With the first ‘World Report on Happiness’ being published last week it seems that happiness is now a serious issue, one which governments are willing to take into consideration alongside gross domestic product.
Turns out that living somewhere sunny doesn’t make you happier… (although I’m just putting it out there that it would DEFINITELY make me happier) Coming out on top was the great land of Vikings, Bacon and The Little Mermaid, yes Denmark officially has the happiest folks, closely followed by Finland and then Norway. So what do these (cold) countries have which we don’t?
Well, it’s more than just good feelings (Scandinavia is notorious for high rates of depression and suicide) The research found that the two most important factors needed for national happiness were: Trust and Equality. This (epic) study showed that people who feel they have the freedom and equality to choose what they want to do are happier than those who feel that their decisions can be changed by someone else. The countries at the top of the list also felt more trust towards other people and their national institutions (hence the fact they don’t mind paying astronomical taxes because they believe in where they’re going.)
As I don’t live in, or have any plans to move to Denmark (I’ve already told you I need sunshine!) I thought I’d see what I could do to increase the happiness in my world, and here’s what I found…
The secret to success?
Leo Bormans is one of the leading psychologists of happiness who has spent years putting together ‘The World Book of Happiness’ says that it is proven that a lot of society’s problems could be helped with a dose of optimism. He’s found that optimists are happier, healthier and more successful.
Whereas pessimists will talk about ’I, the past and problems,’ optimists talk about ‘we, the future and solutions.’ Optimistic people don’t dwell on what’s happened in the past or feel challenged by obstacles in the future.
Bormans insists that the correlation between optimism and happiness is as strong as the one for smoking and lung cancer – isn’t this statement crazy?! Apparently true!?
The positivity percentage
Psychologists have found that 50% of our optimism can’t be altered because it’s entirely based on our genetics (anyone else surprised by this amount?!) A further 10% of our happiness stems from our circumstances e.g. where we live, work etc so if we’re lucky enough to have a house then this is going to increase the good feelings.
However, the final 40% is totally interpretational and entirely in our hands. You can choose how to see the world and as I’ve written about before, you can think yourself happier. Not only that, but happiness is catching! Optimism spreads more optimism and those who look on the brighter side of life give double the weighting to happy events than pessimists do. (Forget ‘misery loves company’, go find someone chipper and let their magic rub off on you!)
What Leo Bormans has found is that it’s not about instant gratification but long lasting satisfaction – so put down that spliff and send that naked beauty packing. Haha.
To get ramped up in the satisfaction stakes we need to learn to value our: relationships, health, freedom and work (apparently we need structure and meaning through work… again, I beg to differ but ok.)
Money can’t buy you happiness
Although money cannot be written out totally as a factor for happiness (wealthier nations out scored poorer African nations considerably) it’s been found that having an excess of money leads to increases jealousy and egocentricity. It seems the more money you have the less you are able to except life small pleasures (so that unexpected cup of tea or marshmallows or other random nice gesture falls on to a rich dead soul)
Half empty or half full?
And so, the eternal question: is the glass half empty or half full? The solution: change the glass. (Shut up, this is not a cop out!)
By changing the glass to one which can be filled with water we learn to be grateful for what we have, and the strengths and experiences we’ve already got. While pessimists focus on who they are, optimists focus their energies on who they might become and what goals they need to set to reach it.
We were all a little more optimistic then we could create a more collective happiness … which would filter into society and then perhaps we could give Denmark a run for its money.
Next week I’m definitely trying something new.. I’ve had a couple of weeks off the crazy so it’s about time I got out there again.
Always lovely to hear from you as always!