“The Little Book of Lykke” explores the fundamental secrets of happiness and how we can integrate these back into urban living.
I recently attended a fascinating talk by Meik Wiking, CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and author of “The Little Book of Lykke”. Every nation seems to have its own set of ideas of what contributes to happiness, but what Meik discovered from numerous conversations with people from around the world is that 75% of the difference in happiness can be explained by 6 main factors:
1) Social Support
We all need someone we can rely on in times of need. Past generations were generally much more community-based, but in the modern world we tend to lose ourselves in false communities, like Facebook or Twitter.
What we need to do is bring back that feeling of social togetherness by creating communities. A popular concept that originated in France, is that of the “conversation salon”, where people from a local area get together and tune back into the ancient art of communicating with someone face to face.
EXERCISE! We all know it’s one of the best things we can do to support our health, both physically and mentally, but it can be incredibly difficult to fit it into our already hectic schedules. The Danes seem to have the solution: incorporate exercise into our routines. A majority of people in Copenhagen, including politicians, escape the confines of the cramped commute, by riding their bikes to work.
Other recommendations include: getting off the bus or train a stop early and walking to work, taking the stairs instead of the lift and having outdoor “walking” meetings.
A lot of people believe that if they were earning six figures, they would immediately become happy, but studies show that there’s a point of diminishing return when it comes to income. Beyond a certain number, typically around £40,000 a year, levels of happiness do not increase by very much, if at all. Once our basic needs have been covered, such as rent, food and a few fun activities, we don’t actually need much more to thrive emotionally.
What we do need though, is to feel that our “relative income” is sufficient enough. How much we earn in relation to our peers seems to be more important than our absolute income.
We all have to work, so no one is truly “free” in an ideological sense, but feeling like we have autonomy over our work life can be the next best thing. One way to achieve this is by changing the way we work. For example, you could adopt the practice of “Mindful Mondays”, where every Monday, you and your colleagues take 20 minutes out of the day to switch off your phones, close your emails and appreciate the beauty of undisturbed silence.
Most of us could probably recognise our neighbours in the street, but how many of us actually “know” or even talk to them? A side effect of urban living is that we don’t really communicate with the people that occupy the same area as us. This is antithetical to the idea of community previously espoused. Making an effort to get to know our neighbours increases the levels of trust we have and helps us feel more safe in our environment.
If you’ve ever given money to a homeless person, or helped an old lady cross the road, you may remember feeling quite “good” afterwards. This is no coincidence; there exists a phenomenon known as “helper’s high” where voluntary acts of kindness release endorphins in the brain and help make us feel more connected to the world around us.
A lot of people take this feeling further, by setting up charities or voluntary organisations to expand the help they can offer and create a community in the process.
We could all benefit from adding a bit more “lykke” into our lives, so to find out how, check out Meik’s book and the secrets of happiness “The Little Book of Lykke”.
Also, check out Action For Happiness; an amazing charity that helps teach us how to live happier and more fulfilled lives.