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8 Lessons of Happiness from the World Reports
Happiness and Sleep
Stockholm, March 20 2019, International Day of Happiness
Don’t we all strive for happiness? The pursuit of happiness is even an unalienable right given to all humans, according to the United States declaration of Independence. But what is happiness and how do we quantify or measure it?
The World Happiness Report in 2018 is topped by Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, The Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia.
The report measures GDP, life expectancy, social support, generosity, freedom and corruption. That means in Scandinavia we feel economically secure and acknowledge we have it better than the rest of the world.
But wait a minute. What if we measure happiness differently?
The Gallup Report decided to measure the Global Emotions Report, based on positive and negative emotions felt during the previous day: smiling and laughter, respect, enjoyment, worry, sadness and anger. Example: Did you feel well-rested yesterday? Were you treated with respect all day, did you smile or laugh a lot, learn something interesting, etc.
In that report, 7 of the top 10 countries are from Latin America: Paraguay, Colombia, El Salvador, Guatemala, Canada, Costa Rica, Ecuador, Honduras, Iceland, Indonesia, Panama, Uzbekistan.
Now, there is a third report : The Gallup overall Well-Being. Among the top 10 there are 6 Latin American countries and 2 Scandinavian!
Being a Swedish-Mexican ( I grew up in Mexico, Brazil and USA and then moved to Sweden) has given me the opportunity to experience the good and bad of both worlds. Overall, I consciously focus on the things I appreciate most from each side.
So here are some reflections:
How do we “pursuit” happiness? Is it a conscious choice? Dr. Lipton in his book “The honeymoon effect” says that if we constantly monitored our thoughts, we would be more in control to generate the feelings of happiness.
I see it as a conscious decision to eliminate the Negative Committee inside our heads – the one that chats constantly self imposed criticism and dissatisfaction-. We can consciously allow ourselves to feel happiness here and now, the only place and time it really happens.
Before sleeping, making a list of gratitude is proven to make you feel happier.
In Latin countries, we kiss when we greet - the first minutes after arriving to your office are spent kissing and greeting- and smile at strangers in the street.
Latinos manage to laugh or sing even in the middle of tragedy, to mitigate the pain. In Mexico, for instance, there’s the celebration on the Day of the Dead – well represented in the movie Coco- with food, dance and Mariachi music.
When you smile, your brain gets a positive signal. There’s a study that shows holding a pencil between your teeth influences facial muscles to release tension and influence your emotions.
Have you noticed which is the most common party music? Usually Latin music. It’s about the moves. Not only listening to music. It involves the whole body and senses. And the lyrics use often fun double meaning language to make you smile (check out La Camisa Negra from Juanes!).
During the time I was elected student leader in AIESEC we organized the Annual Global meeting in UK with 1200 participants from 80 countries lasting 10 days of hard work. Every night there was a party organized by different regions of the world. I found out the very last one was the Latin American. Why, I asked? Because it’s the most fun, and nobody will miss even if they are dead tired.
Dance will reduce stress, you’ll burn some calories and sleep better.
Having goals and determination is not enough. Actions make us reach that economic safety that increases happiness. Hard work built up a strong Scandinavia. A harsh climate makes us in Scandinavia plan and be strong today and not “manana, manana”.
Meaningful goals give us a sense of purpose and energy to overcome the everyday obstacles.The clearer the goals, the better can the subconscious work during sleep time to find solutions and connect the new information with the existing one.
In Scandinavia I admire how much respect we have for others. We arrive on time to respect everyone involved. Things get done as agreed. People respect other’s properties. Some people even leave their home door open or their car open with the key inside.Of course now things have changed in the past years, mostly in the big cities, but the ground basics of Scandinavian culture values respect highly. Our children learn to respect the nature and public property as well as other people’s ideas or beliefs.
The number one thing that men want is to be respected to feel happy, while women want love.
So we can say that respect is a source of happiness. In the measure that we respect ourselves, we will be able to respect others and make others respect us.
It’s wonderful to see that we’ve have gained economic independence in Scandinavia; is a blessing to have the opportunity to spend time with our young children through parental leave support. The backside has been that interaction between different ages is not considered essential as it is in Latin America, where grandparents and family must help in taking care of the children and elderly people are seldom living alone. Family ties are stronger, for good or bad. In any case, studies show that having meaningful close relationships and meaningful conversations (instead of small talk) increases happiness and well-being.
Do we favor communication via mobile instead of face-to-face conversations?
The World Health Organization suicide statistics from the winning countries from both reports are remarkable. Finland hast the highest suicide rate per 100,000 citizens (ranked # 32 in the list),El Salvador #36, Iceland #40, Sweden #51, Australia #52, New Zealand #54, Switzerland #60, Canada#71, Norway#73, The Netherlands #81, Paraguay #85, Denmark #88, Costa Rica #110, Uzbekistan#112,Ecuador #115, Colombia#120, Mexico #147, Panama#152, Indonesia #160, Honduras #162 and Guatemala#171 with the lowest rate of suicide out of 182 countries in the report.
Perhaps some attention should be put into the fact that many industrialized countries have now a rate of 50% sleep deprived people, and sleep deprivation is related to suicide.
Well-rested was one of the questions on the feelings survey. In a previous article I mentioned that when we sleep, we allow ourselves to act from a peaceful place because our brain has produced happiness hormones after a good night sleep.When we are sleep deprived, we are anxious and fearful, which leads to stress and anger. We feel as victims instead of empowered.
After years of working on well-being I can say that, without a good 7-9 hours sleep every day, the chances of feeling happiness are very small because sleep is related to every single function of the human body and mind.
Life is a roller coaster with its ups and downs. Full of emotions. It can be fun or terrorizing, depending on your perspective. Prioritize sleep and empower yourself to make better choices from a peaceful, loving perspective.
Giselle Valle is the founder of The Sleep Revolution® a lifestyle movement for better sleep based in Sweden; it created the first concept store dedicated to sleep the natural & sustainable way, based on research.
“We encourage people to prioritize sleep to restore their health- physical, mental and emotional. With enough sleep we are able to produce the hormones to regain the joy for living, have better relationships, lose weight, live longer and make better decisions. Sleep is the best medicine, and is free. We believe that better sleep will make a better world”
Mehl, M.R., Vazire, S., Holleran, S.E., & Clark, S. (2010). Eavesdropping on happiness: Well-Being Is Related to Having Less Small Talk and More Substantive Conversations. Psychological Science, 29, 529-531.
Erik Gandini film ”The Swedish Theory of Love”
“Psychology and good life “ Laurie Santos, Yale University.
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