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Are the Chinese Happy? Are any of us?

If you read Chinese newspapers you’ll have read this:

Domestic happiness index

I like the idea that governments are starting to think about what we call in the trade “inclusive growth”, and understanding that increasing income doesn’t necessarily mean increasing happiness or effectiveness.  Having “… a happier and more dignified life …” is, in itself, a great objective for public decision-makers.

What the Chinese are doing chimes with Prime Minister David Cameron’s “Happiness Index” for the UK.  Both ideas, though, need to be based on a real, empirical improvement in peoples’ perceptions of their quality of life.   Unfortunately, at the moment, the main way of measuring happiness is by comparison.  This is a flawed.  It’s too subjective.

One suggestion for measuring real happiness is to rate how much you do the activities you actually enjoy.  It seems an obvious dimension to measure, but, while running our Working Voices’ Pressure to Performance courses, I’ve discovered an oddity.  Participants talk about the practical things they like to do: running, reading, playing a musical instrument, rock climbing, anything that involves concentration.  But what they also tell me is that, when they’re under pressure or unhappy at work, they tend to do none of them.  They tend to engage in the less productive activities of “escape”: passively watching TV, socialising, drinking more, eating more and sleeping.  The funny thing is that people think that these things relieve stress.  In fact, they can induce it.

GOVERNMENTS (in Happiness indices like those we’ve been talking about) should recognise that the extent to which people engage in activities that are genuinely restorative and enjoyable, is a terrific measure of true happiness.

And what should YOU recognise?  Well, what are the things you do that leave you refreshed?  Think about them.  And do them MORE.  It’s that simple!

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