Around the world you'll find scientifically identified pockets of happy people ranging in size from neighborhoods to entire countries. Researcher Dan Buettner spent years studying them to find out what makes them so special, and how others can emulate their success in the happiness department.
Photo by Nana B Agyei.
This week we're taking a look at the work of researcher and author Dan Buettner. Buettner has spent years studying what makes people happy around the world and what governments, communities and individuals can do to grab a piece of this well being. Today we're going to highlight some of Buettner's tips — from his book Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way — on how to apply the lessons from the "blue zones" — the areas of concentrated happiness and well being he's studied like Denmark and Singapore — and apply those to your day-to-day work life — no immigration necessary.
One thing to keep in mind while entertaining how to incorporate the following tips into your life is that each one of them has a micro and macro scale option. You can decrease the time you spend commuting, for example, by asking to work from home a few days a week, changing the time of day you commute, moving closer to work, changing jobs, or quitting and starting a job that you can work at from home. How dramatic a change you make is constrained only by how thoroughly you desire and are able to make the change.
Limit Your Workweek
American culture is undeniably one of Puritan work ethic and measurement of worth in financial earning. Buettner points out that the time and energy you spend working, past a certain point, has limited rewards and often takes away from the things that would make you happier in life-spending time with your family, enjoying a hobby, playing a sport, learning a new skill. Once you make a certain amount of money you're just making more money and not acquiring more happiness; a study we highlighted last year supports the idea of a happiness wall in financial earnings. Photo by Greg Mote.
Whether you limit your work week by making small and subtle changes such as leaving your work laptop at work on the weekends or making drastic changes such as downsizing your house so you can afford to work fewer hours at a lower stress job, the fewer hours you work and the more hours you have available for the rest of life the happier you'll be.
Avoid Long Commutes
Among surveyed workers, commuting was their least favourite daily activity. When quantifying just how unhappy commuting made them, Buettner discovered that they'd need a nearly 40 per cent increase in wages to be as happy as somebody who was able to walk to the very same job. Make your commute more bearable and potentially quicker by convincing your boss that you should telecommute. Photo by Rebecca Wilson.
Don't Skip Holidays
The average American worker doesn't even take the meagre two weeks that is considered basic holiday time in most workplaces. Buettner suggestions breaking up your year with multiple holidays as research indicates that we derive almost as much pleasure from planning the holiday as we do from taking it. Four, week-long holidays over the course of the year provide four times as many pleasure-inducing planning periods as a single lengthy one would. It should strike no one as surprising that the majority of the "blue zones" he studies are in cultures that place an emphasis on the importance of and sanctity of regular holidaying. Photo by Ahmed Amir.
Enjoy Happy Hour
The happiest people inside and out of the "blue zones" were the social ones. After-hours socialising helps build relationships with your coworkers, helps you unwind, and fosters community inside and outside of the workplace, which is one of the planks of happy "blue zone" life. Photo by Andy Coan.
If your workplace doesn't have a social element to it, seek out coworkers and start a tradition of socialising after work or on the weekends. You might not love everyone you work with, but having a social connection to them outside of office drudgery makes work more enjoyable and fosters good will. If you can't stand the thought of socialising with your current crop of coworkers consider finding somewhere else to work and, at minimum, making sure to foster a social life with non-work friends. The more hours a day you socialise the happier you'll be and every addition of a good and trustworthy friend brings as much happiness as a raise.
Find the Right Boss
Many people over look the importance of a good boss (or are so discouraged from years of having terrible ones that they just give up and accept poor management). Having a good boss is the single best indicator that you'll enjoy your work. Having a crappy boss is a surefire way to be miserable. Photo by The Mighty Time Inconnu.
If you've got the boss from hell it's time to start searching for a new job (or a transfer to a different department). Good bosses provide regular feedback, provide clear requirements and expectations, and offer recognition for your work. This is the kind of advice that many people shake their heads at and say, "I can't just go find another job." but the alternative is passively waiting out your bad boss and hoping that he'll be replaced by somebody better. That's no way to find happiness in the workplace.
The best of of Buettner's book isn't all the tips on ways you can incorporate "blue zone" living into your life, truth be told. The tips are great and we're not down playing them, but the real value in the book is the way it functions as an expedition around the world. By seeing how people live in Denmark, Mexico, Singapore, and other countries where levels of happiness and contentment are radically higher than in the US (or Australia) you being to get a sense that the way you're living, the endless hours you work, and the vacations you decline are abnormal and that there is more out there than 60 hour weeks and weekends spent with the company laptop.