Tag Archives: Happy

American happiness is broken

24 Mar

Heres a stat that will blow you away. American students owe $1 trillion in college loan debt! Starting working life in debt creates anxiety before real life adult pressures really set in. Once again the world happiness report 2017 has come up with some interesting research. Jeffrey D Sachs has looked at the declining happiness levels in the worlds biggest economy and what is causing them, Let’s have a look.

American economic growth

Since the 1960’s American Income has increased 3 fold. Per capita GDP in America is still on the rise. But happiness levels are dropping. As noted in my post on “What creates a happy society“.we know that happiness when calculated is broken down to 6 foundations. GDP per capita,social support,healthy life expectancy,generosity absence of corruption.

In the top ten countries in the world for happiness 5 of them are Nordic. Finland, Norway, Denmark,Iceland and Sweden. If we mirror the results of these five happy countries against the USA we see this

Superwhite

 

As we can see from the data above. The GDP of the USA is higher on average than the Nordic average. When we look at Social freedom we see a marked difference between the Nordic countries and the USA. The question “Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your freedom to choose what to with your lives” is given an overwhelming positive reply from the open and trusting Nordic’s, Less so from the USA where inequality strives.

Social support and having someone else to rely on when things get difficult also sees a lower score for residents of the USA where fear of your neighbour has become a common theme since 2001.

Corruption has as we see been experienced by the citizens of Iceland during their financial crash. They began immediately taking matters into their own hands and let the toxic banks fail but they still feel the repercussions. Even with the high Icelandic score perception of a corrupt society is quite low in the Nordic average, It’s exactly half of what citizens of the USA perceive to be the level of corruption for them.

Americas crisis is not an economic crisis but a social one.

It seems that all the rhetoric that comes from Central government in The USA is that if the Economic growth rate is higher than all American woes will end. And the once elusive American dream will once again become a reality.

The truth couldn’t be further away.  Take corruption for example if America was to return to the perceived corruption levels of 10 years ago was 0.62 as opposed to the present level of 0.72 is the equivalent of raising happiness levels by 0.054( I know! there are lots of figures here but bear with me) If like at present the present administration hope to make American citizens happier by more iconic growth and greater GDP. It would take an increase of GDP from $53,000 to $62,000 to provide the same gain.

Simply by providing the citizens with  a more open society with less involvement of corporations and banks and the need to run multi Billion dollar campaigns to get elected the USA would see rise in Happiness levels equivalent to an $9,000 increase in GDP. Listening to some of the positive governance  attributes that the Nordic countries put into practice would also make a difference.

Lack of social support

 

Make America love again

Simply (without going back into mathematics again) put, the decline in Social networks and support would take an even greater chunk of GDP. To offset this decline would mean an increase from $53,000 to $82,000 in GDP , simply to return to the levels of social support felt in 2006/2007. This would take decades to achieve. Yet no one talks about finding ways to create greater social supports in any political debate. The debates go the other direction and if you are on your  knees it’s generally seen that you did not try hard enough. Social supports in Nordic countries involve free health care, education and welfare supports in times of difficulty for their citizens. All of these are sen as luxuries that citizens of the USA should not see as a right and should be only accessed by those who can afford it.

This is the cost

In all four areas that America lags (far in some cases)behind the Nordic countries on, social freedom, corruption, social support and generosity. The Nordic countries excel. The equivalent cost to American citizens from this is a 0.31 points drop in happiness levels that in Economic terms would have to have GDP rise from $53,000 to $133,000 to offset the drop in Social capital.

Tackle corruption, provide greater social supports and greater social freedoms and an increase in generosity( where it is shown to greatly increase human wellbeing) and you have the formula for a happier United States.

Inequality has increased

The rising difference between rich and poor is ever more evident in American society. The gap between rich and poor continues to grow and all the studies point towards greater levels of unhappiness in societies with greater inequality. The top 1% of those in America have 23% of the country’s income while the bottom 70% share the same amount between them.

Pro social behaviour is declining

Mortality rates are also rising among middle-aged white men and women in the US compared to a decline in Western Europe and a decline in USA’s northerly neighbours in Canada. It is not simply a health crisis but a social crisis.

Other factors

  • The belief that the American government does not have its citizens welfare at heart but more so powerful lobbies, corporations and the wealthy.
  • The destruction of supports such as unions for workers, social welfare for the poor and health care and education for all has played a major role in the social decline.
  • The constant feeling or expectation that fear is just around the corner for the average American. The wars with Iraq, Afghanistan, Yemen, Libya and Syria have contributed to this. The constant need for surveillance and racial profiling have made it very difficult for Americans to feel less threatened,stressed or experience greater freedom.
  • The Education system has declined rapidly. With a huge gap between those with college degree education and those without. In Denmark and other Nordic countries a life without a University education is not frowned on but in some case other options are encouraged. If a University education is the chosen route of their Nordic counterparts it is available free to all who do so. A third level education in America will leave many students in debt for many years after they have finished college. The result as I said earlier is $1 trillion of student debt which can only impact negatively on those struggling to pay back their loans.
  • Not one of the countries in the top ten happiest countries has a history of constant war or invasion of others. Given that the Viking age of plundering is well past, all these countries live a life of relative peace. Iceland does not even have an army and Sweden, Finland and Switzerland all have neutrality status.

Going down the wrong road.

Wrong road

It’s like looking for your socks in the refrigerator you know it’s futile and you know you won’t find them. America is chasing something that will not provide happiness (constant economic growth) while ignoring exactly what will.

The answers to what they should do are very close to them. The USA just needs to look at the way their northern neighbours in Canada treat multiculturalism and immigration. How they provide a healthcare system where everyone matters and no one is left behind which allows Canada a constant place in the top ten happy countries index.

Or look to Norway with high levels of transparency. Where they have every citizen including the prime ministers salary and tax paid available online for everyone to see. When citizens of the USA are not even sure if their president has paid any tax.

Iceland decided that a society that rewards the banks and shackles its populace is unjust and unfair and decided that the citizens of Iceland mattered more. The financial woes that Iceland have felt should have sent them nearer number 87 on the happiness index with Greece but it didn’t. They felt someone had their backs and it felt good.

America has the solutions but it also has the problems. It has to decide what does it really want….Wealth and power at any cost, or a constant declining happiness for its people.

 

 

 

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Organisations in the 21st century

8 May

Whatmakesgoodbusiness

Just a thought (Find your own Way)

31 Oct

yellow-arrowWhen we keep life simple it is surprising how good our lives can feel. Happiness is not complicated, it was never meant to be.

Our lives can feel complicated because life around us can feel that way. Organizations constantly ensure that nothing seems straightforward. Just listen to all the waffle involved in banking A.P.R, A.C.R or A.E.R all have something to do with interest rates but  just complicate something that should seem simple. Try to book a flight on a low-cost airline and not feel stressed. I did this recently and very diligently ticked and un-ticked the boxes provided( somehow I have a feeling I won’t be able to avail of the toilet on my flight due to not! ticking a box)  what actually happened is I ended up purchasing travel insurance I never asked for!!!  Read the legal terms for anything you purchase or sign up to and resign to the fact you  don’t know what was really said. Purchasing insurance and getting caught out by the small print just proves that small print should be banned. Advertisements on radio try to sell us a product with happy jingles and humour and just as we begin to think Yep I am buying into this we hear the last refrain from the narrators audio”Terms and conditions apply…..” Which usually means you have to jump through hoops to get to the next step. Some Solicitor gets the guy who robbed your house or crashed into your car off on a technicality when he knows a crime or infringement took place

Sometimes you just want to switch off. The truth is you will feel better if you do. Advertisements make us feel worse. Ultimately the director is trying to make us feel positive about a product we could not care less about and eventually purchase it. We panic about not having the right car,life,home or health insurance……the list goes on. We feel we are not participating unless we are purchasing. Our leaders ask us to stop saving money and get the country back on track by ………shopping!  Our thinking , societies thinking and those that lead us do nothing  to create the lives that we deserve. Oil companies in The U.S receive subsidies of $4 billion a year and McDonald’s costs that American Taxpayer $1.2 Billion annually because workers are not paid enough to support themselves. They serve food that contributes to a nations ill-health. Yet the media nag govt get excited when a fast food chain announces 100 new jobs, yet we never get to look beyond the real cost to our society.

It doesn’t make sense. We are thinking completely the wrong way. Opting out to live a simpler life allows us to create a less stressed world. Not always an easy thing to do!

This Summer I took 5 weeks off and travelled across Spain on the beautiful Camino. I made a conscious effort to disconnect as much as I possibly could. No Emails, no phone conversations about 5 in total. No newspapers no news, no Tv = no worries.

I didn’t have any idea what was happening in world news or my home country’s news and guess what…. it didn’t matter. I connected with people every day. We talked , we supported each other ,we laughed, we broke bread together and we perfected the skill of being able to stay in the moment. We carried our essentials in our backpacks so we had no luxuries. Shower gel  and shampoo were luxuries rarely found. Nothing else mattered each day but the yellow arrows that guided us to our destination and the wonderful awareness of each step. The masks came off and it was just our t-shirts, shorts and boots, your afternoon shower was the cleanest you would be for 24 hours. Yet it is in these simple actions that we are happiest. No longer bombarded by tv or media but completely aware of ourselves and those around us and experiencing what everything…. your past…. your future is made from…….  a series of Nows.

Wake Up! Turn off the world once in a while and spend time in silence away from the manufactured complications of this world. As the yellow arrows that guide you along the Camino( the Way) signify a simplicity in moving forward. It is by welcoming this simplicity to that you will embrace moving forward.

Thankyou to my fellow travellers who made my journey so much easier and wonderful beyond words Netje,Carlo,Amy,An Nie,Doroty, Jerry,Kazuyuki, Raimon, Denise, Becky,Martin, Rory and Raquel… there is a special place in my heart for all of you.

Positive Mental Health- The Magic in Music

9 Apr

We talked about the importance of positive mental health and what can help with this.

I said that I would use examples that people who had participated on mental health courses that I  had run had used. this almost always comes up from participants who admit that music plays such an important part in their lives.

Music is amazing

It encompasses every facet of our lives. Music reminds us of childhood memories,family holidays,falling in love , relationship breakups,  teenage nights out, first dances at weddings. We have even probably thought about the songs we would love played at our funeral admit it you probably have. Music is such an important part of our lives. It  lifts our moods or brings us to a deeper more relaxed state. Whatever it is with music it has the magic to change our mood.

We all remember the times we spent playing the same song over and over again after the break up of a relationship or the loss of someone we really cared for. Playing the song is almost like the pleasure-pain we experience from pulling at a tooth that is loose in our gum. It hurts but we continue to touch it.

The joy we can experience from the trance of participating in a drumming workshop or the simple joy of a song filled with sunshine that brightens up our day. Some songs lift us to places that we rarely get to experience in our everyday lives. Others might be quiet and contemplative like the beauty of Ennio Morriconne’s the Mission  or Cinema Paradiso or as engaging as the uplifting beats of dance music.

Or the amazing piece of music by John Cage called As Slow As Possible that is played in St Buchardi’s Church in Halberstadt in Germany. An organ has been specifically built for this performance and the first note was played on September 5th 2001 and that single note continued until 5th Feb 2003 when the next chord was played and once again on July 5th 2005 the chord changed. This piece of music will play one chord at a time until 2640 with the church filled with onlookers every time a new chord change happens. Just wonderful.

Either way music is a beautiful way to connect with our souls and we need to do it more often. I don’t just mean the wallpaper music we listen to on the radio all day. But finding special moments to allow ourselves to connect with a set of headphones or speakers and fall in love with Music that sends our spirits soaring.

Mood music helps with stress. Calming music can slow down brainwaves.Theta and Delta music are used for meditating and slows our brains down. If stress is a big factor in our lives. I would recommend that Theta, Delta music is used to relax and calm the mind. Slow music like this is also great at helping us study and soak the information we are reading into our subconcious. You can also use Binaural music which requires headphones and allows you to play music at 208 Hz in one ear and 200 hz in another ear which cancel each other out and leaves you with slow 8hz music.

Music may want to make you dance it may want to make you cry but whatever it does it allows you to express emotions and that is the beauty of being human.

For me I love a wide variety of music but when I need a lift I play the Two months Off by Underworld attached above to lift my spirits what a life affirming ray of sunshine it is. You Bring light in!!

What ever music you enjoy, Jazz,Soul, Rock, Gospel,Gothic…it doesn’t matter just Enjoy it Embrace it, Love it.

Happy Henry

28 Mar

Happy-Manifesto-front-coverHappiness in the workplace is an essential cog in the growth of all successful and sustainable companies. It creates wellbeing within your staff, increases productivity, lowers absenteeism rates and creates a healthier environment that your staff want to work in and in return your staff feel valued and willing to go that extra mile when needed.

I have with interest followed companies and leaders that are championing the importance of wellbeing in the workplace. Companies like Zappos with Tony Hsieh at the helm and Semco with Ricardo Semlers innovative approach to autonomy at work.

Another name that has been leading this field is Henry Stewart. Henry created the aptly titled Happy ltd a company that started in the field of I.T training and now helps companies to create happier workplaces.

Henry understands the importance of job ownership, trust and freedom to make the right choices in the workplace. He had initially worked as a financial officer for the News on Sunday which managed to close after 6 weeks and £6.5m in funding due to the fact that

  • Staff where not trusted
  • Strong blame culture
  • No freedom to execute the job.

Henry went on to create Happy ltd and 21 years after his experience with “The News on Sunday” he had led Happy Ltd to the position of 18th best workplace in the UK.

How Henry did this was down to reverse what he had seen in his previous role and provide his staff with

  • Trust and freedom
  • Communication
  • Challenges
  • Autonomy
  • The desire to want to turn up to work each day rather than to feel they had to.

He outlines how he did this in his book Happy manifesto. Here Henry asks questions that every one who runs an organisation should be asking of themselves and their staff.

  1. What can you do as a manager or colleague to make your people feel good now?
  2. How would your organisation be different if its key focus in management was on making its people happy?
  3. What would be different in your organisation if mistakes were encouraged and welcomed?
  4. Do you encourage your people to play to their strengths rather than focusing on their weaknesses?

These are just some of the questions that managers and company owners need to ask to grow the company that will serve us, our staff and our customers well. Otherwise we end up as corks bobbing in the ocean screaming “I must have control, I must have control”.

Well the cool thing is that Henry is organizing a Day on the 24th of April where you can get to meet him and some other fantastic speakers on the benefits of creating a happier workplace for you and your employees.If you can not make it a copy of the Happy Manifesto is recommended reading for all who are willing to make the leap to happiness at work.

Wake Up! to the sound of nothing

18 Feb

Doolin wavesLast week I was so lucky to have a couple of days to myself. I decided to drop in on one of my favourite places in the world Doolin, Co Clare. Specifically to the Rainbow hostel where Carmel and Mattie Shannon provided  warm and welcoming hospitality in their homely hostel.

The real reason I was down was to buy a Surfboard and catch some surfing in nearby Lahinch. I managed to get the surfing in which was a beautiful Wake Up! while enjoying thew February Atlantic. As the Danish say “There is no such thing as bad weather, just the wrong clothes“.

I never purchased the Surfboard as the surf assistants unwillingness to haggle cost him a sale. Even a 5% token discount would have got him a happy customer and a sale at a time of the year when things are slow. Not great business sense …but there you go.

The two days down by the Atlantic where so therapeutic. Surfing by day and watching the waves crash against Doolin pier  and surrounding rocks at high tide each evening was a form of meditation. As I walked up the country road to the hostel at night the sky provided the clearest views of the stars that I had ever seen. Beautiful and silent with just the sounds of the crashing Atlantic in the distance as I walked. Inside Carmel’s hostel the log stove in the front room provided warmth in a room filled with nothing but the wind from outside as I sat reading and connecting with the wonderful stillness of the present moment.

The experience that you get in the Rainbow hostel is not found in any Hotels that I have visited. maybe it’s the warm welcome from Carmel the scones in the morning or just the simple solitude. Whatever it is it works.

Nature is beautiful yet we rarely make enough connections with it as we fleetingly move from distractions to distractions that never provide lasting imprints on our memories. As the world turned and the Pope abdicated while share prices rose and fell and rose again none of this seemed to matter as the silence and pleasure of the now in a small remote town on the western coast of Europe took over.

Happy Days.

3 is a Magic number

5 Oct

This week was a busy week spent visiting and talking with school students . This week I facilitated workshops for over 400 students excluding the 60 students that came along to watch the Happy Movie on Tuesday.

A wide range of students from primary school students ( age 10-11) all the way up to degree students. How lucky was I this week to meet such a diverse range of students. Every group had their own dynamic and I thoroughly enjoyed every single one. How lucky am I, that I can spend my days talking to people about what is great about this world and what life has to offer.

One exercise that I use with students and practice myself each day is 3 great things. We talk about the importance of remembering by writing down or thinking of 3 things that went well in our day.

It does not have to be events like winning a trip to Disneyland. It can be the simple things in life that make us reframe the way we look at the world.

I put a 21 day gratitude diary for the 10 and 11 year old kids to focus on over the next 3 weeks I am with them. So the students could get an understanding of how this works. I said I would write on the board the 3 things that I would be putting on my list tonight.

I began to write on the board

  1. Run( I explained that I was going to go for a run tonight because that makes me healthy and it also puts me in a good mood. I am also so thankful for my health)
  2. Hot Chocolate ( I explained to the students that sometimes I like to treat myself, Today that treat is going to be a hot chocolate because I have not had one in such along time- Yum)

I started to write my 3rd nice thing and heard a gasp from behind me in the class…. followed by a chorus of “ooh that is so nice”…

My  number 3 was simply….. How lucky I was to meet every single one of you today.

What a beautiful experience…. I shared my gratitude with the kids for being a wonderful part of my day and they in turn shared their appreciation for feeling that they really matter…. and they do.

Happiness is not complicated it is not somewhere else , it might be hard to find sometimes but… when it is shared…. it is wonderful.

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