14 May Happiness is…looking to others
By Cassie White – ABC online
Having trouble finding happiness?
Well, thinking about the happiness of others is the key to finding it ourselves, an expert says.
The founder of the Happiness Institute, Dr Tim Sharp, says overall Australia is a pretty happy nation, although other countries are still doing better.
“When most people think about happiness they think of the question: ‘How are you feeling right now?'” he said.
“That’s a part of happiness but it’s also much more than that. What large-scale surveys measure is life satisfaction, or quality of life.
“In addition to the simple questions, they also measure things like access to public transport, public education, public health – those sorts of macro-societal issues.
“If we look at the countries who are doing really well … in the top five or 10 are the Scandinavian countries. The reason we think that is, is because they have very strong social support mechanisms.
“They tax really highly but you get a lot back for that: lots of annual leave; parental leave; very good access and equal access to health; education etc. The other thing we know about those social democracies is that there’s a small gap between the rich and the poor.”
Dr Sharp says most of us are not aware that our happiness relies greatly on others – and vice versa.
He said if people were more aware of that, they might start thinking of others more.
“Most people by nature are selfish and that’s kind of a natural thing,” he said.
“A lot the major philosophies and schools of religion do make some good points, and if you strip away a lot of the language, at the heart of most of them they do say some similar things, and one of them is ‘love your neighbour’.
“One of the hot topics at the moment in positive psychology is connectedness, which means our happiness is dependent on not just what we do, but the people around us and even the people around them.
“So [that means] the networks in which we exist – and that’s our work colleagues and family – but beyond that and beyond that again.
“The communities and neighbourhoods in which we live, they all affect our health and well-being, but most people aren’t aware of the sometimes quite powerful effects their friends and friends of friends have.”
Dr Sharp says a sort of “wellness movement” seems to be taking place, where people are changing the way they think about their overall well-being.
He says that means the popularity of things such as gym memberships, yoga, tai chi and alternative medicines are skyrocketing.
But to achieve happiness on a more personal level, he says, learning the art of mindfulness can be key.
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