We’re generally a happy bunch at the Hub, following our dreams, being creative, making the world a better place – all good ways of keeping a smile on your face and a spring in your step.
And never has the issue of well-being and what makes us happy been more on the public agenda than right now. Last month, the UN organised a special summit in New York on happiness, hosted by the Prime Minster of Bhutan. This tiny country in the Himalayas has taken the unique step of deciding to measure its progress not by wealth but by wellbeing, via a ‘Gross National Happiness’ indicator. This is likely to have a massive impact on how the government makes policy decisions.
Here in the UK, organisations such as Alain de Boton’s School of Life and the Action for Happiness campaign are pushing the agenda, asking us to question how we define success and promoting their ideas for a better, happier society.
At the Hub last night (and at Hub Kings Cross last week) The My Movement screened a new documentary – Happy: The Movie – which focuses on this issue. The film is the product of four years of research by its Director, Roko Belic, who travelled round the world asking people what makes them happy.
The results are often surprising – from the woman who had her face crushed in a terrible road accident but during recovery came to terms with some terrible events that had plagued her from her childhood, to the former high flying exec who found contentment in the most unlikely of places – a home for the dying and destitute in Calcutta.
Containing interviews with psychologists, neuroscientists and economists, the film is full of interesting facts that give it weight beyond the engaging personal stories.
So how can we be happier? Here are some learnings from the film…
- By not focusing so much on the future: Too often, we wish for things to happen that we think will make us happier, or worry about potential things that might happen that we think will make us less happy. Apparently, the evidence shows that life events affect our happiness a lot less and more temporarily than we imagine
- Finding flow: This is the state of mind where we lose ourselves in an activity. Exercise is the best way of finding flow apparently (which is why we’ve so thoughtfully provided you with four flights of stairs to climb up…)
- Understanding the difference between intrinsic and extrinsic goals and the conflict between them: Intrinsic goals are about better close relationships, personal fulfillment and community feeling, whereas extrinsic goals are things like money, status and image. America is twice as wealthy as 50 years ago, but happiness levels have remained static
- Having supportive family / friends – Denmark is often named by studies as the happiest country in the world and also has the highest concentration of ‘co-housing communities’ with families living together in supportive, communal living
- By CO-OPERATING! – cooperation releases dopamine in the brain, and is also a natural instinct – people set a task in a group are apparently more likely to co-operate than compete
- By joining the Hub (okay, I just added that one in…)