I love my job working as the German Minister of Happiness and Well-being. You may now be asking yourself: Seriously, is there a Ministry of Happiness and Well-being in Germany?! Well, yes, there is!
I helped to establish this interactive project in 2013, to raise awareness and run creative actions highlighting the important role of happiness and wellbeing in our lives and in wider society.
What is the ‘good life’?
Contrary to initial impressions, the Ministry of Happiness and Well-being is not actually a government department; it is mainly an interactive arts project, and an inspiring multimedia campaign. As a communication designer, I am able to approach the field of happiness and wellbeing from a fresh angle. I love to do creative actions which confront people in their everyday lives, to make them think about the importance of happiness, and then get them motivated to do take action!
I approach my work with creativity, humour and playful interactions. I organise film showings, public talks, flashmobs, and street art, in addition to running interactive workshops at schools, universities and companies. All of these activities aim to inspire discussion and action on the important subjects of happiness, well-being and mental health.
Through my work I have discovered that discussing the topic of personal happiness in a playful and creative way can motivate people to re-think their participation across all parts of society. The Ministry of Happiness and Well-being invites people to consider questions such as: “What makes us happy?“, “What is a good life?“ and “What can we do to increase our own and others’ happiness?“. The intention of the Ministry is to change perspectives, to support positive actions, and to initiate a wider change of social values.
‘Ministry’ as a metaphor
The governmental associations associated with the title “Ministry of Happiness and Well-being” was an intentional metaphor. When people hear about the Ministry they immediately smile and ask – what would change if there would be an actual government department like this? People immediately get curious, want to know more, take part, share opinions and ideas, and they often get inspired to do something to support their own and other’s happiness!
The idea for the Ministry was developed as part of a research project at the University of Applied Science in Mannheim, Germany. This research drew lessons from the small country of Bhutan, where they measure their societal progress in Gross National Happiness, rather than Gross Domestic Product. The research became focused on creating a Ministry of Happiness and Well-being in Germany, and once the research project finished I decided to continue work as a freelancer, and have been working on it ever since.
There has been an overwhelming reception for the Ministry from the media and the public, which demonstrates that there is a huge demand for discussions and actions which explore happiness and wellbeing. The innovative idea behind the Ministry is to find ways to explore and express the wishes and needs of society through creative activities. It is offering people a new avenue through which to explore the big questions in our life again – not in a serious or reproachful way, but playfully and accessibly in our everyday lives.
Happiness is a diverse topic
Everyone has different interpretations and ideas about happiness. It can be a challenge to show that the Ministry neither wants to define happiness nor to declare that everybody has to be happy at any price. It’s not about smiling all day, nor about ignoring the problems in life. It’s about focussing on the important things, realising what matters most and taking small (or large!) actions to better support your own and other’s happiness.
Many people work on the science of happiness, and there is a wide range of positive psychology data now available to help guide us on how to improve happiness. Also, at the wider societal level, politicians are now becoming more curious about Gross National Happiness and other alternative happiness and life satisfaction measurements available.
During the last few years the network of the Ministry of Happiness and Well-being has grown and there are many people from very different fields that we collaborate with and learn from. We want to continue to connect and learn from others, as working on happiness and wellbeing is relevant to many different parts of society.
The aim of the Ministry of Happiness and Well-being is contribute towards making the people happier in general. The topics happiness and quality of life are of great public interest; many people are searching for new ways of life, new ideas, impulses and inspiration. The work of the Ministry is to approach these topics in a way that is bottom up, authentic, personal, inspired by the right questions, and interested in everyone.
You can find out more about the Ministry of Happiness and Well-being via the links below, and take your own actions to make the world a happier place!