How to Find Joy, According to World Happiness Summit CEO Karen Guggenheim

Udi Moses
It’s only March and the nation's stress level is already at a record high. Many people could benefit from learning about positive psychology, the scientific study of what makes humans content and how to sustain that feeling of fulfillment. From March 16 through 18 at the second-annual World Happiness Summit, scientists, educators, entrepreneurs, athletes, and artists will present their research and share their experiences in living happy and thriving lives.

“Happiness propels success, excellence, creativity, and mental and physical health,” says Karen Guggenheim, founder and CEO of the World Happiness Summit (WOHASU). “Our purpose is to unite people from all over the world and bring them together in an experiential event where they can listen to the world’s leading experts in [positive psychology]... They will present their science with actionable tools so people can find a way to implement it in their everyday lives.”

Each morning of the three-day summit will begin with an hour-and-a-half yoga and meditation session. The day is then organized into presentations by keynote speakers — such as lecturer and author Tal Ben-Shahar, Google X chief business officer Mo Gawdat, and Olympian Allison Wagner — and breakout sessions on various wellness topics. Experts will discuss happiness and technology, nutrition, creativity, workplace happiness, parenting, relationships, and global happiness. To help attendees digest and personalize all of the information, WOHASU will group them into “tribes,” where a facilitator will guide each team in organizing and customizing the knowledge for personal application.

“Sustainable change works best in a group setting,” Guggenheim says. “When Monday rolls around, you’ve had a fun weekend and you can actually begin to practice what you learned on Monday morning and throughout the week.”

She adds, “A conference on happiness should be fun and happy, not clinical, boring, or cold,” so the experience won’t be entirely academic. Friday, filmmaker Stefan Sagmeister will discuss and screen The Happy Film. The Friday and Saturday sessions will also include musical performances by Zoel and Guitars Over Guns, respectively.

WOHASU has donated tickets to Miami-Dade and Broward public schools, including Marjory Stoneman Douglas High. “We are faced with a huge challenge, tragedy, and a problem... We can start looking for solutions that are different and positive... [We can] engage in a dialogue that looks at the problems in a holistic way without blaming each other. How do we come together as a community and decide to do something different? By looking at the positive,” Guggenheim says.

But the price to find happiness is steep: $599 for a three-day preregistration special and $799 for regular registration, according to WOHASU's website. Even a student pass costs $199. So New Times asked Guggenheim to give some free advice that people can use now:

1. Remember what you are grateful for: “It’s hard to be unhappy when you are being grateful... Even if it sounds trivial, write three things you are grateful for and, if possible, describe them. You rewire your brain by connecting to these experiences. Put a piece of paper next to the nightstand and write three things you are grateful for [every night].”

2. Tell others you are grateful for them: “Twice a week, send an email or text that commends someone else. ‘Thank you for facilitating that meeting... or helping me not stress out when I was going on vacation.’ We don’t stop to do that. If something is late, we’ll send 50 emails. We inadvertently reinforce negativity and not positivity.”

3. Move your body, and do one thing at a time: “Engage in physical movement. Turn on the radio... and go crazy dancing. It’s fantastic. Go for a walk. Do not eat in front of your computer at work — you need to take breaks. Science proves that our brains are not meant to multitask.”

Finally, if you are struggling with depression, suicidal thoughts or gestures, or you just want to figure out what’s going on with your mental health, these free resources can help: National Suicide Prevention Lifeline (call 800-273-8255 or live-chat 24 hours a day), Switchboard 211 (dial 211 or 305-631-4211 24 hours a day), and the National Alliance on Mental Illness (NAMI) Miami-Dade County (call 305-665-2540). Always remember that you are not alone and you matter.

World Happiness Summit. Friday, March 16, through Sunday, March 18, at the Shalala Center at the University of Miami, 1330 Miller Dr., Coral Gables. Tickets cost $199 to $1,299 via
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Minhae Shim Roth is an essayist, journalist, and academic.
Contact: Minhae Shim Roth