I’ve always been fascinated with the pursuit of happiness. First of all, what does happiness even mean? How do you measure that? Why does Denmark rank first as the world’s happiest country? Well, this book answers it all.
World Happiness Report is created by Happiness Research Institute, which monitors a large group of people over a long period of time to see how changes in their lives impact on the different dimension of happiness. This is their 6 dimensions of happiness:
1. Togetherness/ Sense of Community 👨👩👧👧
The English word ‘companion’ originates from the Latin ‘com’ and ‘panis’ which means ‘with whom one shares bread’. Our language is reminders that sharing food also feeds our friendships and bolster our bonds and nourishes the sense of community. When people are asked to think about good memory, it’s a memory of them together with other people- how amazing is that!
How the Danish do it: they have a common parking space at the residential place, to encourage social interaction and impromptu conversation between residents. Co-housing: Each family have their private home, but its clustered around a shared space (garden, communal kitchen, playground and dining area). Help parents and prevent the elderly with the danger of falling into social isolation.
2. Money 💰
There is still a correlation between money and happiness. Richer GDP, people are happier because if you’re in poverty, you need to focus on improving their material condition.
Law of diminishing marginal utility/ ‘hedonic treadmill’: The more we have of something, the less happy we derive from it.
The first slice of cake: Awesome. The fifth slice: not so good. We adapt to the new level of wealth. For the ambitious among us, once we reach our goal, we soon have another to pursue. We continuously raise the bar in order to be happy- the hedonic treadmill
Tip : Take time to enjoy the journey towards your goal while being mindful that achieving your goal will not fulfil you completely.
So perhaps we need to consider how to turn the idea of the pursuit of happiness into the happiness of the pursuit
3. Health 👨⚕️👩⚕️
Health impacts happiness, happiness impacts health. Let’s see how the Danish do it: Cycling. On average, they cycle 1.5km/day, the key is that they don’t see cycling as an exercise, it’s a way of transportation. What can you do? Climb stairs while waiting for your coffee, have a phone call in a nearby park.
Example from Japan: Shirin Yoku, forest bathing/forest therapy, means taking in the forest atmosphere during a leisurely walk. It is a therapy that was developed in Japan that is becoming a cornerstone of preventive health care and healing in Japanese medicine. Simply take a walk into the wild, listen to the wind, watch, take a deep breath to stimulate your senses.
Examples from Bhutan: Students and teachers start and finish their day with a silent moment of ‘brain brushing’- a short mindfulness exercise.
Mindfulness is about being in the moment. Whereas our thoughts usually revolve around the future or the past.
4. Freedom 💃 🕺
No one can be truly happy if do not feel that they are choosing the course of their own life. There are 3 areas that impact on how you spend your time: work, family and on your commute.
How the Danish do it: Danish offices are like morgues after 5 pm. If you work at the weekend, Danes suspect you are a madman working on some secret project. They sure do enjoy the work-life balance.
In work, there are 3 things that take away our freedom: meetings, managers and mail. Solution: implement ‘no-talk Thursday-get uninterrupted time to get stuff that needed full concentration done.
5. Trust 👌🏻
Danes are happy because there’s a high level of trust in society, they see each other as cooperators rather than competitors. School priorities the teaching of empathy, weekly lesson in which the teacher and kids discuss different issues: has there been bullying? Is someone feeling left out?
Also, students are not ranked/ receive formal grades until 8th grade, instead, they have a teacher-parent conversation about the child’s development. Surprisingly, all these do not come at the expense of academic skills! Where Danes still score higher than the UK and US.
6. Kindness 🙏🏻
Find ways to bring happiness to others through act of kindness. Helpers high: feeling good by doing good.
- Leave a gift on someone’s doorstep
- Learn the name of the person at the front desk, greet them by name
- Make 2 lunches and give 1 away
- Give someone a compliment
Kindness is a language which the deaf can hear and the blind can see
Overall, I truly love and enjoy this book (hardcover is a plus for me!). it is easy to read, there are plenty of pictures, diagrams and illustration to enjoy.