The “happiest city in America” is getting a little bit happier if a Lafayette woman has anything to say about it.
The woman intent on injecting even more joy into Lafayette, one person at a time, is Marlene King. She’s on a mission to launch in the Deep South happiness clubs similar to those started in the northeast in 1999.
And what better place for one in the South than in a city that’s received national attention as America’s happiest city, located in a state that had one governor who penned the sunny “You Are My Sunshine” and another who famously proclaimed “Every Man A King.”
“There are happiness clubs in different parts of the world and northern states but none in the southern states,” King said. “When I saw that, I said that we needed to start one in a southern state. And then I thought, ‘Why not make it Louisiana? Why not make it Lafayette?’ ”
She refers to her effort as the Happiness Injection Project and says the mission is to “promote the benefits of well-being through our thoughts, emotions and spiritual values.”
The basic idea, she says, is to spread happiness and joy in the community.
King said she calls her effort a project rather than a club, because clubs require dues and fees for people to participate.
“We call this a project because it does not cost anything other than their presence and a smile,” King said. “If they don’t have a smile, that’s OK; we will provide one.”
Happiness clubs were first started in Fairfield, Connecticut, by Lionel R. Ketchian in 1999. They can now be found in many states, including New York, New Jersey, Nevada and Florida and in other parts of the world, such as Israel, France, Switzerland, South Africa, India, Pakistan, Scotland and China.
Ketchian has been profiled by The New York Times, Connecticut Post and other publications. A 2010 Connecticut Post article said Ketchian has a professional background in printing and sales but has read thousands of books on psychology, self-help and personal growth.
“Happiness is a decision,” Ketchian told the Post, adding that he made a conscious decision to lead a truly happy life.
Leading a truly happy life, the happiness guru said, means making certain choices so as to create “an inner state of well-being that enables you to profit from your highest thoughts, intelligence, wisdom, awareness, common sense, emotions, health and spiritual values.”
It’s a philosophy King’s trying to share in the Happiness Injection Project’s meetings, the most recent of which drew about 17 people last week to a meeting room at Lafayette’s Main Library. The group welcomed guest speaker Don Short, a professional counselor from After Hours Counseling in Lafayette.
Short led a presentation titled “Happiness in Relationships.” It touched on a variety of experiences that can inhibit a person’s ability to embrace a happy life — such as sexual abuse, mental disorders, trauma in infancy and emotional factors.
“Those experiences in our childhood define us as a person,” Short said. “I know what happiness is. I know what sadness is. I choose to be happy.”
The Happiness Injection Project will meet again on May 12 for a discussion by Sharon O’Neil, described as a professional spiritual director, for a talk titled “For the Soul’s Sake: Embrace Spirituality.”
King said that’s among 33 topics she has written on to help people understand and learn what it means to be happy.
“We want people to understand that we should have spirituality for happiness,” King said. “Spirituality does not mean religion; spirituality means a deep sense of healthy aliveness and interconnectedness.”