March 20 is the International Day of Happiness. Britons are among the happiest people in the world – and are getting happier, according to an annual United Nations survey.
The seventh annual World Happiness Report ranked the UK 15th out of 156 countries, just ahead of Ireland.
The list, based on research between 2016 and 2018, will be published on International Happiness Day.
Finland, Denmark and Norway were the happiest nations, while Southern Sudan replaced Burundi as the least happy.
International Day of Happiness began in 2012, when all United Nations countries agreed to create an official annual meeting on the calendar.
The list is published by the London-based Action for Happiness Charity and shows that respondents rate the status of their lives on a scale from 0 to 10.
“Science of Happiness”.
The countries at the bottom of the ranking are usually affected by a combination of economic, political and social pressures.
The overall score of the British was above that of the previous year and could be increased by four places.
The top 10 were Iceland, the Netherlands, Switzerland, Sweden, New Zealand, Canada and Austria, while Australia ranked 11th, Germany 17th and the USA 19th.
Experts say that people can influence their own happiness.
Prof Laurie Santos is the head of the Psychology and Good Life course at Yale University.
“Science has proven that happiness requires conscious effort. It’s not easy, it takes time,” says Laurie Santos, professor of psychology and cognitive science at Yale University.
Prof. Santos’ Psychology and Good Life class is the most popular in Yale’s 317-year history and broke the university enrollment record when more than 1,200 students enrolled.
“Being happy is not something that just happens, you have to practice to do it better,” she adds.
Here are five exercises by Prof. Santos to help you get started.
1st Make a Thank You! Be grateful for the good people and things in your life.
Prof. Santos asks her students to write down what they are grateful for – every night, for a whole week.
This becomes their list of gratitude.
“It may sound simple, but we have seen that the students who do this exercise regularly are happier,” she says.
Image copyright Getty Images Caption A well rested person is a happier person – try to get a good eight hours of sleep per night.
The challenge is to sleep eight hours a night, every night, for a whole week.
This simple exercise proves to be the hardest to achieve, according to Prof. Santos.
“It may seem silly, but we know that more and better sleep reduces your chances of suffering from depression and improves your positive attitude,” she says.
Meditate Image Copyright Getty Images Caption Meditation is a must – no spa visit required – 10 minutes anywhere quiet.
Meditate 10 minutes a day, every day.
Prof. Santos says that when she was a student, she felt better through regular meditation.
Now she is a professor, she refers her students to several studies that show how meditation and other activities that require your full attention can help you become happier.
Spend more time with family and friends Image rights Getty Images caption Be in the present and spend time with people you like.
According to Prof. Santos, there is growing research showing that enjoying time with friends and family makes you happier.
The time with people we like – or “healthy interpersonal and social relationships”, in psychology speaking – increases your well-being considerably.
It doesn’t take much, says Prof. Santos, just make sure that you “live in the moment, are aware that you have this time together, are aware of how you spend your time”.
The concept of time is very important for your happiness.
“We often associate wealth with what we have in money,” adds Prof. Santos, “but research shows that wealth is more closely linked to the time we have.
5. Fewer social networks and more real connections Image rights Getty Images caption Put your phone away and get active.
Social media can give us a false sense of happiness, says Prof. Santos, and it’s important not to get carried away.
Why is the USA losing ground in happiness? What we can do today on International Happiness Day
It is tempting to regard happiness as a soft and largely individual quality. In recent years, however, researchers have been investigating and measuring the collective happiness of organizations and nations. In addition, they examine how happiness relates to productivity and economic growth.
International Happiness Day is an opportunity for leaders to reflect on the links between happiness, productivity and growth – in their own lives and in the lives of their organizations.
The story of the founder of the International Day of Happiness Day, Jayme Illien, gives some pointers on how we can connect the dots. Illien was abandoned as an infant in India, rescued and taken to the orphanage of Mother Theresa’s International Mission of Hope. Adopted by an American mother, he attended Tufts University and had a successful career in finance.
His philanthropic and humanitarian work led him to become an advisor to the United Nations, where he successfully campaigned for a United Nations resolution declaring the pursuit of happiness a fundamental human right. Adopted in 2012, the resolution explicitly calls for a new economic paradigm that revolves around happiness and freedom.
Inspired by the gratitude for the gifts given to him, Illien was inspired to find ways to create happiness and opportunities for others. It is a way that we should all go well.
Why is the USA lagging behind happiness?
The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network publishes an annual world happiness report that measures the overall happiness of nations around the world through a variety of measures. Last year’s report found that the US ranking had dropped from third place in 2007 to 18th place.
Countries that performed better in luck were characterized by “a high degree of mutual trust, common goals, generosity and good governance. A chapter in the 2017 report, “Restoring American Happiness”, argues that a decade-long decline in the US was driven, among other things, by a diminishing sense of freedom and belonging.
Start with gratitude
Leading researchers in health and positive psychology have found that simple gratitude practices can dramatically improve our well-being and physical health. Such practices can be the keeping of a gratitude journal and the habit of thanking employees and colleagues for their efforts.
Working with clients to nurture gratitude is a cornerstone of my executive coaching. Gratitude not only improves well-being and stimulates our daily lives, but also spurs us on to positive action. When we are aware of our blessings and opportunities, we want to extend them to others.
With conscious practice, we can choose gratitude and set in motion the same virtuoso cycle of gratitude and generosity that prompted Jayme Illien to host the International Day of Happiness.
Happiness is contagious.
“Happiness is infectious” is one of the themes of this year’s International Day of Happiness. This claim is supported by years of research into what social scientists call “emotional contagion.
Emotional contagion can go in both directions – it can act either as a positive or negative influence. Targeted pleasure in meaningful work can awaken the same enthusiasm in others. Conversely, stress and negative thinking can spread like flu.
Developed leaders should model focus and flow in their workflows – and make a joyful commitment to common goals a defining feature of corporate culture.
Creating opportunities for others
Managers who approach work with joy and live in a flow state will naturally try to share this way of thinking with others. Employees who are entrusted with meaningful work and the ability to take the initiative will respond with more commitment and productivity. A satisfied workforce is a committed workforce.
In an economy where innovation depends on collaboration and a healthy organizational culture, command and control is a relic of the past. For them, happiness and economic growth work hand in hand – as proposed by the UN resolution.