On the Happiness scale, some recent researchers travelled to some of the worlds reportedly happiest places such as Denmark, Singapore, North Easter Mexico, Cuba and a little pocket of joy called Obispo California, somewhere between LA and San Francisco. What they found from speaking to people on the streets, sociologists and other experts in places where residents are the lightest of heart. Here are a few pieces to the puzzle of human joy.
- Stop grumbling about high taxes. They say it’s OK to complain but make it brief. Because there is something counterintuitive about creating an environment of equality between government, and the classes. Denmark is one of the world’s wealthier nations per capita and a Happiness Superstar as the top-ranked country for well being according to Gallop World Poll survey. Yet those who make more than $70,000 per year pay 60% taxes. The Danes would tell you that their happiness is not about aspiring to achieve world dominance and accumulate more wealth. It’s about a satisfaction that comes from living a good life with good healthcare, public education, and huge family support services. They enjoy very generous parental leave when they have children. And they have the lowest division between rich and poor and almost half of the countries budget goes to leveling the playing field. They feel economic equality contributes to a sense of security.
- Knock off work at 5pm and take all your holidays. Danes generally work 37 hours a week. Remembers studies show once income rises above $60,000 per year, more dough fails to boost long-term happiness.
- Appreciate your freedom. Most people in democratic countries agree that the idea of being able to vote in your leadership is one factor in your sense of freedom. The ability to get to buy your own homes, cars etc. It wasn’t until 2011 residents of Cuba got to able to do just that. Up till then, all you saw on Cuban streets are cars from the 50’s. Cubans will now be able to get a mortgage to purchase their own homes as well. Point being get out and vote!
- Support Bike lanes and walka-bility. Communities that are easy to get around on foot and bike promote greater well-being because healthy people are happy.
- Light Candles. Again in Denmark when the days are shorter, Danes do what is called “Hygge”. This is how they cope with darker days, they light candles. Hygge means the art of relaxing in a warm and cozy environment. Here in Canada we call this hibernation. Perhaps our hockey rinks could use a few more candles.
- Prohibit drive-through restaurants. In San Luis Obispo, California, they have banned all drive through restaurants and initially they wanted to cut back on car congestion. What has happened is the town got healthier and decreased weight related illnesses. Remember healthier people are happier.
- Limit shopping hours. Like the drive through restaurant ban, the effect of not having 24 hour shopping has allowed people to pursue other interests. Not that any politician would have the backbone to suggest this one. We all know one gets a short lived high from making a purchase but that soon dissipates. The point here is to get back to your hobbies and interests. A key factor to your long-term happiness.
- Live in a neighborhood where it is quite and you feel safe. When we feel safe, we get out more and I know you big city folks tell me that the street noise does not bother you, but humans don’t adapt well to noise. Your happiness is chipped away with the constant background of irritating noise.
- Call a friend over for a glass of wine. This one’s a no brainer. Life’s problems sometimes just need a good friend and glass of wine.
Cheers! Article adapted from October 3rd, 2010 Globe and Mail