What makes us happy, written by Diane Hart from Mullumbimby


I recently went to see the new film by social activist Helena Norberg-Hodge called the 'Economics of Happiness'. This film highlights the damaging effects of globalization on communities and is a cry from the heart for 'Keeping it Local' to help restore and heal our planet and it's people.


The film's message was clear and convincing, but I couldn't help feeling frustrated that, here in my town of Mullumbimby, it was preaching to a hall full of the 'converted' and it's message needs to be heard by, say, the board members of global food, agricultural and chemical companies – and those that finance them. How often do we listen to conversations these days with people who are feeling powerless as individuals, frustrated and badly treated by their dealings with corporations that have become larger and larger and less, not more, responsive to their needs?
The film's optimistic message was saying that the tide is turning and that real power is, in fact, in the hands of the individual in how we chose to spend our money and how we feed ourselves. This is where it starts – with each and every one of us.
So how do we heal ourselves while healing our planet at the same time? A long time ago, in a basic psychology class, I learned that there were three fundamental things that make and keep us happy:
Family - heart connections - to love and be loved.
Work - having gainful employment whether paid or unpaid.
Community - being part of and connected to something bigger than ourselves. This has as much resonance for me today as it did then (at least it is something I remembered from class!). It's also the reason why growing your own food, volunteering, shopping at the farmers market and working for the better good of your family and community are ultimately much more satisfying than what we are told will make us happy - buying more stuff!
A good place to start is by getting out into the garden and growing as much of our own food as possible and buying from local, honest producers. If you don't have a garden, or just not up to it to manage one by yourself – be part of your local Community Garden where sharing and mutual co-operation are the key words.
One of the most responsible jobs I have ever had is to feed my family – after all, you are what you eat. Growing your own food is a positively empowering experience that connects us to the earth and joins us with collective wisdoms that are thousands of years old – skills and knowledge that nurture you in a way fast food doesn't. Oh, and did I say that you will find yourself out in the garden in your pyjamas at sun-up watching the butterflies flitting through the broad-beans, or thinking that a raindrop on a nasturtium leaf looks just like a pearl?
The food we eat is only as good as the soil it is grown in and it's something, as gardeners, that we do have control over. Even a handful of fresh herbs, grown in a container on a backyard deck, gives a deeply satisfying and nutritional boost to any meal and, I can guarantee, that it will make you happy.
This is where real power lies and returns control to the individual - the economics of happiness.