Paid to Study Happiness

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It was a pleasant experience to read Majorie Chiew’s Star article on Happiness. ‘”What brings me happiness is the awareness that people I know and love are taken care of.”  Meik Wiking, a Danish researcher in his thirties is paid to study happiness. As the Chief Executive Officer of the Denmark based Happiness Research Institute, his work is focussed on studying life satisfaction, happiness and quality of life.  I have listened to many pop psychologists and chartered psychologists speaking on the subject of happiness. Some have been very relevant and research based and some are really motherhood statements. Wiking’s mission is to inform decision makers  of the causes and effects of human happiness and improve the quality of life for citizens globally. The goal is to provide scientific studies on happiness. The focus of the research is to study on what drives the quality of life and how to increase it.

In the United Nations World Happiness Report 2016, Denmark is Number 1 and Malaysia ranks 47th. The report lists down the happiness levels of 156 countries. As a Dane, he is proud of his country making it to Number 1.  He attributes this to the Danish welfare model which is good at ‘reducing unhappiness’.  Danes do not resent the high taxation rate, about 56% taxation as when successful people pay into a common pool, they are investing into a quality of life. There is free access to health care, unemployment benefits, free education, trust in the government institutions and a corruption free environment.

It is interesting to note his comments on the right of a person to be both happy and unhappy. We all have off days, he says. Moving forward he recommends the use of ‘gratitude journals’. Rather than focus always on negative things, he recommends the writing down of three positive things on a daily basis. The drivers of happiness includes:

  • satisfaction with our social relationships,
  • health,
  • meaningful work
  • and a good work-life balance.

Interesting comments. I watched his Ted Talk show and could relate to many of the things he says. The website provides great ideas. http://www.happinessresearchinstitute.com/

Personally, I was happy and driven to tears watching two Indian movies: the Tamil one ‘ Appa (Dad) ‘ and the Hindi one ‘Munnabhai MBBS 2′, with the family, over the weekend. One talked about the active and meaningful relationships a Dad has with his son while another talked about how the principles of non violence of Gandhi and Martin Luther King can get you the desired results and happiness .

On another note, I was visibly unhappy as my family can vouch for it and really stunned to see the environmental destruction of the hills near Ipoh. It is being done so blatantly and there seems to be no outcry of public opinion. I was visibly unhappy with my own unwillingness until now to talk about it. I posted the photos on Facebook and it  garnered 15000 views. I was happy that I had the courage to post the photos. I hope something comes out of it.

As Wiking says, the easiest way, I guess for an individual to be happy is to reduce unhappiness, be grateful for what we have (a gratitude journal), do something active, meaningful and with people. WE have the choice to be happy.

After all, did not Abraham Lincoln say:

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”

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