In pursuit of happiness

little girl wearing huge sunglasses and smilingASU Now asked several Arizona State University professors about how our relationships with each other, the world around us and ourselves can make us happy. One faculty member they interviewed was Scott Cloutier, assistant professor in the School of Sustainability. At ASU, Cloutier leads the Sustainable Neighborhoods for Happiness project and has developed the “Sustainability Through Happiness Index,” a tool that allows planners to engage with neighborhood residents and collaborate to better understand and implement changes that will create happy places to live. Through the Sustainable Neighborhoods for Happiness project, Cloutier has worked with communities in locales as far-flung as Mexico, Bolivia and Denmark. And while the factors that determine what makes a happy place to live can vary based on culture and economics, there are plenty of similarities: a sense of safety and belonging, environmental design that promotes social interaction and access to open and green spaces. “Some of the happiest places are where people lose their sense of self and instead consider themselves part of something bigger,” he said. “If we think of happiness as coming from having a deep connection with nature and the natural cycle of the world around us, we can start to move toward a more sustainable future.”