Statistician Nic Marks asks why we measure a nation’s success by its productivity — instead of by the happiness and well-being of its people. He introduces the Happy Planet Index, which tracks national well-being against resource use (because a happy life doesn’t have to cost the earth). Which countries rank highest in the HPI? You might be surprised.
Nic Marks thinks quality of life is measurable, and that true contentment comes not from the accumulation of material wealth but from our connections with others, engagement with the world, and a sense of autonomy. This isn’t just theory: a pioneer in the field of well-being research, Marks creates statistical methods to measure happiness, analyzing and interpreting the evidence so that it can be applied to such policy fields as education, sustainable development, healthcare, and economics.
Here’s a good reason to help your coworkers with an upcoming project or presentation: Altruists in the office are more likely to be committed to their work and are less likely to quit their jobs, according to a new study from the University of Wisconsin-Madison. But beyond all that, researchers found perhaps the biggest benefit of office altruism: Those who help others are happier at work than those who don’t prioritize helping others.
“More and more research illustrates the power of altruism,” Donald Moynihan, a professor in the La Follette School of Public Affairs at the university, said in a statement. “Our findings make a simple but profound point about altruism: Helping others makes us happier. Altruism is not a form of martyrdom, but operates for many as part of a healthy psychological reward system.”
The study looked to two large-scale longitudinal studies to make the connection between helping others at work and happiness. Researchers examined the Wisconsin Longitudinal Study, which surveyed 10,000 Wisconsin high school graduates from the class of 1957. They found that people who said in their mid-30s that helping others in their work was important were apt to report being more satisfied with their lives nearly three decades later.
Researchers also found a link between happiness and helping others at work in cross-national data from the General Social Survey, which includes data from 49 countries around the world.
“It’s exciting that in both tests, our measures of altruism had relatively large effects on happiness,” Moynihan said in the statement. “Being motivated to help and believing your work makes a difference is associated with greater happiness in our analysis.”
A number of studies have also shed light on the value of friendship in the workplace, suggesting that strong social support can boost an employee’s productivity and make him or her feel more passionate about their work (and less likely to quit!).
“Camaraderie is more than just having fun,” University of Kentucky management professor Christine M. Riordan wrote in a Harvard Business Review blog, “We All Need Friends At Work”. “It is also about creating a common sense of purpose and the mentality that we are in it together. Studies have shown that soldiers form strong bonds during missions in part because they believe in the purpose of the mission, rely on each other, and share the good and the bad as a team.”
But the best part? Helping others may have a ripple effect that makes not only those who are performing the good acts happier, but may also boost happiness among other members of the community.
As psychology professor Dr. Barbara Fredrickson of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill tells PBS, “By creating chains of events that carry positive meaning for others, positive emotions can trigger upward spirals that transform communities into more cohesive, moral and harmonious social organizations.”
Be kind to the Earth we’re all exploring.
Being able to travel as a student is a wonderful privilege and opportunity to take advantage of; however, it can have an enormous impact on the environment and the communities you find yourself in. Some environmental negatives of traveling might be obvious, but are often overlooked if you’re solely focused on having a good time. Here are a few tips on how to enjoy and embrace student travel while still being kind to the Earth we’re all exploring:
Choose transportation wisely. Travel by air has an incredibly large carbon footprint, but it’s also one of the only options for most long-distance travel. For slightly less long-distance trips, consider a grounded form of transportation such as taking a train or possibly planning a road trip. Road trips can allow you to see much more along the way to your destination while also making a conscious decision about the vehicle you’re using. For travel within cities and towns, opt to rent a bike or just walk. You don’t always need to call a taxi if it’s a short trip; enjoy the fresh air and your surroundings while also getting some exercise in!
Bring your reusable water bottle. If you’re traveling somewhere where the tap water is safe to drink, toss your reusable water bottle in your bag (empty of course). I usually carry on an empty bottle so I can refill it as soon as I get off my flight. This may seem like a simple idea, but you’ll avoid buying one-use water bottles everywhere you go, which saves a lot of plastic!
If you have a kitchen, cook! If you’re staying for an extended period of time, you might have a kitchen available to you in whatever type of housing you’re in. While enjoying local restaurants is a necessary and enjoyable way to experience the food of your destination, they contribute to lots of food waste! Invite some new friends over and make a few meals from home every once and a while. While you’re grocery shopping, remember to shop local. It helps the economy within the community as well as produces less waste since the food doesn’t have to travel as far.
Stay in hostels/backpackers. More community-based housing also means less waste and resources are used within the space. You’re usually sharing rooms and bathrooms with guests, and they have minimal amenities. Many hostels implement initiatives such as renewable energy use through solar power, recycling and involvement and contribution in the surrounding community. I even stayed in one with showers that told me when I began to waste too much water. There are also plenty of Airbnbs that advertise being eco-friendly, allowing you to choose an environmentally kind place to stay while also saving money.
Be conscious of your impact on your host community. Before taking part in any planned activities in your study abroad destination, whether they involve interaction with people or animals, do a little research of the impact this activity might have on the community. Is it harmful to the well-being of an animal or to the local economy? Does it have detrimental effects on the true culture of the place you’re in? It’s perfectly fine to experience your destination, but try to avoid experiences catered for tourists rather than ones that are true representations of the place. Spend your money locally as much as possible!
Donate unused items. If you’re studying abroad, your host university will probably be able to assist you with this, but if you’re simply traveling see if there are any ways to make donations in your host community. Obviously if you have unopened and imperishable food items, there is most likely some type of food bank or food collection center around. You might have also gone shopping one too many times and found that you cannot fit everything back into the bag(s) you brought. Find a way to donate any unwanted clothing before you leave! My study abroad director also collected books, toiletry items and anything else we bought for our apartments that we had no need to take home. Donating these things helps reduce waste!
These are all easy first steps to traveling the Earth a little lighter, but depending on how and where you’re traveling you can always take these ideas even farther! It’s just as rewarding to protect the planet as it is to explore it.
“Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill” is a book wrote by Matthieu Ricard that will help you to understand happiness as the deep sense of flourishing that arises from a healthy mind as well as a way of interpreting the world.
Happiness in the West is still seen in material terms, as having the most toys and perks. Some people have cynically given up on the whole happiness project and are only willing to acknowledge moments of joy or bliss. Matthieu Ricard, a Buddhist monk and internationally known author, translator, and photographer takes another approach: “By happiness I mean here the deep sense of flourishing that arises from an exceptionally healthy mind. This is not a mere pleasurable feeling, a fleeting emotion, or a mood, but an optimal state of being. Happiness is also a way of interpreting the world, since while it may be difficult to change the world, it is always possible to change the way we look at it.”
This enlightening volume is filled with helpful insights into the way our minds and emotions work, two key aspects in Ricard’s guide to the development of this crucial skill.
In Buddhism, sukka, or happiness, is a state of lasting well-being that unfolds when we have overcome mental blindness and afflictive emotions. This state of being or skill is not linked to intelligence, sex, or ethnicity any more than it is to physical beauty. The happiest people Ricard has met are Tibetan seers who have tamed their egos through mind-training exercises and are able to approach every person and every situation with natural ease, benevolence, fortitude, and serenity.
In this book, the author also examines how thoughts such as desire, hatred, and envy become our own worst enemies. Hitting high stride in the closing chapters, Ricard discusses the connections between happiness, kindness, humility, optimism, going with the flow of time, and facing death with equanimity.
Is it when everything is going your way? Is it when you have achieved success and been applauded for all your accomplishments? Is it when you have the perfect body? The perfect love? Is it when you have all the material things you always wished for? Is it when you finally have the approval of your family and friends?
Realize that those thoughts and experiences are not what will give you joy. They are about happiness of the fleeting kind, which once achieved leaves you empty. They keep you constantly searching but never finding, always ready for the next best thing. They keep you in this perpetual cycle of seeking but never really attaining happiness in the true sense.
I have learnt that deep-rooted happiness is in the soul, that it stays firm and solid no matter what is happening around me. For such a lasting state of joy I have to participate fully, by creating a powerful state of mind, a stage for the soul from where to perform all deeds. I have to constantly bring my focus back on happiness. Keep pulling myself consciously into the light. After all there is no such thing as darkness. Darkness is only the absence of light.
That yearning for true happiness is in everyone’s heart. It’s that constant awareness, that constant pushing and pulling, that takes time and mindfulness. And it requires lots of prayers. It’s not impossible, but it does need your full and consistent participation. It is definitely within your grasp. You just have to make up your mind that it is in fact what you truly desire.
‘What is happiness?’ is a question that has intrigued humanity for eons. People have climbed the highest peaks, dived into the deepest oceans, sat in meditation in caves for months, isolated themselves in deep contemplation on mountaintops, yet they have not found the secret to this billion dollar question.
No one, including our parents, our schoolteachers, or our gurus, has ever taught us to be happy. Wish that schools would offer an education in mastering happiness. Imagine if happiness were truly an art – how many of us would claim to pass in that subject?
Virtually every human being has the same problem- we know what is good for us, but we don’t do it. We tend to be lazy at heart. We rarely want to work for something. We prefer the easy, comfortable path. So if happiness can be achieved easily through material means, then why not?
Take for instance shopping, vacations etc. Taking pleasure from buying things can give us a high, going on vacations may add to our happiness quota but the effects will wear off sooner than we think. It’s like a drug, effective for a very short while but giving us a taste and a wanting for more and more so we can maintain that high feeling.
Such happiness is fleeting because it is dependent on things, people and circumstances outside of us and thus can just as easily be taken away.
We tend to seek success, fame and acquisitions as a means to our ultimate happiness. We set up principles and impose values on ourselves and we always feel uncomfortable and unhappy when we do not live up to those standards we have set.
Nothing outside of you can give you joy. Nothing others do can make you truly happy. The spiritual path requires that you just BE happiness.
Take some time daily to go deep within so you may consciously connect with the happiness from within you. Meditate, so that you may tap into the joy that is your birthright. Align your thoughts, your words and your actions so that you may experience the bliss that comes from knowing that you have been true to yourself. Then there will be success, and all the other things you seek will surely follow.
Being happy already you will suddenly realize that the things you were always seeking did not matter so much after all…
“There is a life-force within your soul, seek that life.
There is a gem in the mountain of your body, seek that mine.
O traveler, if you are in search of that
Don’t look outside,
Look inside yourself, and seek that.” Rumi