Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Researchers, Government, Public Discuss Hiking Happiness at Vancouver Symposium

Newspaper article The Canadian Press

Researchers, Government, Public Discuss Hiking Happiness at Vancouver Symposium

Article excerpt

Vancouver symposium to ponder secrets to happiness

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VANCOUVER - Sing this out loud: "If You're Happy And You Know It, Clap Your Hands!"

Do you feel happier?

John Helliwell, one of the world's leading happiness researchers, said he often makes the quirky request when speaking to people about happiness.

"I get them singing together and clapping and ask them if they're happier after than before," said Helliwell, a professor emeritus at the University of British Columbia's Vancouver School of Economics.

"Typically they are," he added,matter-of-factly. "Because it's just doing something together."

The importance of social cohesion and a sense of belonging on boosting general well-being is just one of the themes up for discussion at a happiness symposium taking place in Vancouver this week.

The event will bring together municipal planners, policy makers, researchers and community members to share anecdotes and best practices aimed at fostering happiness in cities, communities, the workplace and even at home.

"The science of well-being has now proceeded far enough that there are enough interesting experiments and things to try at the local level," said Helliwell, one of the main presenters at Tuesday's symposium.

The Canadian Institute for Advanced Research is organizing the event.

Statistics Canada analyses to be presented on Tuesday show that smaller-scale communities are more conducive to general well-being, said Helliwell.

The main reason is the quality of the social relationships that exist in tighter neighbourhoods, he explained.

"To build happier big cities requires studying and developing the kinds of linkages that happen automatically in smaller communities."

Examples include urban gardens, encouraging volunteerism and making public facilities more accessible to community groups.

In the city we're better off when we treat the elevator as a vertical sidewalk, he said, describing what is so often a daily experience of downtown life as "a social event waiting to happen. …

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