Dawn McMullan and Gorethy Nabushosi with some of the students in the Congo Restoration sewing school.

Restoring Women’s Lives in the Congo

When Dawn McMullan visited Africa in 2007, she never dreamed it would change her life in so many ways — or change the lives of others. “I went to Rwanda on a trip with my church and saw things I didn’t know existed,” says Dawn, a freelance writer and editor in Dallas, Texas. The country had been ravaged by civil war in the mid-90s; more than 1 million people died in Rwanda and 6 million were killed in the Democratic Republic of Congo. “I’d seen deep poverty [on other mission trips], but I hadn’t seen a lack of infrastructure where basic human needs were just unreachable.” That experience was still fresh in her mind when she met Gorethy Nabushosi less than a year later. Gorethy, a refugee who had fled the Congo in 1997 and raised her six children in Dallas, had visited her home country to see how she could help. A decade after the genocide, she saw a system that was completely broken. [caption id="attachment_19859" align="aligncenter" width="225"] Gorethy Nabushosi with twin fifth grade students from the Congo Restoration sewing school.[/caption] “She went to a village and basically found a lot of orphans and took in all 30 kids,” Dawn says. “Then she called her husband and said, ‘I need $1,000 to figure out what to do with these kids. I can’t leave them.’ And that’s how it began.” Unsure of where to turn, Gorethy returned to Dallas and reached out to a Methodist church for help. The church connected her with Dawn, who immediately jumped on board. “When Gorethy came into my life, I was already somewhat familiar with the situation and had this great, inexplicable passion for it,” Dawn says. “From there, we started what became Congo Restoration.” Changing Africa One Woman at a Time The first order of business was to secure a home with caretakers for the 30 orphans Gorethy had taken in. Then, they focused on empowering women through education. In 2010, they started a sewing school that provided girls with a skill and a six-month education. In the Congo, girls and women are usually sent to work in the fields; Gorethy knew that offering them an education would be life changing. “Not only does that give them a way to make money that they didn’t have before, but it also raises them up in society,” Dawn explains. “They’re no longer the lowest ranks of society; they are respected women, because they have a business. They can send their kids to school. They’re in charge of their financial destiny. And that is not a thing in the Democratic Republic of Congo that a woman would usually be in charge of.” Initially, it was a hard sell to convince parents to take their daughters away from working in the fields to teach them a skill because it meant the girl wouldn’t be bringing home money during that time. Sometimes, Dawn says, they had to offer the family things of value like soap or salt to seal the deal. But the sewing school has now graduated more than 800 women, supplying each one with a sewing machine and a sewing kit with everything they need to start their own business. Creating a Brighter Future “Now when we're about to graduate a class, hundreds of women line up wanting to be in that next class,” Dawn says. “Their families cry when they get their diploma. It’s a shift in how the community sees these women.” She also sees dramatic changes in the women who attend the school: “We teach them a lot of things in those six months. Sewing is one of them, but there are other things we teach them about how valuable they are. And by the time they graduate, you can see that in their eyes.” Congo Restoration continues changing the lives of families in the Congo, but Dawn says she is the one who has gained so much from the work. “When I go to Congo, when I’m doing things for the schools, I get so much thanks from the people there,” she says. “But they have no idea how much they’re changing me, how much they’re teaching me. I wish everyone could find the one thing they can do like that that lights them up. “If everybody did something with a passion to do good in the world, there’s just no way the world’s not benefiting from all that good energy.” [caption id="attachment_19865" align="aligncenter" width="300"] Gorethy Nabushosi with recent graduates of Congo Restoration's sewing school.[/caption]
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Freshly cut flowers.

Doing Good Feels Good For All

One of the unexpected positive changes of the past three years is that people around the world have become more willing to help others — and that is raising our happiness level overall. The 2023 World Happiness Report, released on March 20 by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, not only unveiled the latest rankings of the world’s happiest countries but also looked at long-term happiness trends in a post-pandemic era. The report shows that, despite the many overlapping crises of the past three years, people around the world are showing just how resilient they are. In fact, life satisfaction overall has returned to pre-pandemic levels. This year’s report took a deep dive on altruism and pro-social behavior, and found that for the second consecutive year, everyday acts of kindness have been at a higher level than they were before the pandemic. During a press conference about the report’s findings on Monday, Shawn A. Rhoads, postdoctoral research fellow at Icahn School of Medicine Mount Sinai, explained both the cause and effect of such altruism. Rhoads co-authored the report’s chapter on altruism with Georgetown University Professor Abigail A. Marsh and defined altruism as “any costly behavior that improves the welfare of another person and does not bring any tangible benefit.” This can include things like giving money to strangers or charity, volunteering, and donating blood, bone marrow and organs. In the post-pandemic world, such forms of giving are on the rise, the study authors noted. The Joy of Giving “More people donated to charities, committed to volunteer work and offered help to strangers,” Rhoads said. And, while the benefit to the recipient of the good deed seems obvious, its effects go far beyond that, the research found. Recipients report greater life satisfaction, more positive emotion, and less negative emotion as the beneficiary of such kindness. They also may have feelings of gratitude that leads them to pay it forward and help others in the future. However, the person doing the good deed gets just as much of a dopamine reward. “People’s happiness increases after helping strangers,” Rhoads said, noting that people who have higher levels of positive emotion are more likely to help others, while at the same time, they boost their positive emotions — creating an upward spiral of happiness. The report explains that stress and fear often motivate people to take action, and in challenging times, that can emerge as helping others: “People with the most stress show higher altruism,” Rhoads said. “That could help explain the surge of altruism during COVID.” The Benefits for Bystanders Even observing acts of kindness can have a positive effect, Rhoads said. Research shows that witnessing altruism increases observers’ mood and energy, motivates them to do good things for others, and increases their desire to become a better person. It results in what the report calls “moral elevation,” which encourages them to adopt a more altruistic approach in their own lives. Rhoads said the increases in well-being around the globe that were seen during the pandemic and in the difficult times that have followed are “almost certainly” linked to the global altruism that has emerged. “This leaves me optimistic for the future,” he said.
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2023 World Happiness Report

Finland Remains the Happiest Place on Earth

Finland was named the Happiest Country in the world for the sixth consecutive year in this year’s World Happiness Report. The report, published annually by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, ranks countries according to national happiness and reports on specific areas of happiness and well-being. The report was released today in conjunction with the International Day of Happiness. As has happened throughout the 11 years of publishing the report, Nordic countries ranked high when it comes to happiness, with five of them landing in the top 10. The 10 happiest countries, according to this year’s report, are: Finland Denmark Iceland Israel Netherlands Sweden Norway Switzerland Luxembourg New Zealand The United States fared slightly better than it had in 2022, moving up one spot to No. 15, and Canada regained some of its footing, climbing from No. 15 last year to No. 13. However, the United Kingdom dropped two spots from No. 17 in 2022 to No. 19 this year. Both Ukraine and Russia again landed at the lower end of the rankings, with Ukraine at No. 92 and Russia at No. 70. Report authors noted that Ukraine’s well-being suffered less in 2022 than it did in 2014 when Russia annexed Crimea. Professor Jan-Emmanuel DeNeve, director of the Wellbeing Research Center at the University of Oxford, notes that while Ukraine has taken a hit in terms of happiness in the wake of the Russian invasion, it has fared better “thanks in part to the extraordinary rise in fellow feelings across Ukraine,” which has been evidenced by the help from strangers and the amount of donations the country has received. “The Russian invasion has forged Ukraine into a nation,” he observes. Once again, Lebanon and Afghanistan ranked lowest in terms of happiness. Measuring Happiness The World Happiness Report relies on six key factors to evaluate happiness: social support, income, health, freedom, generosity and absence of corruption. One significant finding from this year’s report is that levels of life satisfaction around the world have returned to where they were in pre-pandemic years. “Average happiness and our country rankings, for emotions as well as life evaluations, have been remarkably stable during the three COVID-19 years,” says John F. Helliwell, a professor at the University of British Columbia and editor of the report. “Even during these difficult years, positive emotions have remained twice as prevalent as negative ones, and feelings of positive social support [are] twice as strong as those of loneliness.” Perhaps related to that widespread return of positive emotions is the report’s findings that, for a second year in a row, acts of everyday kindness have exceeded pre-pandemic levels. That includes such things as helping strangers, donating to charities and volunteering.  And that’s significant, according to Professor Lara Aknin, director of the Helping and Happiness Lab of Simon Fraser University. “Acts of kindness have been shown to both lead to and stem from greater happiness,” she says.
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#HappyActs Happiness Wall.

Spread More Happiness in Your Community This March

With global unhappiness on the rise and more people experiencing feelings of worry, stress, loneliness, and sadness, it’s clear that we all need to pitch in and to do our part to make the world a happier place.   Since 2013, Live Happy has been celebrating the International Day of Happiness (IDOH) on March 20 with a month-long #HappyActs campaign to bring awareness to happiness and well-being. This year’s #HappyActs theme is all about building stronger communities because improving the places where we live, work and play benefits us all. Community can have many definitions but at its core, it is people helping people. When we all work together, we can enjoy a more harmonious life. Whether it’s checking in on an elderly neighbor, cleaning up your local park, or volunteering your time at a local animal shelter, we all have the responsibility to make a positive difference. Every act of kindness has the chance to not only make the beneficiaries happy, but also the people who perform these acts. That’s a winning combination. During the month of March, Live Happy is calling on all Happy Activists to go to livehappy.com/happyacts to learn how to participate in this year’s IDOH 2023 celebration. Here are just a few things you can do make sure you are spreading happiness to those in your community. Host Your Own Happiness Wall At, LiveHappy.com, you can find several ideas on how to create your own Happiness Wall, download a printable Happiness Wall that can be posted almost anywhere, or order Poster Happiness wall from the Live Happy store. It doesn’t matter what type of wall you create, just as long as you register it with us here. Join thousands of Happy Activists around the world by hosting Happiness Walls in public viewing areas, including parks, shopping malls and businesses. Classrooms and offices can be also great places for a Happiness Wall. Celebrating IDOH 2023 is a fun way to share happiness with your family, friends, co-workers, neighbors, and community members. Make #HappyActs a Happy Habit All Month Long While acts of kindness should be positive habits practiced all year long, Live Happy is encouraging all Happy Activists to download their very own free #HappyActs calendar with a different act of kindness idea for each day of the month. That’s 31 #HappyActs all dedicated to making your community stronger. You can plant some flowers or vegetables in your community garden, leave a positive review for your favorite neighborhood business or just give someone a sincere compliment. These #HappyActs will not only make other happy, but your happiness will increase too. Don’t forget to let us know through your social media by using #LiveHappy and #HappyActs.
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Woman giving present wrapped in white paper with red heart

Live Happy’s Holiday Campaign Celebrates the True Gift of Giving

Now that the holidays are here, it’s important to remember what the giving season is all about.  Prosocial acts, which are intentional behaviors that benefits others, truly is a gift that is given and received. While the person on the receiving end may be impacted in a positive way, the giver also receives those emotional rewards that make us feel good. These acts of kindness, no matter how big our small, create positive connections between people for a better society because the good cheer will carry on months, to even years later. According to science, there are plenty of other positive reasons why giving is good for you, including benefits to your physical and mental health. Research shows that giving—whether it is time, money, or gifts—contributes to our happiness and well-being, by: Lowering blood pressure Boosting self-esteem Reducing effects of depression and anxiety Decreasing levels of stress Increasing overall life satisfaction 12 Days of Giving During the month of December, we are embarking on a new kindness campaign in the holiday spirit of giving and it’s our Live Happy followers who will receive. Our 12 Days of Giveaways kicks off 12/02/2022 and each day is a new opportunity to receive a gift donated from one of our participating sponsors. We have partnered with brands who think and act like us with the greater good in mind. These brands not only offer great products but also have missions with a higher purpose of making the world a happier place. Here’s How to Win To enter Live Happy’s 12 Days of Giveaways, just follow us on Instagram @mylivehappy. Each day will be a new chance to win simply by liking that day’s post. All you have to do is follow Live Happy and the sponsor featured in the Instagram post. Then, just tag someone you know in the comments and that’s it. Live Happy staff will randomly select a winner and contact you to let you know you’ve won. Here is a list of our wonderful partners during the 12 Days of Giveaways: Neora, Bold Made, Emotion Wonderland, Type K Studio, Just Made, Big Shifts 31-Day Kindness , Yipes!, Taco vs. Burrito, Wholly Guacamole and (of course) Live Happy. So, be sure keep an eye out on December 02 on Live Happy’s Instagram so you don’t miss a chance to win one these great gifts. Happy Holidays!
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Painted Pumpkins

Paint Your Positivity on a Pumpkin for All to See

Decorating pumpkins for Halloween is one of the more time-honored traditions associated with the holiday known for its sweets and treats. According to Irish lore, rooted vegetables carved with scary faces were created to ward off evil spirits. When Irish immigrants first made their journey to America, the Jack-o-Latern was one of the many traditions that came with them. The only difference was the pumpkin, a food native to North America, proved to be a better fit for the ghoulish grins than a potato or beet. For this week’s #HalloweenHappyActs, we figured there was no way not to make decorating pumpkins part of the fun. Much like our #HappyActs campaign during the month of March—where we encourage people paint a message of kindness on a rock for someone to find—painting positive messages on pumpkins is a festive way to incorporate acts of kindness into the Halloween festivities. Instead of dressing up your pumpkins as witches, ghosts, or zombies this year, we encourage you to try creating messages of kindness and happiness. That way, when trick-or-treaters or passers-by see your happy creations, they will be left with feelings of joy that they can spread to others. Taking part in traditions, such as decorating pumpkins for Halloween, are a great opportunity to spend time with friends and family, increasing our social interactions. These types of activities increase our sense of purpose, activate those happy hormones that make us feel good, and give us strength in our personal connections that let’s us know that we are not alone and we are all part of something bigger. It’s also a chance to tap into your creativity while spreading messages of joy to others. Research suggests that being more creative makes us happier. This is true for both children and adults, but kids are more likely to use their creativity more often. So, ignite the creative fire from within and also inspire in others that giving makes you much happier than getting. Science suggests that prosocial actions, such as acts of kindness, have a greater benefit to your overall well-being when practiced often and intentionally. This is not only good for your own personal happiness, but the kindness makes others happier too. Help us spread more joy this October by taking part in our #HalloweenHappyActs campaign.
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Smiling black spider and cat with orange background.

Introducing Halloween Happy Acts

Halloween is one of our favorite holidays here at Live Happy, and this year we’ve found a way to celebrate it all month long! If you’re familiar with our #HappyActs campaign, you already know that we love celebrating small acts of kindness. This year, we’re introducing our #HalloweenHappyActs, encouraging you to share some joy—even if it’s a little bit spooky. Each week, we’re introducing a different #HalloweenHappyAct and we not only want you to join in on the fun but want you to invite your friends and family to do the same. When you complete your #HalloweenHappyAct, share it on social media (be sure to tag us!) and tag two people who you’re challenging to also do a #HalloweenHappyAct. Plus, we are giving away new Live Happy swag to those who participate and tag us on social media! Here’s what we’ll be doing throughout October to celebrate… Week 1: Donate blood. Giving blood has several surprising effects; not only is it good for your health (it is shown to lower your risk for heart attacks) but it’s an easy way to help others in the community. And people who engage in their community tend to live longer and enjoy better health. Week 2: Trick or Treat for UNICEF. Add some meaning to Halloweening by raising funds instead of collecting candy. Donations to the annual campaign will help families who need it most, including children in and around Ukraine and in East Africa. Week 3: Paint a pumpkin. Did you know that doing something creative is good for your heart as well as your mind? Creative activities let you “reset” and relieves stress—while sending feel-good hormones to your brain. (You can boost that happiness effect by giving that pumpkin to someone else!) Week 4: Wrap someone in love. Give someone a hug—it’s good for both of you! Research shows that hugging lowers your stress hormone cortisol and can decrease your blood pressure and even strengthen your immune system. So hug it out!! Week 5: To conclude our #HalloweenHappyActs we have two challenges: Bake a healthy treat for your office or your child’s class. Create a Halloween card for a neighbor. Both are great ways to show others you care about them and giving something to others triggers a part of the brain associated with contentment and the reward cycle. So not only are you making someone else’s day better, you are improving your own well-being at the same time! Let’s make this the happiest Halloween yet!
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2022 Happy Acts Art Contest Winners

2022 #HappyActs Art Contest Winners!

To celebrate the International Day of Happiness, kids from around the world showed off their creativity in the 2022 #HappyActs Art Contest. The theme was to illustrate what happiness looks like to them. Thank you to everyone who participated and congratulations to the top 3 winners! 1st Place Brianna. Age 9. 2nd Place Madisynn. Age 15. 3rd Place Kristina. Age 7.
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Live Happy Smiley Face Cupcakes for Happy Acts

Let’s Make the World a Kinder Place With Acts of Happiness

In celebration of the International Day of Happiness (IDOH), Live Happy encourages you to spread more happiness for 31 days during the month of March. Every year we ask you to join us in celebrating the International Day of Happiness (IDOH) on March 20, by making the world a happier place through our 2022 #HappyActs campaign. This year is no different, but the need for more acts of kindness may be more important than ever. For more than two years now, the world has suffered great losses, felt more stress, and experienced more isolation than any time in recent history. With positive mindsets, attitudes and actions, we can turn hopelessness into hopefulness and helplessness into helpfulness. This year’s HappyActs campaign is focused on making kindness the new normal, especially on social media. This isn’t just an act of kindness, but an act of hope that collectively we can change the future to be a more positive and happier place for all. In this current state of the world where it seems no one can agree on anything and polarization and conflict seem to be on the rise, now is time to change the tone to express kindness and love so we can start to heal. We’ll never all agree on everything all the time, but we can start to have conversations where we understand each other instead of pushing each other apart. We are urging every one of our Live Happy Happy Activists to use your social networking platforms to be shiny beacons of happiness. During the month of March (and beyond), we encourage you to share your favorite meme or quote, post an inspirational article, or give a healthcare worker a much-needed shout out. Don’t forget to use the hashtag #HappyActs to let other Happy Activists know you are out there fighting the ‘good’ fight. Perform More Acts of Kindness Every year, we use the whole month of March to bring awareness to the power of acts of kindness. Doing something nice and helpful for others not only makes the receiver happier, but it also increases giver’s happiness as well. We are not talking about grand gestures either. In fact, it’s the little things the can spread more happiness because you can do more of them for more people. On HappyActs.org, you can download and print our 31 Ideas for #HappyActs calendar for fun and easy positive acts of kindness that you can perform and share every day of the month. For example, you can send a text to a friend that you know needs a little encouragement or buy a family a delicious meal through your go-to food delivery app. Whatever you do, share it with us and the world on your social media using #LiveHappy and #HappyActs. Happiness Walls are Back! Since 2013, we have been creating Happiness Walls to celebrate the International Day of Happiness.  Since the pandemic, this activity became more difficult because of social distancing rules. Not to be deterred, instead of not hosting our famous Happiness Walls, we decided to pivot in the name of happiness. Now you can host your very own wall almost anywhere you want. Just go to HappyActs.org to download, print, hang up and fill out your digital happiness wall. This is a great opportunity to invite co-workers, community members or local school to participate in the IDOH celebration. Kindness Wins! This year, Live Happy is hosting our #HappyActs Art Contest benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. From now until March 6, 2022, kids 16 and under can show off their creativity by submitting their own personal artwork for a chance to have their design featured on an official #HappyActs Water Bottle. This year’s design theme is: What does happiness look like to you? The team at Live Happy will choose the Grand Prize design and announce the winner on Tuesday, March 8, 2022. Just send your submission to happyacts@livehappy.com and be sure to follow all our social media networks to see if you are a winner. All submitted artwork must be an original design, which does not contain any copyrighted material. The design must be submitted as a scanned drawing, PNG, JPEG, Photoshop or Illustrator file. All entry emails should have the subject line “2022 HappyActs Art Contest – [child’s name]” and include the child’s full name, address, telephone number and age. The 2022 #HappyActs Water Bottle will be sold on the Live Happy online store and a portion of the proceeds will be benefiting Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Happiness for All At Live Happy, we are dedicated to promoting and sharing authentic happiness through education, integrity, gratitude and community awareness. Our mission is to impact the world by bringing the happiness movement to a personal level and inspiring people to engage in purpose-driven, healthy, meaningful lives. We can’t do it alone, so we need your help by making 2022 the kindest, happiest year ever!
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2022 Happy Acts Art Contest by Live Happy

2022 #HappyActs Art Contest

In celebration of the International Day of Happiness, Live Happy invites youth from around the world to share what happiness looks like to them. Between February 11, 2022 and March 6, 2022 Live Happy is accepting art submissions for our 8th annual #HappyActs campaign to celebrate the International Day of Happiness on March 20, 2022. Kids from around the world can show off their creativity by entering the 2022 #HappyActs Art Contest. The theme is to illustrate what happiness looks like to them. One winning design will become the official 2022 #HappyActs Water Bottle. The winners will be announced on Friday, April 1, 2022. Grand Prize – This design will be featured on the official 2022 #HappyActs Water Bottle. The designer will receive four free water bottles and have their winning design displayed on livehappy.com. 2nd Place – The designer will receive a Live Happy hoodie and have their design submission displayed on livehappy.com. 3rd Place – The designer will receive a Live Happy beanie and have their design submission displayed on livehappy.com. The 2022 #HappyActs Water Bottle will be sold on store.livehappy.com and a portion of the proceeds will benefit Big Brothers Big Sisters of America. Rules and Requirements Theme of design: What does happiness look like to you? Must be age 16 and under to enter. Required dimensions: 4" x 2 ½" One design per entry. Design will appear on the front of the water bottle. Must be an original design, which does not contain any copyright material. Designs submitted MUST NOT INCLUDE any obscene or foul language or designs. Any entries in violation of this rule will be disqualified. The design must be submitted as a scanned drawing, PNG, JPEG, Photoshop or Illustrator file. We reserve the right to make adjustments to the winning design. All entry emails should be sent to happyacts@livehappy.com with the subject line “2022 HappyActs Art Contest – [child’s name]." Please include the child’s full name, address, telephone number and age. Entries become the property of Live Happy, LLC.
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