Summary-The Key to Happiness - Meik Wiking
Here's a summary:
Meik Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and studies happiness
He believes we should focus on the good in the world and spread it
His previous book The Little Book of Hygge focused on the Danish concept of coziness and everyday happiness
Wiking receives letters from around the world showing how concepts like hygge resonate globally
Happiness studies show that while cultures differ, we share the same basic hopes, dreams and definitions of happiness
Wiking believes Denmark ranks highly in happiness studies because it provides good conditions for quality of life, though it's not perfect
The keys to happiness can be found all over the world, not just in Scandinavian countries
Six main factors drive differences in happiness between countries: community, money, health, freedom, trust and kindness
In summary, Wiking studies happiness and believes that while happiness looks different across cultures, all humans share the same fundamental desire to be happy. Although Denmark frequently ranks as one of the happiest countries, Wiking says true happiness comes from gathering lessons from across the world.
The author believes there are several factors that determine a person's happiness. She has dedicated chapters in her book to explore each factor in depth. While 80% of the differences in happiness between countries are due to factors within countries, the author aims to identify common traits of the happiest people around the world and provide recommendations for people to become happier.
The author defines three dimensions of happiness:
Affective (or hedonic) dimension: Refers to the emotions people experience on a daily basis, e.g. feelings of depression, anxiety, joy, etc.
Cognitive dimension: Refers to people's overall evaluation of their life satisfaction and happiness. It requires people to take a step back to assess their lives as a whole.
Eudaimonic dimension: Based on Aristotle's concept of happiness as living a meaningful and purposeful life.
The ideal way to study happiness is to monitor large groups of people over long periods of time to see how changes in their lives impact their happiness across these three dimensions. The author aims to quantify the average impact of life events like income changes, marriage, moving locations, etc. on people's happiness.
While observational studies can identify correlations between factors and happiness, determining causality is challenging. The ideal experiment would separate identical twins at birth and manipulate only one specific factor to see its effect.
The UN World Happiness Reports have ranked countries by their average happiness levels based on surveys. The top 10 happiest countries between 2013 to 2017 were Denmark, Switzerland, Norway, Iceland, Finland, Canada, Netherlands, Sweden, Australia and New Zealand.
The author discusses the importance of community and togetherness for happiness. As a child, some of her happiest memories were of community events like the summer solstice bonfire, where people would gather to celebrate by lighting bonfires. Sharing meals together, like family dinners, also help to strengthen community bonds and increase happiness.
The author cites research showing that the happiest countries and people tend to have strong communities and social connections. For example, Denmark ranks highly in happiness and community. Even though Danes pay some of the highest taxes in the world, they tend to support high taxes because it funds services and a quality of life that benefits the whole community. The Danish word for community, “fællesskab,” conveys this idea of a shared space that people create together.
The author argues that while we can’t control everything, we shouldn’t dismiss the possibility of scientifically studying and understanding happiness. With effort and by making small changes, we can work to better understand and improve happiness. Things like sharing meals, lighting candles, and strengthening community are simple ways to start. Overall, the author believes that happiness comes more from connections to others and feelings of purpose or contributing to something greater than oneself. A good, happy life is linked to the common good.
In summary, the key ideas are:
Community and social connections strongly contribute to happiness.
Simple rituals of togetherness, like sharing meals, help build community.
While the study of happiness is complex, it is possible and worth pursuing. We can make small changes to better understand and improve happiness.
Happiness comes from connections to others and purpose, not material gain. It is linked to the common good.
High taxes can fund community services and quality of life, which benefits happiness. Community is something people create together.
Does this summary accurately reflect the key ideas and arguments the author is making? Let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand on any part of the summary.
A sense of community refers to the feeling of belonging and connection with others in a group. Some examples of fostering a sense of community include:
Shared economy: Joint ownership or access to resources, e.g. couples sharing a bank account.
Shared destiny: Feeling like you are in something together with a group.
Shared space: Coming together in a common area, e.g. a garden, courtyard or dining area. This encourages social interaction and relationship building.
Some ways to build a stronger sense of community include:
Create a neighborhood directory to connect people and share useful information. This helps people get to know each other.
Start a book-lending library where people can take and leave books. This encourages interaction and makes the space feel more homey.
Use "soft edges" like front gardens, porches and courtyards. These semi-private spaces invite social interaction while still allowing some privacy. Just being outside and present creates a welcoming feel.
Organize community events like potlucks, movie nights or children's activities. Giving people opportunities to come together in person is key.
Share resources like tools, skills and time. For example, organizing childcare, pet care or carpooling cooperatives. Helping each other builds closeness.
In summary, fostering connection through shared spaces, interactions, resources and events can help build a sense of community. Though community isn't for everyone, for many it provides benefits like safety, support, and friendship.
Few people visit your kitchen but your front garden allows neighbors to interact. From her outdoor reading spot, the author has learned about her neighbors like Peter, his daughter Katrine, and Majed who owns a fruit store. Knowing your neighbors by name and learning their stories can make noise from them less annoying.
Create a community garden. It allows you to grow fresh food, build community, and improve mental health. The author's organization created one across from their office to bring neighbors together.
Start a tool-sharing program. Most tools are rarely used so sharing them reduces clutter and waste while building community. Ask neighbors what tools they want to borrow and lend, and create a board to organize the program.
Case study: Shani grew up in a small Canadian town but moved around as an adult, longing for community. She and her partner Tim lived on Hulbert Street which they turned into a community. They asked neighbors how they wanted the street to be and created a skill register to share resources, leading to activities like gardening, movies, choirs, and pizza dinners. When Shani and Tim's safe was stolen, neighbors supported them financially and emotionally.
Learnings: Define your community geographically. Secure public space. Tap into people's dreams and aspirations to motivate them. Teach people to long for community, not just assign them tasks.
Happiness tip: Create a neighborhood directory to share skills and resources. Connect with neighbors by knocking on doors. Set up mini-libraries, community gardens, or other activities based on neighbors' interests and skills. Building community around the unique people in your neighborhood is key.
The author recalls a happy memory of being surrounded by friends after a skiing trip. He notes research shows that social interactions and connections with others strongly correlate with happiness.
Loneliness reduces happiness. 88% of people in OECD countries report having someone they can rely on in times of need. Those in New Zealand, Iceland and Denmark feel most socially supported.
The author argues that while technology allows us to connect in new ways, in-person social interaction and community involvement remain crucial for happiness. A study found that reducing Facebook use led to higher life satisfaction and less loneliness.
The author argues we must work to build in-person communities and connections to counter the isolating effects of technology. He calls this creating "critical analogue mass" - having enough people engage in in-person social interaction.
Examples of building community include: celebrating Neighbors' Day like the Dutch, limiting screen time and social media use, creating no-phone zones, and cooperative housing that provides privacy as well as community.
A Danish boarding school limits phone and social media use to 1 hour a day, voted on by students. 80% chose to continue the limits, showing students value the community built by restricting technology.
Other options for building community include weekly family or friend dinners without phones, game nights, watching movies together, or just spending casual time together. The key is making the effort to foster in-person connections.
In summary, the author argues that while technology has allowed new modes of connecting, building strong in-person communities and relationships remains key to happiness. Making the effort to limit distractions, engage with others face to face, and build close-knit circles of support can help create the social connections humans crave.
Here are the summaries:
The Dutch National Neighbours’ Day initiative brings neighbours together over coffee and has become a nationwide event celebrated in many districts.
After Detroit's economy collapsed, people started urban community gardens and local food production. Detroit is now one of the world's biggest urban agricultural movements.
In Okinawa, Japan, people often live over 100 years old. Some say it is because of 'moai' - close social circles people commit to for life. Moai provide support in times of struggle.
Mexico's Day of the Dead is a celebration of life, not mourning. People believe the dead can visit, so they take food and drink to graves to celebrate together.
The saying 'It takes a village to raise a child' suggests we should see each other as family and support each other. This brings happiness.
Money and happiness have a complicated relationship. More money means more happiness when it provides basic needs. But beyond that, more money does not mean more happiness. We adapt to higher wealth and want even more - called the 'hedonic treadmill'.
A study found ambitious people become more successful but not happier. They always want more, never satisfied. Happiness may be ambition minus reality. Some say Danes are happy due to low expectations but this was a joke. Danes expect to be even happier in future.
Tips: Enjoy the journey, not just the goal. Expect that achieving a goal will only make you happy for a while. We always want more. Find ways to be satisfied without needing ambition for more.
Happiness comes from the journey and pursuit of meaningful goals, not the destination. People who chase meaningful pursuits, like building a boat or growing tomatoes, tend to be happier. They understand happiness is a byproduct of the process, not the end result.
Expectation and anticipation can be a source of joy. Studies show people are willing to pay more to kiss their dream celebrity 3 days from now versus immediately. The author looks forward to an annual ski trip for months because the anticipation brings happiness. However, unmet expectations and ambition can also lead to misery.
People care about their relative wealth and status, not just absolute wealth. Studies show many people prefer earning $50K when others earn $25K versus earning $100K when others earn $200K. This desire to "keep up with the Joneses" and conspicuous consumption can lead to overspending to signal status.
The "Law of Jante" in Nordic countries discourages conspicuous displays of wealth and promotes humility. It leads to less flashy spending and helps curb status signaling. While it has some downsides, it reduces focus on relative wealth.
South Korea has become very wealthy but not happier. Despite huge economic growth, South Korea ranks low in happiness and high in suicide. Many South Koreans visit the Happiness Research Institute looking for ways to improve well-being. The US is another example of a very wealthy country that has failed to convert wealth into well-being, in part due to inequality.
To improve well-being, countries should decouple it from wealth. An example is Copenhagen investing in clean harbors and public amenities like swimming areas, creating urban oases that improve quality of life. Focusing less on conspicuous consumption and more on public goods and experiences can help convert wealth into well-being.
You are living with a friend and money is tight. However, in Copenhagen, you can enjoy life without spending much. Things like cycling, swimming in clean water, and exploring the city are free. Denmark has succeeded in enabling people to have a good quality of life at little cost.
A journalist named Michelle McGagh did an experiment where she spent no money for a year except on essentials like rent, bills, and basic groceries. At first, it was difficult, especially in the winter when she usually went out to restaurants and pubs. However, in the spring and summer, she found happiness doing free activities like cycling, swimming, visiting museums, and attending free events. The experience taught her she didn’t need to buy things to be happy and pushed her out of her comfort zone.
Some tips for finding inexpensive happiness:
Link purchases to experiences. Save big buys for special occasions so the item represents a happy memory. Or choose things that will lead to future good moments.
Read. Reading is free, especially if using a library. It can be therapeutic and help you gain perspective on your problems.
Create a “smile file.” Write down any nice comments you receive to counter the tendency to focus on criticism. Do this occasionally, like once a week, to avoid making it routine.
Establish an inexpensive social group. Take turns planning free or cheap activities to do together instead of organizing life around restaurants or bars.
Some countries are better at turning wealth into well-being. While wealthier nations are generally happier, rankings show money alone does not determine happiness. It’s how money is used that matters more. For individuals too, the key is getting the most happiness for your money.
buying experiences rather than things and making meaningful social connections can help achieve this. For example, the memory of taking an icy plunge in Helsinki’s harbor and enjoying a traditional sauna will last far longer than any material item. Focusing on life’s simple pleasures is a recipe for happiness that costs little yet yields much.
The author believes universal healthcare leads to greater happiness and quality of life. He cites research showing people with chronic health conditions like psoriasis tend to be less happy in all countries. In contrast, Nordic countries that provide universal healthcare rank highly in happiness. The author quotes Bernie Sanders saying the Nordic model of freedom means less anxiety from economic insecurity and a guaranteed minimum standard of living for all.
The key points are:
Health is a key determinant of happiness across cultures. Parents everywhere want their children to be healthy.
The author's research on psoriasis shows chronic health conditions reduce happiness globally.
Universal healthcare, as in Nordic countries, leads to greater happiness by reducing worries and ensuring basic needs are met.
Bernie Sanders views the Nordic model as providing freedom through financial security and a minimum standard of living for all.
Implicitly, the author argues universal healthcare should be an obvious policy choice to improve well-being.
The summary touches on the author's views on the link between health, happiness and policy. The key evidence, examples and quotes are included to support the main points around universal healthcare and financial security promoting happiness. Please let me know if you would like me to clarify or expand the summary further.
The author argues that the TV show Breaking Bad would not have worked in a Nordic context because of universal healthcare. Danes have a high level of happiness but not the longest life expectancy. This is because Danes indulge in unhealthy habits like smoking, drinking, and eating sugary foods. However, Danes stay physically active, often cycling.
In Copenhagen, 45% of commutes are by bike. Cycling is very popular for all ages and professions. The city has invested heavily in cycling infrastructure. Studies show that cycling leads to a lower risk of premature death, cancer, heart disease, and other illnesses. Cycling also has economic and environmental benefits for cities.
Copenhagen and other bike-friendly cities tend to rank highly in livability rankings. For most Danes, the main reason to cycle is because it is easy and convenient, not for health or environmental reasons. The author argues that “a city is successful not when it’s rich but when its people are happy. Creating bikeability and walkability shows respect.”
In summary, Danes value happiness and cycling plays an important role in supporting that happiness through convenience, health, and community benefits. Cycling-friendly policies have had a transformative impact on Copenhagen. Other cities could learn from Copenhagen’s example in supporting cycling.
Guillermo Peñalosa, former Parks Commissioner of Bogotá, Colombia believes that creating public spaces leads to a happier and more equal society. Public spaces are 'social blenders' that bring people of all social classes together as equals. One initiative from Bogotá is Ciclovía, where streets are closed to cars on Sundays so people can walk, bike and play.
There are many ways to incorporate more walking and exercise into your daily life without going to the gym:
Take the stairs instead of escalators
Walk over to talk to colleagues instead of calling them
Find a walking partner for motivation and accountability
Take scenic walking routes
Make one day a week 'Walking Wednesday' and go for a walk after dinner
Go on 'coin-flip safaris' in your neighborhood to discover new areas
Listen to podcasts while walking alone
Take a walk if you arrive early for an appointment instead of just sitting
Meet friends for walks instead of just coffee or drinks
Join a walking or hiking group
Danish people get a lot of exercise because they build movement into their daily lives, like walking or biking for transportation, exercise breaks at work, and walk-and-talk meetings. Studies show walking or biking improves mood more than driving.
'Shinrin-yoku' or 'forest bathing,' the Japanese practice of spending time in forests engaging all your senses, has proven health benefits like lowering cortisol, boosting immunity, and improving mood and self-esteem. Spending time in nature in general can have therapeutic effects.
A research project at the London School of Economics aims to understand how people's happiness is affected by the local environment.
The project finds that participants are significantly happier outdoors in natural environments than in urban settings. This provides evidence that nature positively impacts our health and happiness.
'Forest bathing' or shinrin-yoku, involves fully experiencing nature with our senses. It is similar to mindfulness and can help reduce stress and increase well-being. Some tips for shinrin-yoku are visiting the same natural spot regularly and exploring forests slowly while using our senses.
Some Bhutanese schools practice 'brain brushing' - short mindfulness exercises at the start and end of the day. A study found this increased student well-being and improved academic performance.
Mental health issues are often stigmatized and seen as taboo. We need to talk openly about them to reduce stigma and help those suffering. Some countries like the UK and Denmark are making progress through public campaigns and celebrities speaking openly about their experiences.
Some ways cities and countries are promoting health and happiness:
Copenhagen, Denmark: 45% of commutes are by bike, promoting exercise.
Bogota, Colombia: On Sundays, many roads are closed to vehicles for 'ciclovía' - open for walking, biking and recreation. Over 1 million participate weekly.
The UK is working to reduce stigma around mental illness through the royal family's public campaign.
Researchers found that people experience more positive emotions when taking 'scenic routes' that expose them to natural environments. This can improve well-being during daily activities like commuting.
The algorithm calculates the most pleasant walking route by considering factors like less traffic and ability to enjoy landmarks. For example, going from Paul Revere’s house to the Boston state capital, the fastest route is 2 minutes longer but avoids busy streets and passes by city attractions.
The TV show Lazy Town promoted healthy eating and exercise to kids by using athletic characters who eat fruits and vegetables, called ‘sports candy’. After the show, sales of fruits and vegetables in Iceland increased 22%.
Having freedom to choose how we live our lives leads to happiness. A report found freedom of choice was one of six factors explaining happiness differences among people. Denmark ranks high in freedom and human rights. Time is an equally distributed resource but we have unequal freedom in how we spend it, especially regarding work, family, and commute.
An expat living in Denmark cited the work-life balance as the biggest difference from the UK. Danes value family time and leave work early. Fathers openly leave work for childcare. Danes average 1,457 work hours per year versus 1,674 in the UK and 1,790 in the US. Denmark has 5 weeks minimum paid leave and 52 weeks paid parental leave. Childcare is subsidized.
Studies show parents report lower life satisfaction than non-parents, called the ‘parental happiness gap’ or ‘penalty’. However, children provide purpose and meaning. The gap is bigger for women, who traditionally care for children more. Happiness depends on children’s age and future relationship. Headlines exaggerate the effect. The gap varies by country based on family policies. US parents are 12% less happy; UK 8%; Denmark 3%. Sweden and Norway have small 2% gaps or parents happier than non-parents. Sweden outperforms on balancing family and work, like 60 paid days off to care for sick children.
Jennifer Glass, a professor of sociology, examined how family-friendly policies in different countries affected parental happiness. She found that countries with the most generous policies had the smallest “happiness penalty” for parents. The happiest parents were in Portugal, where grandparents play an important role in child-rearing and provide more freedom and leisure time for parents.
Comedian John Oliver pointed out that the U.S. is one of only two countries without paid maternity leave. He said the U.S. should implement more family-friendly policies if it really values mothers.
Having good relationships with people from different generations, like “bonus grandparents,” can benefit both families and older people by providing extra help and reducing loneliness. You can create your own “bonus grandparent” system by connecting with trusted neighbors.
Louise and Tom moved from the U.S. to Italy for a better work-life balance and more affordable childcare. Although they miss friends and family, they have more time together as a family. Life in Italy is very different, with a slower pace of life, different culture, and attitudes about parenting.
Entrepreneurs in developed countries report higher job satisfaction than employees, even though they often earn less and work more. The reason is that they find the work meaningful and see their business as an extension of their identity. Danish entrepreneur Veronica started a fashion label that employs women in prisons, though the work is difficult. But she says she’s happy because she loves what she does.
Self-employment leads to higher happiness in developed nations where people start businesses by choice. In poorer countries, self-employment may be out of necessity due to lack of job opportunities. So motivation and circumstances determine how business ownership affects well-being.
The studies show that self-employed people report higher job satisfaction and life satisfaction. Entrepreneurs have greater freedom and purpose. They can pursue their passions and set their own schedule. However, the self-employed also face more risks.
Five ways to gain more freedom are:
Cook extra food on weekends and freeze leftovers. This saves time during the week.
Use small blocks of time wisely by planning how to use that time in advance.
Combine activities like socializing and exercising. This kills two birds with one stone.
Use apps like Freedom to limit distractions from the internet and social media.
Apply Parkinson's law by scheduling strict time limits for tasks. This increases efficiency.
Meetings, managers, and emails reduce freedom and productivity at work. Some solutions are:
Have "no-talk Thursdays" or periods of uninterrupted quiet time for concentration. -Work from home on certain days to avoid interruptions.
58% of Danes would continue working even if they didn't need to for financial reasons. They find work intrinsically rewarding.
Commuting to and from work reduces happiness and freedom for many. The commute traps people and makes them feel out of control. Studies show commuting is rated as one of the least enjoyable activities. The car does not actually represent freedom for most. Instead, it exacerbates frustration and reduces happiness.
In summary, greater freedom and control over one's time leads to higher happiness and satisfaction. Initiatives that reduce interruptions and maximize autonomy and flexibility can help achieve this freedom. For many, changing their perspective to find more purpose and meaning in their work and less frustration in their commute may also help.
Here is a summary of the key points:
There is a high level of trust in Danish society. Danes leave their children in strollers outside while dining and vegetable stands are often unmanned.
Trust makes life easier. In Denmark, you don't need contracts for small transactions and managers don't micromanage. People call CEOs by their first name.
According to the World Happiness Report, successful societies have high trust levels. People in high-trust societies tend to be happier.
Denmark ranks highest in trust among OECD countries according to surveys. 89% of Danes express a high level of trust in others. The OECD average is 59%.
The high trust in Danish workplaces stems from a spirit of cooperation, equality and empathy that is encouraged from an early age.
An example of building trust at a Copenhagen hospital: Employees were given flowers for praising co-workers. This increased job satisfaction, reduced sick days and staff turnover.
In summary, Denmark's high happiness levels are linked to the high societal trust. Trust makes life easier, improves workplace environments and is important for well-being. Building trust through recognizing and praising colleagues can have significant benefits.
A study found that people in Toronto believed the chance of a lost wallet being returned was less than 25% but when researchers actually ‘dropped’ wallets, 80% were returned.
Similar studies in European countries and the US found 50% of wallets were returned on average. Some were returned because finders empathized with the people who lost them.
Being trustworthy and empathetic leads to a happier and more prosperous society. Children should be taught these skills along with academic subjects.
In Denmark, schools focus on children’s wellbeing and social/emotional skills as much as academic skills. A weekly ‘class hour’ allows students to discuss issues like bullying.
A study showed reading literary fiction improves ability to understand others’ emotions. Teaching empathy may reduce bullying. A US school used footage of Trump supporters to teach students empathy.
The Danish education system focuses on life skills and empathy. Students aren’t ranked and don’t receive grades until 8th grade. Teacher-parent conversations evaluate children's development.
Despite focusing on life skills, Danish students scored well in math, reading and science on international tests. Teaching teamwork, empathy, etc. doesn’t undermine academic skills.
In summary, studies show people in Toronto and Europe were trustworthy and empathetic enough to return a majority of ‘dropped’ wallets. Schools should teach life skills like empathy, which can enhance society and academic success. The Danish model balanced wellbeing and scores.
Trust is good for companies and organizations. It leads to higher employee satisfaction, less bureaucracy, and cost savings. A case study from Copenhagen showed how shifting to a trust-based system for home care workers led to many benefits.
South Korea is a very competitive society. There is an "arms race" for beauty and education. South Korea has the highest rate of plastic surgery per capita. Reasons include low costs, popularity of simple procedures like double eyelid surgery, high male participation, and societal pressure to conform to beauty standards.
The education system in South Korea is also intensely competitive. Students attend school for very long hours, then often go to private cram schools and tutoring in the evenings. The college entrance exam is a huge source of stress and anxiety. Over half of suicidal teens cite academic pressure and college entrance as a reason.
To counter this, some are trying to promote more balance and cooperation. One example is a Danish-inspired boarding school in South Korea aiming to give students a break from competition.
The summary provides an overview of the key ideas around trust, cooperation versus competition, beauty standards, and education in South Korea. The examples give context and help illustrate the main points.
The South Korean government imposed a curfew on private tutoring centers and banned lessons after 10 pm. Citizens were incentivized to report curfew violations. Raids and crackdowns enforced the new rules. The policy aimed to relieve pressure on students.
Danish educator Yeon-Ho brought the concept of efterskole (boarding schools focused on student well-being) to South Korea. His dream was for students to learn responsibility, community, and happiness - not just study for exams. He believed students would succeed by being together and happy.
This approach focuses on social skills, togetherness, trust and cooperation rather than efficiency or test scores. Not all agree; the “Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother” promoted academic excellence, less leisure, and shame for failure. However, studies show “tiger cubs” had worse outcomes. Even the book’s author acknowledged that approach did not guarantee happiness.
There are benefits to an “elephant parent” approach of nurturing and encouraging children with love unconditionally. The author was raised this way and believes it gave her courage to pursue a path that made her happy, despite risks of failure. She met a violinist raised by a “tiger mom” who wanted to be happy as a child but was told that was “not a real ambition.” Though highly skilled, the violinist’s happiness was unclear.
Inequality reduces trust, empathy, health, and cooperation while increasing violence, crime, obesity, and teen pregnancy. A 2015 study examined “air rage” (unruly behavior) on planes and found economy class passengers were nearly 4 times more likely to choke someone if there was a first-class cabin. Seeing first class passengers increased air rage. Upper-class passengers were also more prone to antisocial behavior and less compassionate. Boarding through first class doubled air rage risk in economy. The study shows how societal inequality designs can increase antisocial behavior.
The UK studies well-being. An annual survey of 160,000 people asks about happiness, life satisfaction, anxiety, and meaning. A study found happiness inequality strongly predicted voting to leave the EU. The largest leave votes were in the unhappiest, most unequal places. Remain votes were highest in the happiest, most equal places. Inequality in well-being impacts well-being more than income inequality.
Income inequality was not associated with the vote to leave the EU but subjective well-being inequality was. This suggests that how we feel about our lives and how we compare ourselves to others is a better predictor of dissatisfaction than objective measures like income.
We seem to be wired to react strongly to inequality and injustice. Studies of capuchin monkeys show that they react angrily when they perceive unequal treatment or rewards.
Improving trust and happiness requires both short-term solutions like teaching empathy and cooperation as well as long-term solutions that recognize that our well-being depends on the well-being of others in our community.
Examples of building trust and cooperation include a study in Helsinki showing people returned lost wallets, an organization of Israelis and Palestinians who have lost family members promoting understanding, a school in Denmark using role playing games to teach social skills, a prison in Singapore focused on rehabilitation, and an organization in Brazil using art to help residents of poor neighborhoods take pride in their community.
An inspiring example of kindness is a man known as the “Free Help Guy” who has dedicated himself to helping strangers in need and making a difference in people’s lives. Though the outcomes are not always happy, helping others provides a sense of purpose. His story shows that while getting involved in others’ lives can bring sorrow, it also brings satisfaction from sharing in their victories and defeats. Life is messy, relationships are hard, and helping can hurt, but it also gives life meaning.
The author meets a man named Clark who started a project called "Free Help Guy" where he offers free help to anyone who needs it. Clark says that helping others has changed his life and made him much happier. The author recommends acting like the character Amelie from the movie of the same name by performing random acts of kindness to bring happiness to others. Studies show that altruism and helping others activates the reward center in our brain and leads to a "helper's high," increasing our happiness and life satisfaction.
The author shares a story of giving a banana to a hungry child and feeling great joy from that small act of kindness. She recommends celebrating World Kindness Day by performing acts of kindness with friends. Volunteering and giving your time to help others is also shown to lead to many benefits like more social relationships, increased happiness, and a sense of purpose. However, many people don't volunteer more because they see it as solely benefiting others rather than themselves.
The author shares the story of her friend Sophie who became depressed after losing her job but found purpose again through volunteering at her sister's charity cake sale. Sophie realized she had not lost her abilities and started regularly volunteering, helping her recover confidence and happiness.
In summary, acts of kindness, volunteering, and altruism have been shown to activate our brain's reward system, increase happiness and life satisfaction, provide social connections, and give a sense of purpose. Helping others benefits both society and ourselves.
Sophie volunteered to organize a cake sale to raise money for a charity. She enjoyed the work and found it rewarding. Now, she continues to volunteer in addition to her job. Volunteering gives her a sense of purpose, allows her to see her sister more often, and provides her with cake.
Happiness tip: Volunteer to help others and your community. It leads to increased happiness, trust in others, new skills, and new friends. There are many options like tutoring, coaching, helping political candidates, helping environmental organizations, or performing for the elderly. Try volunteering for a day to start.
Although Denmark ranks highly in happiness, Danes are often said to appear unfriendly or grim. The author measured smiles in cities around the world to compare them. Danes do smile, but not the most. People in Milan and Malaga smile more. But whether people smile depends a lot on whether they are alone or with others. Culture also affects views on smiling. Some cultures see smiles as indicating lower intelligence.
Happiness tip: Smile, chat, and be friendly with strangers. It spreads kindness, even if it is sometimes awkward. Kindness is contagious.
An anecdote illustrates how kindness is like a language the blind can see. As a child, the author saw a man lying in a busy New York street being ignored. In Myanmar, he saw strangers help a man who collapsed. A professor researched what makes people care for strangers in cities. He found crowded cities make people less willing to help due to feeling disconnected from others.
A study found that New York City had the lowest levels of helping strangers while Knoxville, Tennessee had the highest.
However, Rio de Janeiro in Brazil was found to be the kindest city. Despite having 12 times the population of Copenhagen, people in Rio were more helpful.
This may be because Brazilian culture emphasizes "simpatico" - being friendly, nice and pleasant. This makes Brazilians want to be seen as helpful.
In fast-walking cities, people are more likely to yell that you dropped something but keep walking. In Rio, people will chase you down to return what you dropped.
The founder of the Danish "Fucking Flink" movement is trying to encourage Danes to be friendlier and kinder. He believes kindness breeds more kindness and focusing on others makes you happier.
An experiment found that people who performed kind acts for a week felt less angry, laughed more and felt energized.
There are platforms like Be My Eyes that connect volunteers with people who need help, showing people want to help if given the opportunity.
The frequency of smiles was studied in over 20 cities and Malaga, Spain ranked the highest.
In experiments, Brazilians were found to be the kindest in helping strangers pick up dropped items or help blind people across the street.
The key messages are:
There is significant variation in helpfulness and kindness between cities and cultures
Brazilian culture and the concept of "simpatico" encourages kindness and helpfulness
Practicing kind acts makes you happier and kinder cultures tend to breed more kindness
Technology and social movements are enabling more opportunities for people to help others
Measuring smiles and helpful acts are ways researchers have studied the kindness and happiness of cities
Here is a summary of the passage:
The author argues that complaining may be a human tendency rather than something specific to certain cultures. People may complain to seem intelligent or because negativity is evolutionarily advantageous.
The author discusses an experiment showing that people rated negative book reviewers as more intelligent than positive reviewers, suggesting that negativity is seen as a sign of expertise. The author also notes that we tend to remember negative events well due to evolution.
The author argues that while focusing on the positive may not come naturally, it can lead to happiness and community benefits. The author discusses the town of Todmorden as an example, where residents came together to grow and share food, leading to community, educational, and economic benefits.
The author argues that the six factors of happiness—kindness, togetherness, healthy lifestyle, freedom, trust, and money—are mutually reinforcing. Combining these factors in innovative ways, as in Todmorden, can lead to greater happiness and change.
The author acknowledges challenges in the world but argues that cooperation, trust, and combining the six factors of happiness can help create positive change. The author urges the reader to "be my eyes"—to notice kindness and spread it.
In summary, the key points are:
Complaining may be human nature, but focusing on the positive can increase happiness.
Several factors contribute to happiness and community well-being, including kindness, togetherness, health, freedom, trust, and money.
These factors are interconnected and mutually reinforcing. Combining them in innovative ways can create positive change.
While there are many difficulties in the world, spreading cooperation, trust, and the factors of happiness can help make the world better.
The key messages and takeaways from the excerpt are:
Fear and lack of kindness towards strangers hold us back. We need to overcome fear and show kindness to move forward.
We need to redesign our cities to prioritize health, happiness and affordable quality of life for all. We should remove the price tag on wellbeing.
Now is the time to seek out the good in the world. The author asks the readers to help in this mission by sharing stories of happiness, kindness and things that make the world a little better.
The author went on a "treasure hunt" to find happiness and uncovered many examples. But there are many more to be found. The author asks the readers to continue the search and share the "gold" they uncover.
Even small acts of kindness, community-building and improving wellbeing matter and should be shared. The author asks people to share using the hashtag #Look4Lykke.
It's up to each person to make a positive impact on the world. We need more "dreamers and doers" creating kindness, championing happiness and driving change.
While some see the current state of the world as "false hope," hope and optimism accomplish more than pessimism. There is power in hope and believing we can build a better future.
Surround yourself with people smarter and more capable than yourself. Work with people who share your vision of a better world and will help make progress toward that vision.
The summary highlights the major themes around spreading kindness, community, and happiness. The author issues a call to action for people to share the good they see in the world to help spread more hope and positivity. Overall, the excerpt inspires readers to work together to build a better future.
Here's a summary:
Happiness levels are generally higher in Scandinavian countries.
Danish word 'hygge' refers to a feeling of cozy contentment. Danes value hygge and community.
Other factors: close relationships, work-life balance, trust in strangers, access to nature, leisure time.
Friends: Danes value close friendships and community. They have 'kaffemiks' - informal coffee gatherings.
Work-life balance: Danes value leisure time and work-life balance. They have 5-6 weeks of paid vacation and parental leave.
Trust: Danes generally trust strangers and institutions. This contributes to happiness and well-being.
Nature: Danes value nature and outdoor activities. Many Danes garden, bike, walk. This boosts happiness and health.
Leisure: Danes enjoy leisure activities - meals with friends, cycling, gardening, etc. Valuing leisure and downtime boosts well-being.
Inequality: Income inequality is low in Denmark compared to other countries. This contributes to life satisfaction.
Kindness: Performing acts of kindness boosts well-being and happiness. Many Danes volunteer and help strangers in need.
Government policies also support well-being: generous welfare state, healthcare, education, public works, transportation, etc.
Other factors: Enjoying simple pleasures, strong social skills, reading books. Favoring experiences over material goods.
So in summary, close relationships, community, nature, leisure time, work-life balance, trust, and egalitarian policies are major contributors to the high happiness and well-being levels in Denmark. Valuing experiences, kindness, and 'hygge' also help boost Danish happiness.
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