Scan Magazine, Issue 81, October 2015

Page 124

2_4_ScanMagazine_Issue_81_Oct-Nov_2015_Scan Magazine 1 16/10/2015 11:28 Page 124

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Spread a little happiness By Paul Blackhurst, client director at Mannaz

How happy are you feeling today? How can you measure and improve it? Whose responsibility is your happiness? Is it a legitimate topic for government debate and intervention? Various countries are wrestling with this issue in order to measure the impact of policy decisions. In the UK, the Office for National Statistics is developing measures of wellbeing so that government policies can “be tailored to the things that matter”. However, the pioneer in country happiness thinking is the tiny Kingdom of Bhutan where, since 1971, the country has rejected GDP as the only way to measure progress and has measured its prosperity through formal principles of gross national happiness (GNH). GNH is based on sustainable development, reservation and promotion of cultural values, conservation of the natural environment, and good governance. Clearly these are environmental factors and there is an assumption that they have an impact on personal happiness. Bhutan and the UK are measuring happiness but they are not yet delivering it. The World Happiness Report of 2015 showed that the happiest countries are Switzerland, Iceland, Denmark, Norway and Canada. The world happiness report considers the following factors when assessing country

124 | Issue 81 | October 2015

happiness: GDP per capita, life expectancy, having someone to count on, freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity. These factors include the external factors considered by Bhutan, but also add some personal, internal factors, such as “having someone to count on”. So is your level of happiness dependent on your environment? Would a move to Geneva put a guaranteed smile on your face? Psychological research informs us that our level of personal happiness depends as much, or maybe more, on what is inside us as what is outside. Viktor Frankl said that the last of human freedoms is to “choose one’s attitude” in any given set of circumstances. Perhaps working on happiness from the inside out is also relevant and, for most people, easier to achieve than a change of country. Perhaps this is still a government issue. Back in the UK, on World Peace Day on 21 September 2015, the Dalai Lama gave his blessing to a new course of evening classes, available across the country designed to make participants feel happier. The eight-week course, designed by the Action for Happiness organisation, claims to be scientifically proven to increase life satisfaction, mental wellbeing, compassion and social trust. The classes are free and hundreds of people have already volunteered to host the course in locations across the UK.

So governments are beginning to consider how they can create happiness through creating a conducive environment, but also through the education of their citizens in how to manage their emotions. Soon, we may be asked to complete customer satisfaction feedback forms to let the government know how they are doing. Of course, we already do that and we call it a general election. It makes sense for us as individuals to take responsibility for our own feelings and learn what makes us happy (or even happier). So wherever you live and wherever you are travelling to, there you are. Make the most of it and have a nice day!

Paul Blackhurst, client director at Mannaz

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