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Habits of the World’s Happiest People

Happiness is more than an emotion: it’s is a pursuit and a state of mind

“Our survival is based on hope—hope for something good: happiness. Because of that, I always conclude that the purpose of life is happiness.” -His Holiness The Dalai Lama

  • The State of Happiness
    • 48% of our happiness is inherited
    • 40% of our happiness is controlled by isolated events
    • 40% of our capacity for happiness is within our power to change
    • 34% increased chance of becoming happy if next door neighbor becomes happy

Factors Affecting Happiness

  • Economic
    • Income
    • Employment
  • Social
    • Education
    • Family life
  • Health
    • Mental
    • Physical

Psychologists say a good life needs a mix of

  • A sense of purpose
  • Playfulness
  • Happiness
  • Occasional sadness
  • Psychological flexibility
  • Autonomy
  • Mastery
  • Belonging

Happiness can be hard to measure, but some places still produce more happiness per capita than others

Measuring Happiness:

The World’s Happiest People

  • The 2017 World Happiness report, commissioned by the UN, rates the 10 happiest countries based on 6 factors
    • GDP per capita
    • Healthy years of life expectancy
    • Social support (having someone to count on)
    • Trust (lack of corruption in government and business)
    • Freedom to make life decisions
    • Generosity
  • And the Grinners Are…
  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Finland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia & Sweden
  • Why Norwegians Are the Happiest
    • Wealth
      • 4th wealthiest country in the world based on GDP per capita
    • Dark, cold climate
      • Survival in this climate requires greater mutual support, bringing communities together
    • Community spirit
      • Long-standing family relationships based on strong sense of identity
    • Economic security & benefits
      • Free education through the university level
      • Family allowance benefits for children

America’s Happiness

  • The report puts the U.S. at #19 out of 155 countries
  • Several factors are decreasing Americans’ happiness:
  • Decreasing social support
    • Less frequent helping behavior
    • Rising mortality rates caused by health-related issues
  • Lower sense of personal freedom
    • Lacking transparency in national surveillance efforts
    • Frequent frisking and body pat downs
  • Lower donations
    • Stark income inequality
    • Deteriorating educational system
  • Greater perception of corruption in government and business
    • Lower measures of social trust among ethnic communities
    • Lack of transparency in political campaign financing
  • It’s not all bad for Americans
  • Say they are happy
    • 2017: 33%
    • 2016: 31%
  • Rarely worry about their health
    • 2017: 53%
    • 2016: 48%
  • Hold spiritual beliefs as a positive guiding force
    • 2017: 71%
    • 2016: 66%
  • 86% have positive relationships with their family members
  • 72% are optimistic about their future

“Spread love everywhere you go; first of all in your house. Give love to your children, to your wife or husband, to a next door neighbor. Let no one ever come to you without leaving better and happier. Be the living expression of God’s kindness; kindness in your face, kindness in your eyes, kindness in your smile.” – Saint Mother Teresa of Calcutta

Happiness is a habit worthy of personal change, effort and cultivation

Creating Happy Habits:

Characteristics of Happy People

  • Curious: seeking out new, complicated, uncertain and even upsetting experiences
  • Idealistic: rather than dwelling on the world’s many problems
  • Goal-focused: able to sacrifice short-term pleasure for long-term progress
  • Honest about what energizes them
  • Big picture-focused: less analytical and detail-oriented
    • Calm: less stressed out about performance in grades or work salary

Steps to Make Happiness a Habit

  • Live in the moment
    • A study has shown that being distracted is a cause of unhappiness
    • Reminiscing, thinking ahead or daydreaming makes people more miserable
  • Practice gratitude
    • Positive psychology research shows gratitude is associated with greater happiness and helps people
      • Relish good experiences
      • Feel more positive emotions
      • Build strong relationships
    • Practice compassion
      • Experiment published in Science by Harvard Business School:
        • Half given money to spend on themselves, half given money to spend on others
        • Found that participants who spent money on others were significantly happier
      • Spend time outdoors enjoying sunlight
        • Vitamin D is produced when UV rays hit the skin
        • Serotonin is secreted when eyes come in contact with sunlight
        • This literally makes us happier
      • Embrace negative feelings
        • Suppressing thoughts can diminish our sense of contentment
        • Better to acknowledge the complexity of life
        • Accept that anger and sadness are vital emotions to mental health
      • Place higher value on time over money
        • Prioritizing time is associated with greater happiness
        • The free time could be spent on hobbies, exercising, or with family
      • Smile more and often
        • Forcing muscles to smile will trick the brain into feeling happy

World’s Happiest Man — According to Science

  • Matthieu Ricard
    • Born in France in 1946
    • Lives in the Himalayan region as a Buddhist monk
    • Is also an author, translator, photographer, and speaker
    • Regularly meditates on compassion
    • Claims the key to happiness is thinking happy thoughts just 15 minutes a day
      • 12-year brain study led by neuroscientist Richard Davidson:
        • 256 sensors were hooked up to Ricard’s head
        • Meditating on compassion produced gamma waves never before reported in neuroscience
        • Excessive activity in prefrontal cortex gave him
          • An abnormally large capacity for happiness and
          • A reduced propensity towards negativity

“It seems hardly proper to write of life without once mentioning happiness; so we shall let the reader answer this question for himself: who is the happier man, he who has braved the storm of life and lived or he who has stayed securely on shore and merely existed?” – Hunter S. Thompson

Happiness is a journey, not a destination. —Alfred D. Souza









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