Mike the Psych's Blog

What if psychologists ruled the world? In real life?


Happiness means different things around the world.

In Helen Russell’s new book “The Atlas of Happiness, the global secretes of how to be happyshe describes the way different countries see happiness and contentment.

It seems the Danes haven’t got the monopoly on this subject.

  • In China it’s about finding your meaning in life or “xingfu” – the state of being happy in the sense of living a meaningful life – not just being happy in the short term.
  • In Costa Rica it’s about staying positive and socialising. “pura vida” means the pure life and is about staying optimistic and happy in the face of adversity. It involves good food, good company – especially family, good weather, and the time to enjoy those things.
  • In Japan it’s about embracing the perfectly imperfect or “wabi-sabu” or simplicity and the beauty of age and wear. An appreciation of the things the way they are and revelling in imperfections in real life.
  • In Denmark, apart from the concept of “hygge“, they also have the idea of”arbejdsglaede” or happiness at work. Working long hours is a no-no (they work 33 hours a week on average) and regular breaks  for coffee and cinnamon buns de rigeur.
  • In India the idea is to focus on solutions not the problem. “jugaad” means frugal innovation, life hacks and a commitment to get things done all in order to get a positive outcome.
  • In Finland it’s “kalsarikannit” or getting “pants drunk”. Sitting in your well-insulated house in your underpants watching TV and getting drunk. I was told in Finland that they have a drink problem but this is elevating it to a different level and there is even an emoji for it.

I can’t wait to read the rest of the book!

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Norway tops World happiness league

Yes the Norwegians have toppled the Danes from the top position, but it was a close finish.

The UN’s World Happiness Report measures “subjective well-being” mainly by asking a simple question: “Imagine a ladder with steps numbered from 0 at the bottom to number 10 at the top. The top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you and the bottom of the ladder the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time?

The average result is the country’s score. So Norway scored 7.54 whereas the Central African Republic scored only 2.69.

The report also looks at economic strength (GDP) social support, life expectancy, freedom of choice, generosity, and perceived corruption. Having a job was also important although white-collar jobs were more associated with happiness than blue-collar ones.

To see the full report go to http://worldhappiness.report/

The top 10 countries

  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Iceland
  4. Switzerland
  5. Finland
  6. Netherlands
  7. Canada
  8. New Zealand
  9. Australia
  10. Sweden

The USA came 14th and the UK 19th (Bristol was named the best place to live in Britain in 2017 by the way)

Western Europe dominated the list with African countries doing least well. The regular dominance of the Nordic countries (see previous reports) has encouraged others to adopt the Danish concept of Hygge – the concept of cosiness and relaxation.

Denmark has always done well in these kind of comparisons, for example for work-life balance, for how satisfied they are and for  being a good place to live

Note on the flag. The Norwegian flag is interesting because apart from using the red, white and blue  – symbolising liberty – and the Nordic cross (centred towards the hoist or flag pole), it incorporates the white cross of Denmark and the blue cross of Finland.