Technologically, we have come so very far as a species, having made unprecedented strides towards greater efficiency, productivity and pleasure. So why is it that our psychological health has taken such a dive? These radical alternatives claim to be pushing human progress towards better ways of living in the world, prioritising not only efficiency but also human happiness and wellbeing. So we put the question to you: Do you think we as a society would be happier…?
1.If we cut class time and added a whole lot more playtime to our kids’ school days such as the Finnish school system is famous for: a break after every lesson, a later start and shorter school day, infrequent homework, and extensive time to learn through play and life experience. Finland has also made the headlines recently with their plan to do away with school subjects and study phenomena instead, in an interdisciplinary approach that is led by student interest. Radical-sounding to a South African audience, perhaps, but it is being done, and by a country that consistently ranks staggeringly high on literacy and numeracy rates as well as the human happiness index.
2.If we replaced select freeways with “greenways” as a few cities around the world have done already. Many such projects have brought natural beauty into the heart of the concrete jungle. Others have rethought the idea of building unsightly freeways along coastlines or beside rivers and replaced them with parks, cycling and running trails, and playgrounds. More greenery, more opportunity to get out and about and interact with each other and with nature – that’s a winning combination if ever there was one. And it is no surprise that the lucky communities surrounding such redesigned spaces have since become healthier and happier.
3.If we grew food with and for our neighbours, by kick-starting a community garden. Not only does it promise to strengthen relationships amongst community members, but such a garden, beyond food and foliage, can provide essential learning opportunities for youngsters and those who haven’t yet been introduced to the pleasures of gardening. It functions as a therapeutic activity and can fulfil a significant charitable function. It even promises to improve the neighbourhood’s housing values!
4.If we hand-picked our “village” and lived communally, like one of the thousands of cohousing cooperatives and intentional communities the world over. Cohousing allows us to pool financial and other resources with friends, family, or other like-minded people, and share responsibilities for things most of us would like but don’t necessarily have the time or the skillset to achieve ourselves, such as growing our own food, being able to ditch aftercare and have our kids home with a caring child-minder every afternoon, having healthy home-cooked meals every day, and exposing our kids to the variety of sports, hobbies and interests of a mixed community of people who interact daily.
If these sound like they might help us cultivate not only technological advancement but broadscale human happiness too, how about we make ’em less radical and more achievable in our sunny corner of the globe. What are we waiting for? Happiness is but a few steps away!
Date Published: 24 February 2017