Is it possible to measure happiness? Nic Marks believes so. Nic is the founder of the Center for Well-Being at the British think tank called the New Economics Foundation (NEC). Niic and his team have come up with a measure for happiness called The Happy Planet Index. It measures the things that truly matter to us – our well-being in terms of our length and quality of life against what matters to the planet – the rate at which we are consuming our natural resources.
This is Day One of my Seven Days Of Happiness Series, where I watch TED talks for seven days instead of watching television, to increase my happiness and excitement for life.
In the following TED Talk Nic goes over his work. I also summarized a few points after the video.
Have you noticed recently that nearly every blockbuster movie has featured a disastrous apocalyptic future. It reflects the unfortunate fact that the world is focusing on problems and not on solutions. Fear is being used to grab peoples attention on environmental issues and concerns. But as Nic points out, this just triggers our flight-mechanism and we just end up avoiding and running away from the core problems facing us all.
The Problem – Greed
Greed is appealing. Indeed, more is better is the mantra of the western world. All our accounting is based on producing stuff. Do we really need to consume so much stuff? Are we happy as a result? We should measure sustainability and peoples happiness not just gross national product. So what should we measure?
“Our gross national product….it measures everything, in short, except that which makes life worthwhile.” Robert F. Kennedy
A number of surveys have identified four things that people put at the top of their desires; happiness, wealth, love and health. It is no surprise that happiness was at the top of this list of desires.
How To Measure Happiness
The happy planet index measures peoples happiness against environmental footprint for almost every country in the world. It’s not surprising that the US scores low on both counts. At the top of the list of the most happiest countries in the world is Costa Rica. You can read all about it here. Over 90% of Costa Rica’s electricity is generated from renewable resources, they have high literacy, abolished the army in 1949 and people have solid social networks and live long.
How To Be Happy
So how can we be happy? Nic, outlined five things we can all do individually to be happier:
- Connect. Invest time with love ones and in making new friends.
- Keep Active. Exercise has been proven to increase our positive mood.
- Take Notice of things. This ties in with mindfulness – stop, take in and enjoy each moment.
- Keep Learning. Keep curious and discover new things. Lean an instrument.
- Give. Compassion and altruism are tied into the reward system in our brains.
My Next Action
Maybe I should retire to Costa Rica!!??