The Happiness Connection  

Are you happy about that?

We aren’t as happy as we used to be.

The eighth edition of the 2020 World Happiness Report, a comprehensive study of global happiness, has been published. 

Of the 153 countries listed, Canada is 11th. That’s the good news. The not-so-good news is that we have slipped two places.

Canada is followed by Australia and the United Kingdom, with the United States taking 18th place. Finland is in the top position for the third year in a row.

It appears that we aren’t as happy as we once were. The study also looks at changes in happiness by comparing the findings of the first report to the current one. We are 115th in that list with a negative change in well-being.

I think it’s worth mentioning that this study isn’t looking for who feels the happiest emotions. It’s looking for citizens who have the highest levels of life-satisfaction.

It can be interesting to see how we measure up compared to other countries, but that isn’t a very useful exercise. Knowing what drives satisfaction is much more helpful.

The study looked at six major drivers:

  • Wealth
  • Health
  • Social support
  • Freedom
  • Corruption
  • Generosity.

Let me clarify these.

Wealth – gross domestic product per capita.

Health – life expectancy.

Social support – do you have a supportive social circle you can rely on?

Freedom – do you have freedom to pursue the life that you want?

Corruption – do you believe corruption is widespread in your government?

Generosity – have you donated to a charity in the last month?

What one do you think had the greatest impact on feeling satisfied with life?

Social support won by a landslide with approximately 43%. It was more than six times more important than wealth, which came in fifth place at 7%.

Freedom to create the life you desire was second, around 24%. That is close to being half as important as having a social network. Generosity was almost half again at roughly 13%, closely followed by corruption at about 12%.

This information is always worth taking note of, but it seems especially important now during this time of uncertainty.

Based on the findings of the 2020 World Happiness Report, here are four ways you can boost your satisfaction with life.

Strengthen and build your social relationships.

This isn’t about partying or having a huge number of followers on social media. This is about knowing you have people in your life that you can rely on if you need help.

I also recommend that you think about who you provide social support to. If the answer is nobody, maybe it is time to change that. Who needs to know you are there for them if they need a shoulder, a ride, or a laugh?

I love my own company and have gotten used to my hermit-like ways. My broken ankle and social distancing have encouraged me to stay home. This report has been a great reminder not to take relationships for granted.

Without attention, they can wither and die.

Empower yourself to create the life of your dreams.

It is easy to find yourself in victim energy and believe that life is happening to you. Instead, step into your personal power and take control of your life.

Look for new perspectives and examine your beliefs. Are you making choices that support empowerment, or are you a casualty of life?

Decide what you want to change in your world and then go ahead and take a small step towards doing that. Don’t worry about how you are going to achieve the goal, just know that you intend to do it and take tiny steps.

Ask yourself everyday what you can do to move in the direction you have chosen.

Give to others.

The study looked at giving to charities, but any time of generosity towards others will boost your sense of well-being. Committing random acts of kindness have been proven to have a major effect on how good you feel.

Create freedom from corruption.

This is very topical. You may think there is nothing you can do to change this, but that isn’t true. Being aware of corruption, encouraging transparency, and becoming part of the voice that says enough is enough, will all contribute to an increased level of trust.

The results are in. The things that have the greatest impact on the satisfaction of the world’s citizens has been declared. What you choose to do with the information is up to you.

Is the risk too great?

Friends are meeting up. You know that although things may start out with appropriate social distancing, those gaps are likely to shrink when the wine begins to flow.

Do you stay home, or do you go out and enjoy the company of your buddies?

There are a lot of factors that go into making decisions like the one I described above. 

One huge consideration is whether your decision affects others. Having young children in your home or being around family with compromised immune systems may cause you to think a little more.

We are lucky in the Okanagan. We haven’t been affected as badly as other areas. Sometimes it feels like the pandemic isn’t happening here.

But as people travel within the province and soon between provinces, is our bubble going to continue to be so safe? 

How do you decide what to do and what not to do?

Let me share some things to think about.

There is no right choice.

When you make a decision, you rarely have a guaranteed outcome. You can weigh up the options, but there are always variables beyond your control. 

You could choose to ignore all the recommended guidelines and come away unscathed. Or you could take every precaution and still test positive. 

Consider your options, but don’t beat yourself up if things don’t work out the way you expected.

Talk to the people who may be affected by your choices.

If it is appropriate, have a conversation with the people in your bubble. 

I have elderly parents who depend on me for groceries, transportation, and general assistance. The choices I make could affect them.

When my breakfast networking group started meeting in person again, I talked to my parents about it. I explained what was happening and how my decision could affect them.

I wasn’t asking them to make the decision for me, but it was important for me to know how they felt. If they were uncomfortable with it, I could choose to stay home, or I could look for ways to protect my parents more.

It is important to create a safe space for everyone to talk honestly. Try to keep your emotions and expectations under wraps. You are looking for information not approval.

You are responsible for your decisions.

My parents told me to do whatever felt right for me. That doesn’t mean they made my decision for me. 

At the end of the day, you are still the person who makes the choice, regardless of whether other people agree with it or not.

Can you live with a worst-case scenario? 

I don’t want you to imagine a catastrophe but realizing that you can’t live with a specific outcome can help with your decision-making. If the risk is too great regardless of whether the chance of it happening is very small, then don’t do it.

Avoid judgment.

Unless you know yourself well and feel confident about the choices you make, it can be easy to feel judged by others. 

This is probably happening because deep down inside you are judging yourself. 

The same thing is probably true if you notice you are judging other people for their choices. It says more about what is happening within you than it does about the other person.

Be compassionate with everyone involved, especially with yourself.

Tap into what feels right.

Take time to close your eyes, breathe, and listen to what your heart has to say. 

When your brain gets involved, you may find your head and your heart are in two different places. You may start overthinking the situation. 

Trust your gut to help you figure out what the best thing is for you. 

I often advise people to sleep on big decisions. This is another way of silencing your thoughts to let what feels right surface. 

By making big decisions and taking responsibility for their outcome, you can increase your self-confidence and self-trust. Don’t shy away from them. They are part of the learning process.

If things don’t work out as expected, take time to reflect on why that was. This will help guide you when the next decision comes along. It will also help you build trust in yourself.

Making amends with ends

I have just finished writing in my journal for today. My book only has a few empty pages left. It is almost time to start a new one.

This situation brings with it, mixed emotions. 

I absolutely adore the feel of the pages that are covered with ink. I like to press down on them with my hand. When I do, I am rewarded with a satisfying bounce that you don’t get when you press on empty pages. 

Although I feel sad that this journal is almost full, I am also excited. It is time to go shopping for my new one.

No matter how odd or unfamiliar my example may seem to you, it is a concept you are intimately acquainted with. I’m talking about endings and beginnings.

They vary in size and importance, but you are surrounded by them constantly. One thing must stop before another one can start.

An example of this is your breathing. If you are inhaling, you can’t exhale. You need to stop taking air into your lungs before you can begin to release it. 

Sleep, meals, conversations, and walks are other examples of endings you are accustomed to. For the most part when these conclusions happen, you accept them easily. You are either ready to move on, or you understand you can do them again whenever you want.

Of course, there are some endings that are much more difficult because you don’t know when or if you will ever have that experience again.

This can be the case when you get a new job, move locations, or come to the end of a dream vacation. 

Perhaps the most final of all endings is death. Saying goodbye to a loved one knowing they won’t be part of your future on earth can be devastating. With elderly parents, I am keenly aware that this isn’t easy to navigate.

Regardless of the nature of the ending or how major or minor it is, the same principles apply. The ending is necessary for something new to occur.

There is nothing wrong with mourning an ending. It is part of the process of letting go. 

Difficulties arise when you aren’t willing or able to release whatever is coming to an end. Without a finish, it can be challenging to begin whatever is next for you. 

I’m seeing this a lot. 

I recognize that many endings are painful and need time to be mourned, but I also understand the importance of willingly letting go and moving forward.

If you find yourself faced with an ending, remember that you are also on the cusp of a beginning. 

Concentrate on your breathing for a few minutes. Fill your lungs and notice the slight pause that happens before you exhale.

If you resist letting the air out of your lungs for more than a few minutes, you will notice your body begin to feel uncomfortable. It wants you to move onto the next phase. It needs you to exhale.

If you can embrace endings, by understanding that they are making way for something new, you will find yourself in a better place to begin whatever is next. 

Recognize what you are releasing and the emotions that come with it. Honour these with forgiveness, compassion, and gratitude. Then choose to move forward into the beginning that is waiting for you.


Summer solstice: season of change, nature, and new beginnings

The longest day of the year

I notice time in bags of dog kibble. 

It is a strange situation, but that is the reality of my life in 2020. 

I am taken by surprise every time I notice the bag is almost empty. Have I been feeding him too much? Surely that many weeks can’t have passed by already.

I’ll be honest. I’m tired of writing about global pandemics and unrest. I want to think about something people around the world can celebrate and enjoy.

As luck would have it, the perfect opportunity is arriving this week. Saturday is the summer solstice.

Globally, this is a significant turning point in the seasons and is associated with change, nature, and new beginnings. Those are all things I can get behind right now.

Solstice comes from the Latin words, sol and sistere. Sol means sun and sistere means to come to a stop or standstill. 

It is the time when the sun reaches its most northern position in the sky and seems to stand still before it starts its journey to the southern extreme.

You probably know this is the longest day of the year in the northern hemisphere but let me share a few more facts about the summer solstice.

1. It doesn’t always occur on June 21.

Although this is probably the most common day for the summer solstice to land, it can also occur one day on either side of the 21st. For example, this year the longest day is June 20.

It is unusual for June 22 to be the day of celebration. The last time the summer solstice landed on this date was 1975 and the next time won’t happen until 2203.

2. The longest day doesn’t mean the earliest sunrise and latest sunset.

Because there is a discrepancy between the solar measurement of time and our modern system, the earliest sunrise happens a few days before the solstice and the latest sunset happens a few days after. 

3. Not everyone sees it as the first day of summer.

Astronomers and scientists consider this to be the first day of summer, but meteorologist define the summer season as starting on June 1.

4. The longest day isn’t the hottest one.

The hottest day of the year usually happens a few weeks after the longest day. It takes time for landmasses and oceans to warm up. This needs to happen for higher air temperatures to occur.

5. There is a long history of celebration on this day.

Since prehistoric times, the summer solstice has been a day of importance. 

Stonehenge is an example of this. It is a prehistoric monument in England that is believed to have been erected around 5,000 years ago. Each of the stones used to create the circle weighs around 25 tons.

There are a few different theories of why it was created, but one of them revolves around figuring out when the solstices and equinoxes were. This would allow ancient people to know when to plant and harvest crops.

On the longest day of the year, the sun rises over the heel stone of Stonehenge and hits the exact center of the altar stone.

England isn’t the only place with a history of marking the longest day of the year.

In China, the solstice is associated with yin, or feminine energy. Ceremonies have been held for centuries to celebrate the Earth and new life.

Rather than talking about it being the longest day of the year, the Chinese people express the same sentiment by saying that the shortest shadow is found on that day.

In Ancient Gaul, now mostly modern France, the solstice celebration was called the Feast of Epona. It was named after a goddess who protected horses and personified fertility.

In more northern parts of the hemisphere, the summer solstice is known as the time of the midnight sun. There is daylight for 24. This is a time to celebrate, especially when the opposite solstice brings 24 hours of darkness.

Festivals are held in Scandinavian countries to celebrate summer and the fertility of the Earth.

In Baltic countries like Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania, midsummer provides an opportunity to go into the countryside and connect with nature. It is common to for them to celebrate by lighting a bonfire and staying up all night drinking, singing, and dancing.

During all the challenges we are facing globally, it is important to focus on what we have in common rather than on all the things that are different. The summer solstice is something everyone in the Northern hemisphere can celebrate.

More The Happiness Connection articles

About the Author

Reen Rose is an experienced, informative, and engaging speaker, author, and educator. She has worked for over three decades in the world of education, teaching children and adults in Canada and England.

Research shows that happy people are better leaders, more successful, and healthier than their unhappy counterparts, and yet so many people still believe that happiness is a result of their circumstances.

Happiness is a choice. Reen’s presentations and workshops are designed to help you become robustly happy. This is her term for happiness that can withstand challenge and change.

Reen blends research-based expertise, storytelling, humour, and practical strategies to both inform and inspire. She is a Myers Briggs certified practitioner, a Microsoft Office certified trainer and a qualified and experienced teacher.

Email Reen at [email protected]

Check out her websites at www.ReenRose.com, or www.ModellingHappiness.com

The views expressed are strictly those of the author and not necessarily those of Castanet. Castanet does not warrant the contents.

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