for sharing what makes you happy! I think we’d both agree that fine chocolate could also be added to our list! 🙂

      1. Thank you, Martine, for your kind words and wisdom. And chocolate – indeed! Greg brought me back a lovely Ecuadorian 72% bar with cocoa nibs and 72% bar with salted almonds from San Francisco. It was heaven.

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