Guest post by Elizabeth Mackenzie, CEO of Global PR Associates
It's simple to describe the characteristics of a high-performing team, but putting one together isn't always straightforward. There are a few crucial aspects to focus on while developing a high-performing team. This article lists five tips to help you effectively build a high-performing team.
This is one of the most important qualities to look for in a high-performing team, yet it's one that's frequently overlooked. When it comes to team output, fulfilling targets, and engagement; however, failing to support efficient communication can be an expensive mistake.
To develop a high-performing team, managers should support a strong focus on team communication to ensure gains in motivation, productivity, and profitability. Managers must also prioritize information transmission to their immediate reports. If a new working practice or policy is to be implemented, inform the team and get their feedback.
Effective communication is hampered by various factors, including listening, assumptions and competing signals, and emotional distractions. You'll be well on your way to developing a high-performing and agile team if you can eradicate these communication difficulties from your team.
Assist your coworkers in recognizing their preferred communication styles. As a result, everyone will be able to change their approach to best suit the demands of their colleagues, resulting in more effective communication. This can also help you figure out the ideal technique for team briefings and formal team meetings.
Deal With Disagreement
Even the most high-performing team will have disagreements from time to time. While little conflict can be useful in some situations, the best way to deal with it is to anticipate it and be prepared for when it occurs. As soon as a problem emerges, take immediate action to resolve it.
Set up a meeting right away to mediate a civilized debate if there is a difference of opinion that leads to an argument between two team members, for example. You should be able to avoid the conflict from spiralling out of hand and developing a deeper breach by settling it ASAP.
Keep Employees Happy and Motivated
Employee happiness is one of the most important factors to consider when building a high-performing team. Happy and engaged employees do their best work, support company goals, and are a great part of the team.
To keep employees happy, you need to prioritize work-life balance. Don’t ask your staff to stay long hours every day or take on too much work outside of their availability. Remember that they need to spend time with their families and have enough time outside of work to do things they enjoy, so they don’t feel burnt out at work. (The Happiness Index can be helpful to understanding Work Life Balance and overall wellbeing.
You should allow flexible working schedules when you can and listen to your employees and the feedback they have to offer. Don’t make your staff feel like they are left out of big decisions.
Remember, mental stability affects your happiness, so it will benefit the entire company if you prioritize your employees’ work-life balance.
Recognize Where You Are Now & Where You Want to Go
Understanding the dynamics of how people are currently functioning is critical to moving your team ahead. Think about the following issues:
Encourage the team to participate in growth programs, online bootcamps, or advance their career with an online degree. This will allow them to expand their knowledge and acquire new abilities, potentially allowing them to take on more responsibility or advance into future leadership positions.
Additionally, providing career resources is always a good way to understand their purpose and mission within an organization.
Understand Emotional Intelligence
Emotional intelligence (EI) is a significant driver when it comes to teamwork. When properly mastered, it can aid in the transformation of a team's 'DNA.'
EI is defined as "the ability to harmonize thought and emotion," or an individual's ability to understand and control their own emotions while also being able to recognize and manage the emotions of others. Being emotionally intelligent necessitates being attentive, self-aware, and capable of controlling one's emotional responses in various situations.
A team that can regularly apply EI's knowledge will communicate effectively and naturally build loyalty and engagement. They will also improve their teamwork abilities to achieve even greater success.
Building a happy, resilient and high-performing team takes time and effort. The tips above-mentioned can get you along the way to enjoying enduring benefits a team that is happy with their company, high-performing at work and satisfied with their life.
Word of the Weekend
Guest post by Professor Patience Kabamba
My daughter, who graduated from high school, had just enrolled in the sociology department at Columbia University. I asked her why did she choose sociology when she might be doing medicine or law which would earn her enough money. She told me, against all odds, that she wanted to be happy and not run after money.
I was very surprised especially since in America the system trains at the top of the education people who can solve economic problems, not necessarily those who can formulate them in a way that integrates the whole social dimension as the economy. implied. Indeed, from Adam Smith, to Ricardo, or Malthus as well as Charles Marx, the economy had always had a social dimension, but from the 19th century, the economy was financialized and claims to become a hard science at the same way of physics. Economic success is measured by the billions in profit a company has made even if it has laid off millions of workers for it.
During my fellowship at the university of Notre Dame, in Indiana, I witnessed a latent war between pure economists and economists who believed that the economy should be used for the development of peoples. The brightest Harvard students end up on Wall Street and don't do philosophy or literature. The consequence is that students are trained to enter this system to become employable. All horizons are reduced to economic accumulation. We develop the ability to build algorithms that make it easier to distribute and collect money. Success is thus measured by the amount of money accumulated. In one of my classes at Utah Vally University, I asked my students what they wanted to do with their lives. All without exception would like to make 6 figures of annual income, that is, to earn millions of dollars. So history lessons are deserted, except perhaps for the history of finance. Philosophy classes are barely audible, and anthropology, for which I spent ten years at Columbia University, is structured on very weak philosophical foundations. Indeed, between 2002 and 2008, as none of the professors in the anthropology department had a solid philosophical base, the department became excessively politicized.
The Goal of Education in America
The goal of education in America is to train young people who will integrate the system, not challenge it. Indeed, to be able to question a politico-economic system that leaves behind thousands of poor people, we must be able to read and learn to argue. In America today, Goethe, Spinoza or Aristotle would live on food stamps because they would be unemployed. The system produces people who may be able to count, but who are fundamentally illiterate. It would be prudent for the world not to imitate America which only works for a handful of the haves and the rest work for them.
The world is not built by finance. Poetry, philosophy, literature have all helped to produce the world we live in. The economy as Oikia, the management of the household was part of the literature. In fact, in African villages out of 7 days of the week, there was one or two market days. The accumulation activities, which was also accompanied by people’s interactions in the market, took only two days.
In this hyper financial culture of America, how can we introduce an ethics such as Paul Ricoeur? I had the good fortune to meet Ricoeur in the 1990s in Paris. According to Ricoeur, ethics is the search for the good life with and for others in just institutions
Ethical Education Systems
Let us briefly consider this Ricoeurian definition step by step:
1. The search for the good life. What is the good life? The basic minimum for a good life can be summed up in three things: a) eat well and dress well, b) seek treatment when you are sick and finally c) be able to send your offspring to good schools.
In the American context that I described above, eating well has become a path of ordeal for many families. I often have fun telling my African students that in America poor people are very fat because they eat bad food that costs less like Macdonalds and other “ne-fast food”.
b) To be properly treated, you must have medical insurance. Almost 40 million Americans do not have health insurance. They wait until they are very sick to go to the emergency room where they may be treated without paying. Obama had decided to become President of the United States , among other things, to give the medical insurance to the millions of Americans, mostly black, who did not have it. In this world we have built where exchange value has become autonomous to the point of eliminating all traces of human relationships in the commodity, health has become the place of enrichment for insurance companies.
Finally, c) send your children to good schools. The parents of my students at Mary Mount Manhattan College in New York were spending a fortune to educate their children at the university level. In short, higher education in America has become a business. The best universities belong to a former football league called today Ivy League which includes all the best American universities including Harvard, Columbia, Princeton, Yale, Stanford or UPenn, etc. In these private universities the academic fees go up to $ 70,000 per year and have to be multiplied by 4 years. Students finish their university studies with large debts towards banks. Banks have indeed found natural customers who repay once they have finished their studies. So young American couples start their lives miserably because they have to reimburse the costs of their studies.
In fact, everything that is vital has become a source of profit for American capitalism. Food, health or education, which form the backbone of the good life, have become places of profit in the United States of America. In the great America, profit has thus become the unsurpassable horizon of human action.
2)The second element of ethics of Ricoeur is that this good life must be lived with others. The ego, without the others, is a Robinson Crusoe, it does not exist. Merleau-Ponty expressed it very well in his Praise of Philosophy, I quote: "Either it is with others that we are going to the truth, or we are not going to the truth. "
If we proclaim that a firm like General Motors has made several billions in profits and that its CEO has earned a bonus of several million dollars, and at the same time we announce that the firm has gotten rid of 3000 employees, that's success. This is an example of a successful American business.
Ricoeur does not stop with the fact that ethical living is the search for the good life with others, but also for others. Attention to others is elevated to the rank of ethical primacy. The weak and the less able wait for the strong and the smartest to come to their aid. Emmanuel Levis talks to us about the face of the other which imposes itself on me like as a law. A life for others therefore has an undeniable ethical value and is constitutive of our primordial self (our selfhood, as Ricœur would say).
3) Finally and very briefly, as I would take a whole MDW to dissect the rest of the elements of the ethical definition of Paul Ricoeur, the last phase of the Ricoeurian ethics is that the good life with and for others must be lived in just institutions. It is our duty to work to build just institutions, a governable country for the good of all.
About the Author
Dr. Patience Kabamba is originally from the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). After directing the anthropology program at Utah Valley University, Orem, Utah, Dr. Kabamba was appointed professor of anthropology at the National Pedagogical University (UPN) in Kinshasa, DRC. He is also an international consultant on community forestry and the protection and preservation of biodiversity in the Congo Basin forests. He has written articles in international journals and two books on his experiences as an anthropologist in the Nande community of Butembo, in Grand Nord Kivu. He holds university degrees in mathematics (Kikwit RDC), development studies (Durban), philosophy (Paris and Louvain) and cultural anthropology (Columbia University New York.)
New Years Resolutions to Lose Weight
Your weight is more personal than you may think.
Your weight is very personal in more ways that you might think. Perhaps the most important is your perfect weight. There is no formula for the best weight for any body, no matter what charts, BMI counts or anything else says. The way to determine the perfect weight for you is your experience.
Each person is individual and their body is uniquely designed to do what they are best at doing. Some people are built for power, some for speed, some for endurance and some for survival in starvation times. Some people are designed to be slow and methodical, some are deigned to be quick and efficient.
When it comes to what you should eat, millions of years of evolution can’t be wrong. For the most part, if it tastes good, it is good for you. There are three caveats: (1) To the extent that today’s diet has changed from our evolutionary diet, you should carefully consider if a similar food would be available in large quantities in your natural evolutionary diet. (2) Human beings generally thrive on variety and moderation and (3) People gain weight at they age - this is part of the natural changes as we age.
The same is true for exercise. Pay attention to the kind of physical activity that feels good to you. The best guide for what foods to eat and how much is your instincts. As adults, many of us lose our instincts for what to eat.
Our advice when it comes to your weight and food is to ditch diets, focus on getting in touch with your innate instincts about what tastes good and feels good, and eat what tastes good and do the exercise that feels good. If you want to discuss diet and exercise further to discover what works best for your body and your needs and desires, you can meet with your doctor.
Age & Weight
When you were a child, your weight was expected to change with each year of your growth. There is a misunderstanding that upon maturity, you should stay the same weight for the rest of you life, and if you do not, you have eaten too much or not exercised enough. The truth is your age and weight are connected throughout your life. You can look at the people in your family over time and see this. Young people are generally the thinest in a family, and the older people get, the larger they are. On average, a person can expect to gain one pound a year after they have reach physical maturity - about 25 years old for most people. This is just an average though. Some people will gain much less, and some will gain much more. If you feel like you should lose weight, we recommend you set realistic goals, and, most importantly, focus on your health over how much you weigh. A balanced diet, good exercise for you, getting at least 8 hours of sleep a night and good self care are good steps. We also recommend talking to your doctor about the best weight for you given your body type, life style and health circumstances
What is Hangry?
Your body treats carbs and fat differently. Carbs are the body’s primary source of fuel. When your body is relying on its primary source of fuel, most of the time, your body is purring along. You feel good. When your body switches over to rely on its secondary source of fuel, you tend to get angry and hungry, or “hangry.” Most of the time, hangry is when your body is craving carbs because it does not want to burn its fat. Our bodies are programmed to want to hold on to our fat just in case we face a starvation time.
The brain in particular is used to burning carbs. Carbs - more specifically sugar - is what the brain prefers to burn for fuel. You brain does not function as smoothly when it does not have the carbs (and sugar) that it wants. This makes for a bad mood and sluggish thinking - not a good combination.
One way to counteract the hangry without taking in more carbs is acquaint your body with the idea of burning fat through intermittent fasting and a diet with a good amount of fat. When you intermittently fast, you tell your body to burn that fat. When you eat fat, you assure your body that it is not going to starve. Every body is unique, so we advise you talk with your doctor about whether intermittent fasting is good for you, and about your eating patterns to find out how much fat is the right amount for you.
Self Care is not Selfish
Self care is not selfish or indulgence. This is especially true if you are a caretaker, work in a caring profession, or identify as a caring person. Think of self care as the fuel that allows you to care. Self care empowers you - no matter who you are - in all you do. Self care includes taking care of your body and your mind. It includes giving yourself enough time to rest. Self care is taking care of your sleep problems and giving yourself enough time to get at leas 8 hours of sleep a night. It includes doing something physical on a regular basis that you love to do, whether that is stretching, going for walks or spending time in the great outdoors even when your life feels so busy you hardly have time to breathe. It includes eating foods that are good for you, and taking your vitamins - including vitamin D in these dark days! Self care includes recognizing that your feelings matter and taking them into account in your daily life. These are just some aspects of self care. Take stock of your self care. If you think that maybe some of the things you do to care for yourself may be harmful in the long term or are leaving you in a cycle of hurt, we encourage you to talk to your doctor and see if you can find ways to care of yourself so that you are flourishing physically and mentally.
How To Cope With The Holiday Blues
by Morgan Tims
As the year slowly comes to an end, you will most likely hear the phrase “have a happy holiday” over a million times. Whether that be from a grocery store cashier or your coworkers, have a happy holiday is something you’ll be hearing a lot.
For most people, this isn’t a big deal, but if you’re someone who typically experiences the holiday blues, this can be a bit of a trigger. To help you associate the holidays with joy and beat the blues, keep reading for some tips.
Give back to others
Bringing joy to other people may help bring some happiness to you. It’s nothing better than knowing that you’re making someone’s day or seeing someone smile after something that you’ve done for them.
As it is the holiday season, consider going to a senior living community and visiting an older adult who may not have loved ones to spend the holidays with or participate in one of the many toy drives that occur this time of year. Giving back and connecting with your local community not only can lift someone else's spirits but help lift yours.
Surround yourself with people who care
There are no requirements that say that you have to spend the holidays with a certain group of people. Meaning, if your family isn’t the best for your mental well-being and happiness, you do not have to be around them during this time. This goes for any group of people that may cause you mental distress.
Instead, make sure you’re around people who make you happy and don’t drain your energy. This can be a significant other, your partner's family, or even a group of co-workers. As long as they’re good for your peace of mind, it doesn’t matter who they are.
Talk to someone who can help
If you find yourself struggling, you do not have to struggle alone. There are always people willing to listen and help you through your feelings. You can try online support groups if you want to discuss your feelings with multiple people or you can try a more private session online with a psychiatrist - see For Hims or For Hers - or visit your doctor or a local therapist.
Whatever you decide, make sure you’re open and honest. It’ll help when trying to pinpoint the origin of your holiday blues and the best way to go about changing your situation.
Determine if it’s something else
Sometimes your sadness may be more than just the holiday blues. You might actually be experiencing a condition like seasonal affective disorder (SAD). If you started having feelings of loneliness, hopelessness, and sadness around the time the weather began to get colder, it’s a high chance that you are.
To help combat these symptoms and bring some happiness back into your life, try getting yourself a light therapy lamp. These lamps replicate sunlight and can help boost your mood. Or you can keep a journal and write down some things that make you happy during the winter. It may be something as simple as you love the shape of the snowflakes or the way the snow looks on the trees.
Your mental health and happiness matter year-round, so don’t think that these tips are only for the holidays. Utilize them any time that you’re feeling down. You never know how much it might help.
Guest post by Anne Hart
Your mental stability and happiness are more interconnected than you think. It’s not uncommon to hear people who have lots of material possessions, supporters, and established careers, say that they are still living unhappy lives. In fact, the US Happiness index revealed that the average happiness score in 2020 was a mere 6.95 over 10. Whether we want to face it or not, one’s overall happiness and well-being are more dependent on mental stability than any other factor. In this article, we’re going to delve into why we’re wired this way.
How does mental stability affect your happiness?
What exactly is happiness, and how can we define such an abstract concept? Researchers in the field of positive psychology found that happiness is generally a feeling of satisfaction with life, and it turns out mental stability plays a part in achieving long-term happiness. Mental pain can be as damaging and hurtful as physical pain. Although, it doesn’t necessarily manifest outwardly. Mental pain, more often than not, affects one's cognition, emotion, and other thinking processes. And those suffering from its long-term effects often are not aware of the signs, nor do they immediately seek help.
Those who are mentally stable are generally in control of their personal thoughts and actions, are able to care for themselves and others, and can stay consistent and present in their work, family, and social lives. On the other hand, those who struggle with their mental health can suffer from the following early warning signs: pulling away from people and their usual activities, eating or sleeping irregularly, struggling with alcohol or various kinds of addictions, or feeling hopeless about life. These feelings can hinder you from functioning properly and experiencing the good things in life. Such factors curb happiness.
When left unchecked, the warning signs can turn into more serious mental illnesses, such as anxiety disorder or depression. Moreover, a 2019 study on the correlations between mental health and happiness highlighted how individuals suffering from mental illness are more likely to have lower levels of self-satisfaction and job satisfaction. Constant mental instability leads to unhappiness, and it becomes a cycle that needs to be broken. This is why awareness and caring for one’s mental health has been such an important point in health discussions, especially in recent years.
How do I cultivate mental stability?
• Don’t hesitate to seek professional help
Fortunately, it’s much easier to seek help nowadays. Professionals with a background in psychology or psychiatry are finding work in schools, community centers, rehab clinics. You might even have a mental health professional working for your company. Their understanding of human behavior enables them to understand the mental struggles you're experiencing and actively find a solution. Thus, consulting with such experts could be beneficial to your wellness and can motivate you to take the steps towards recovery.
• Manage your emotions well
Emotions can be tricky, as some are quite difficult to process or express. Anger, for instance, can hurt your relationships if not handled properly. Feelings of hurt, denial, and detachment can also further distance you from people who are on your side. So, when you're starting to feel overwhelmed, make it a habit to stop and take a few deep breaths. This will help you get your bearings again before doing anything else. However, for those whose emotions drastically affect their mental stability, it’s best to consult a professional for help.
• Be mindful of your life choices
Your mental health might not always be in your control, but you do have substantial power over your life choices. That said, taking better care of your health and wellness can lead to holistic happiness. Develop a healthy diet, exercise regularly, and work towards developing these healthy habits. By making your routine and environment more conducive to your mental stability, you're investing in your happiness.
For those struggling with their mental stability, it’s crucial not to lose hope. For some, the solution might lie in a simple change of mindset while it might take behavioral therapy or medication for others to regain their footing. All solutions are valid, as every person is different and experiences the world differently. The first step, however, is always the same for everyone — acknowledging your problems and being open to seeking the help you need.
There is plenty of talk about "Building Back Better" across the globe, but little agreement about what it means. For some, the quest is to get back to where we were in economic terms as fast - and as strongly - as possible. For others, it means we should rebuild a green economy with climate friendly business practices. There is, for the most part, agreement in both camps to that what we are building back is our economy.
But what if both camps are missing the mark? Yes, the economy is important, but it is not everything. Most important is that the economy exists to serve our wellbeing - not the other way around. This is something many seem to forget. Moreover, crucial to our wellbeing is the health of the environment, the trustworthiness of our governments and corporations, our access to good heath care, education and justice, and our ability to feed, house and clothe ourselves, as well as other factors that are instrumental to wellbeing. Professor Peter Victor of York University agrees that wellbeing is what we should be building back better for, not more of what got us here in the first place.
Two years ago our project, Planet Happiness was born to bring the happiness and wellbeing movement to the tourism sector. We built on almost a decade of work with communities to deliver proven processes to governments, destination management organizations (DMOs), educators and community organizers with, today, some great successes. We started the project pre-pandemic in the face of over-tourism. Today, in response to building back better, as noted by Andre Mayer (2021), our work is more important than ever.
Why? Because wellbeing is the way to build back better. Using survey-based wellbeing metrics, like the Happiness Index, gives everybody - from economic policy makers to NGO decision makers and community councils - the information they need to understand people's priorities and needs. Objective wellbeing metrics, like the Human Development Index or the Genuine Progress Indicator, measure tangible and observable outcomes. Together, subjective and objective wellbeing indicators can give a balanced picture and the data, analyzed in tandem, can give the whole picture. Something merely economic metrics can never do, just as merely one dimension of any of the aspects of wellbeing cannot.
Wellbeing metrics are one piece of the puzzle in building back better, but they are a good start. July of 2021, Planet Happiness' Paul Rogers, PhD, brought together some of the top leaders in the tourism industry for a High Level Meeting to discuss what those pieces are and how to put together the puzzle for truly building the tourism sector back better - for the wellbeing of host communities, tourists, governments, businesses and the planet.
More about that in the next post. In the meantime, you can contribute to building back better by spreading the word about the Happiness Index and encouraging your friends to take the survey, see what it says about their own happiness and have a conversation about what building back better looks like for you when we live in a world where the wellbeing of all matters most.
World's Happiest Country - Finland
Post by Riya Gohil, Happiness Alliance Intern and student in Business Administration at Wilson College, Mumbai India.
Kell’ onni on se onnen kätkeköön is a famous saying in Finland that means ‘Who has happiness should hide it.”. Ironically Finland is also the happiest country in the world!
In 2021, The World Happiness Report of 2021 determined that Finland is the happiest country for the fourth year in a row, with Denmark following closely. The report also includes the world’s unhappiest countries, which fall at the bottom of the list of 149 countries. This made me wonder why Finland is so happy and the countries at the bottom of the list so unhappy.. Surprisingly, many of my preconceived notions about happiness have been bashed.
But first, what is the World Happiness Report? The United Nations Sustainable Solutions Network publishes a report on 20th March (World Happiness Day) which includes rankings and articles about the happiness of countries. The rankings are calculated by asking respondents about their satisfaction with life. Six factors are considered to influence satisfaction with life: - average gross domestic product, healthy life expectancy, generosity (charitable donations), social support (someone there in times of need), freedom in life choices and sense of corruption in government.
“Money can’t buy happiness” is a proverb widely known but seldom believed. While money can solve many problems, research has found that happiness does increase with the increase in income, but after it reaches a certain point (about $75000 USD per year in the US, or the equivalent in other countries), there is not much of a gain in happiness. This is known as the Easterlin Paradox. It was first proposed by Richard Easterlin, an economist, who studied happiness data as early as 1974. People in Finland are relatively well off and extremely wealthy. For the most part, in Finland, Instead of trying to get filthy rich, people are more focused on the other aspects of life.
For the very poor, Finland’s ‘Housing First’ policy tackles the problem of homelessness with an aim to provide people with a roof before other services. The Finns believe that problems like addiction, mental illness, and unemployment are easier to tackle if people have their own abode.
For the most part, the Finns believe in work-place autonomy, and follow a flat working model where the hierarchical levels are low so that the workers feel equal to their colleagues. They think that this is crucial for the productivity and happiness of the employees.
With an abundance of natural environment, low levels of pollution, low levels of economic and social inequality and a laid back lifestyle, it is not surprising that people are happier in Finland. These feats sound like a distant dream for the world but they are possible!
Our History (very briefly)
We got our start in 2010, as a project of Sustainable Seattle, world renown for being, the first nonprofit to create regional sustainability indictors through a community-based approach. The Happiness Index was Sustainable Seattle’s fifth set of sustainability indicators, a departure from previous approaches in taking subjective indicator approach. The Happiness Index is based on Bhutan’s Gross National Happiness Index, with permission from high level governmental officials. In 2011, the Seattle City Government joined Somerville Maine as being the first two cities in the USA to measure happiness and use the data. In Seattle, the Seattle City Council used our Happiness Index data, provided through the 2011 Seattle Area Happiness Initiative report, to make budgeting decisions. By 2012, cities and communities across the USA were using the Happiness Index, and in Seattle, still part of Sustainable Seattle. That same year, the Happiness Alliance worked with refugee and immigrant communities to measurably assess social justice and racial inequality with the support of the City of Seattle Department of Neighborhoods. In 2012, the Happiness Alliance became its own nonprofit, with the blessing of Sustainable Seattle’s board of directors, because of the spreading use of the Happiness Index across the globe. People in over 125 nations use the Happiness Index to assess their wellbeing, and communities in over 20 nations are using the Happiness Index to assess community wellbeing. Our project, Planet Happiness was launched in 2018 as the first to bring the Happiness Movement to the tourism sector.
Post by Riya Gohil, Happiness Alliance Intern and student in Business Administration at Wilson College, Mumbai India.
Recently, I took on an internship with the Happiness Alliance, and as a part of it, I took the Happiness Index. I was surprised to learn that the average Happiness Index score of happiness for youth is 57.5 out of 100 because youth is supposed to be one of the happiest times in life. This made me wonder about how the Happiness Index measures happiness. I learned a lot, and I wrote this post to explain how the questions in the Happiness Index relate to your happiness, and what my experience was of taking the Index.
If you haven’t taken the survey, here it is.
The Happiness Index is a survey that measures your happiness in 10 different areas of your life. The data collected from the survey is used to evaluate the happiness of people.
Satisfaction with Life
The Happiness Index measures this in two sections. One is called the Cantril Ladder. For the Cantril Ladder question, you imagine that you have a ladder in front of you. If you climb on top of it, you will see a beautiful view of the skyline but if you are stuck at the bottom, you are mired in mud. Your best possible life is at the top of the ladder and your worst possible life is at the bottom. The Cantril Ladder is an instrument to measure your satisfaction with life. We use the Cantril Ladder to help you better understand your standing in life and help you climb up the ladder! When I started the survey, I was surprised by the straightforwardness of the question but it is better than beating around the bush.
The other section is similar to the Cantril Ladder as it also measures your satisfaction with life but it dives a little deeper. Without being satisfied with your life, you cannot enjoy what it has to offer. This portion of the Happiness Index let me evaluate my feelings so that I could face them with courage. I realised that simple questions sometimes make a big impact. I was able to compare my happy days with my anxious ones and was prompted to do something about the latter ones!
The next section is Psychological well-being. Psychological well-being is the aspect where, it seems to me, your happiness matters the most. If you are not optimistic about your future, do not have a sense of purpose or just don’t feel positive about yourself, naturally your happiness suffers. Your mental health is as important as your physical health. I have witnessed a mental health revolution in India in the past year because of the pandemic and the dents that it has put on people’s lives. Many people have come forward to narrate their struggles, to lend a helping hand and provide resources for people in need. I have seen in my life how the pandemic has negatively impacted my mental health, but also how helping others in these difficult times has been good for me.
The mental health section is followed by a section for physical health. - Joseph Pilates, originator of Pilates exercise routines, said “Physical fitness is the first requisite of happiness.” I think Joseph Pilates makes a good point. You may have heard your friends or family members tell you how they started feeling better after sweating it out in the gym. Exercise stimulates the production of endorphins which helps in elevating your mood and is also a natural painkiller. I have been practicing Yoga for some time now. It helps me in uplifting my mood besides the fact that it gives my muscles a good stretch!
I was surprised to find an entire section dedicated to time balance. - One of my favorite sayings is “You are the main character in the story of your life” by Timothy Kurek, an author and public speaker. I like this saying because it makes me realise that I am responsible for my own happiness. A large chunk of our lives is spent doing worldly things that fill the tummy, give shelter and a sense of safety. You attend your classes, go to your jobs or exhaust yourselves while trying to run a business. But in between this chaos, how much time do you actually spend doing things that put a smile on your face? This aspect of the survey helped me to realise that it’s okay to slow down a bit in this fast paced world and focus on what I love.
Lifelong Learning, Arts and Culture
One of the shorter sections is called Lifelong Learning, Arts and Culture. This section measures a lot with just a few questions. My neighbour, a small girl, once saw some boys playing cricket and longed to play it herself. The boys were unhelpful and she did not have access to expensive coaching centres. I saw how this broke her spirit. Having opportunities to learn and do what you love is an important factor that contributes to your happiness. This section also measures your experience with discrimination. Inclusion and belongingness is crucial to your wellbeing. When you feel excluded, your happiness decreases in many ways. You may identify with a certain group of people and are proud that you belong to a certain culture or ethnicity. But belonging to one group does not mean that people who do not belong should be discriminated against. Being discriminated against leaves a feeling of contempt, inferiority and makes a person feel anxious. I think that we should focus on feelings of inclusion and belongingness no matter what the group, as these are necessary for your well-being.
Like satisfaction with life, community is measured in two sections. The first one is simply called Community. Aristotle, a Greek philosopher, said “Man is a social animal.” Connection with others of our kind is a basic survival need. Community can include people that live around you, people you study with or a group of people with whom you take a walk. Community serves as an outlet for people to share their thoughts, to help and get help or to simply joke around. The Happiness Index has some interesting questions that made me think about my relations with people around me. In particular, it made me rethink my relationships with my neighbors, and see how important it is to have good, trusting relations.
The second section that measures community is called Social Support. It has a separate section because personal relationships can make or break a person. Having a loving family, supportive friends and an understanding partner can dramatically affect your happiness. Some people I know are told as they grow up, to be tough and independent. This preaching is not only wrong but also insensitive. I think the feeling of being cared for and loved is a basic requisite for the survival of humans, and this section made me grateful to my family and friends for all their love and support.
Following the sections for community is the environment - One beautiful saying that I came across while reading an article was “The dirtier the feet, the happier the heart.” To me, this means that spending more time with nature boosts the production of serotonin (the happy hormone) in your brain. I find that the benefits of spending time in the natural environment are innumerable. It increases my focus, uplifts my mood, makes me feel energised, improves eyesight and brings a sense of serenity. With the crisis of climate change hovering over us like a dark cloud because of the degradation of the environment, people are feeling less connected with nature than ever. The concrete jungle has created a gloomy atmosphere. I recently planted a turmeric plant at my window which made me want to care for it like a child. The fruit of the plant was satisfying. Nature really does give more than it takes!
The next section is Government. - Government has a large but sometimes not noticed impact on life. You pay taxes, are bound by the laws of the country and enjoy the facilities that it provides. From education to income to jobs to entertainment and much more, all aspects of your life somehow navigate its way back to the government. In many ways, the government sets the stage for happiness. In other words, it is the responsibility of the government to secure and protect people’s opportunities to be happy. This section of the Happiness Index asks you about your trust in the government and your view of the corruption in government. These questions are particularly relevant today with the uproar and protests all around the world. And by the way- to know more about how governments can create policies that prioritise the happiness of their people, read our book, The Happiness Policy Handbook.
Standard of Living
The second last section is Standard of Living. The widely used parameter for measuring the growth and prosperity of a country is average Gross Domestic Product(GDP) per capita. But GDP only measures the amount of goods and services produced in a year. It is insufficient to evaluate the real happiness of the people. If people are not happy, economic prosperity is of little use.
The last section in the Happiness Index is Work. - Some people go to the workplace everyday, silently wishing that they wouldn't have to go. They come home late, eat and then go to sleep. They repeat this cycle everyday to the point where their job is only a source of dissatisfaction in life. Working 8 - 10 hours a day without liking what you do affects your happiness negatively. Whatever your work, feeling a sense of responsibility and having a passion for what you do makes your work life interesting.
This section measures Work-life balance, instead of the time balance section which measures feeling rushed, leisure time and doing things you like. When your work-life is out of balance, you can feel distressed. Taking some time off to do things that you love is paramount for your happiness. As a student with lectures to attend and internships to work on, it is difficult to find time for myself. This is why I take at least half an hour from my day to read a book or listen to music to disconnect for a while.
The Happiness Index is a comprehensive measure of wellbeing that gives you lots to think about. There are other aspects of wellbeing in every section that could be included, but I understand that if every aspect were added, the survey would be too long to take - even for me.
When you get your scores, you have an idea about the extent to which you are happy and satisfied with your life. It encouraged me to make small changes in my life so that I can lead a better life. I hope it's a start of something good for you too!
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Posts written by the People of the Happiness Alliance & our Friends.