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New Year, New Spirit? Where to Start?

It’s still January, but your New Year’s resolutions may have already become a distant memory. Some of us await a divine intervention, while others just can’t seem to maintain positive change. Perhaps if we look closer, we’ll find that the key to lasting resolve is right in front of us.

During the holiday season it is generally expected for people to “be nicer.” We can all appreciate how the “Christmas Spirit” influences us in making better decisions and behaving more considerately. Sometimes, Christmas is the divine intervention that allows us to be kinder to one another. It’s a time of year when we become witnesses of how small actions brighten a person’s self-esteem.

However, when the holidays are over we tend to fall right back into the abysm of routine and the spirit of solidarity is lost until the following year.

If we can have high spirits throughout the month of December, shouldn’t we be able to be positive all year round? Every day presents an opportunity for us to help someone else. It is not only about making big global change or saving someone’s life, but about performing small positive actions that start a chain of positivity.

There are many occasions in which we witness someone else’s social consciousness, and it is in those moments that we generally feel inspired to help others. Examples of such small positive actions are infinite. They range from opening the door for the person behind you, to stopping the bus for a student that is running late for class, to just smiling to a stranger and being a good listener.

Being considerate to one another gains substantial importance in an era of detachment, where we act as strangers rather than possible friends. While you may not think that opening a door for someone else could cause a substantial change in the world, it could still positively affect that person’s life, and their life is one of the billions of worlds that exist on Earth.

When people know each other they tend to become more invested in the lives of others, generating a positive atmosphere that is beneficial for everyone. Demystifying the concept of people as strange, alien-like entities could in turn generate a feeling of community.

The last few years has seen a rise in community building ideas and frameworks to improve livelihoods. Development Studies students would know that community-based development has increased its relevance in the past few decades. However, the ever-present debate on how to define development or how to improve livelihoods has taken a new turn. There is a growing dissatisfaction with using Gross Domestic Product (GDP) as the sole indicator of development.

Many alternatives have been envisioned, one of the most interesting being the Gross National Happiness (GNH) indicator coined by the King of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, in 1972. Many have contested this indicator, as it is indeed a challenge to quantify or even define happiness, but much advancement has been made in the study and research of happiness since then.

One of them has a very local nature: Dr. Mark Arvin, a Trent University professor of economics, has recently created the International Journal of Happiness and Development, which is set to succeed in being a leading actor in the study and research of happiness.

Human beings are social entities, and a positive social environment is highly beneficial to our development. Small changes can be made every day through a greater sense of community and human connectedness. Creating this social atmosphere is up to us, but being considerate and creating a chain of positive actions is a great place to start.

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