In the week that the new World Happiness Report 2013 is published, we are highlighting stories from our latest Happiness At Work Edition #63 that clue us in to some of the art and artfulness that can help us to live and work more happily in our 2013 settings.
REPORT CALLS ON POLICY MAKERS TO MAKE HAPPINESS A KEY MEASURE AND TARGET OF DEVELOPMENT
Report ranks the happiest countries, with Northern Europe in the lead
…“There is now a rising worldwide demand that policy be more closely aligned with what really matters to people as they themselves characterize their well-being,” said Professor Jeffery Sachs. “More and more world leaders are talking about the importance of well-being as a guide for their nations and the world. The World Happiness Report 2013 offers rich evidence that the systematic measurement and analysis of happiness can teach us a lot about ways to improve the world’s well-being and sustainable development.”
The Report shows significant changes in happiness in countries over time, with some countries rising and others falling over the past five years. There is some evidence of global convergence of happiness levels, with happiness gains more common in Sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America, and losses more common among the industrial countries. For the 130 countries with data available, happiness (as measured by people’s own evaluations of their lives) significantly improved in 60 countries and worsened in 41 (Figure 2.5).
For policy makers, the key issue is what affects happiness. Some studies show mental health to be the single most important determinant of whether a person is happy or not. Yet, even in rich countries, less than a third of mentally ill people are in treatment. Good, cost-effective treatments exist for depression, anxiety disorders and psychosis, and the happiness of the world would be greatly increased if they were more widely available.
The Report also shows the major beneficial side-effects of happiness. Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more, and are also better citizens. Well-being should be developed both for its own sake and for its side-effects.
Governments are increasingly measuring well-being with the goal of making well-being an objective of policy. One chapter of the Report, written by Lord Gus O’Donnell, former UK Cabinet Secretary and Head of the Civil Service, shows just how this can be done. It shows how different are the policy conclusions when health, transport and education are viewed in this light…
People’s daily experiences and concerns differ enormously around the world. While a farmer in Angola prays for a good harvest, a manager in Greece worries about losing her job. And while a mother in Egypt comes to terms with life in a conflict zone, a doctor in Denmark struggles with work-related stress.
But there is one thing that unites people’s experiences in every country: they all involve human beings who want their experience of life to be good rather than bad. We share a universal desire for wellbeing. This is more than just a survival instinct; we want to be happy and have the best possible lives for ourselves and those we love.
Whether we’re aiming to alleviate poverty in Africa, end conflict in Syria or reduce stress in US workplaces, the fundamental reason we care about these things is that they are bad for human wellbeing. They cause suffering and pain. Similarly, if we’re aiming to boost economic activity, reform our education system or cut public sector spending, we should only do so if we believe this will ultimately be good for people’s wellbeing. Wellbeing provides a common lens through which we can look at the many challenges and opportunities in our world and decide on our collective priorities.
This is the central idea behind a groundbreaking report published today – the World Happiness Report. Launched in the midst of a major debate about what the world’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) should be for 2015-2030, the report argues that people’s ‘subjective wellbeing’ – their self-reported sense of happiness with life – should be a central measure of progress for every nation. It is a substantial piece of work edited by, among others, the influential development economist Jeff Sachs.
Recent years have seen a huge growth in wellbeing research and we now have valuable data from all around the world about people’s levels of life satisfaction. Not only can wellbeing be measured in a reliable and meaningful way, the findings have great relevance for public policy and global priorities. What was once seen as a sideshow is now a mainstream movement, with support from influential figures such as UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon and former head of the UK civil service, Lord Gus O’Donnell.
To illustrate how relevant the wellbeing data is for global issues, let’s return to those four examples in my introduction, as they all relate to countries with interesting findings. Firstly, the farmer in Angola. Although Sub-Saharan Africa is the region with the lowest wellbeing (it is home to 9 of the bottom 10 countries, the other being Syria), there are a few green shoots. Over the last five years, Angola has actually seen the largest improvement in wellbeing globally, as it continues to regain stability after its terrible 27 year civil war.
However, for the manager in Greece and mother in Egypt, the trends are less encouraging. Unsurprisingly, these are the two countries that have seen the largest falls in wellbeing over the last five years. Of all the countries affected by the Eurozone crisis, Greece has been the hardest hit. Its drop in wellbeing is greater than would be predicted simply from falls in income, reflecting wider problems from loss of trust and social cohesion. And in Egypt, the significantly lower wellbeing surely reflects the Egyptian people’s suffering under the Mubarak regime and the ongoing struggles since the 2011 uprising.
Finally, what about the Danish doctor? Well, she’s at least fortunate to live in Denmark, the country which once again tops the world wellbeing league, closely followed by Norway. With Sweden also in the top 5, we might well ask how these Northern European nations always seem to deliver world-beating levels of wellbeing. Yes they have fairly high GDP per capita, but they’re far from the top of that league. More tellingly, they have some of the highest levels of interpersonal trust and lowest levels of inequality.
The World Happiness Report also provides another extremely compelling reason to prioritise wellbeing, and the research here is really quite startling. It shows that happier people tend to be healthier, recover from illness more quickly and live longer. At work, they perform better, exhibit more creativity, are absent less often and are better at cooperation and collaboration. And in wider society, they have better relationships, exhibit more pro-social behaviour, have greater self-control, engage in less risk-taking behaviour and are more likely to have a positive impact on others. So happier people are not lazy, naïve, inward-looking or selfish, as some sceptics suggest; they are actually more economically productive, healthy, socially-minded and generous.
So what practical changes might we make if we adopted wellbeing as a global priority? Of all the suggestions in the report, the most notable is the call for a fundamental shift in our approach to mental health. Worldwide, depression and anxiety disorders account for up to a fifth of the entire burden of illness…Making treatment for mental illness more widely available may well be the single most reliable and cost effective way to improve national wellbeing.
What then should be the world’s development goals for the coming years? Making wellbeing our global priority would surely underpin, rather than undermine, existing sustainable development aims. It would also provide a consistent means to track how successful countries are in delivering improvements in people’s quality of life. The reason that existing goals like universal education, gender equality, maternal health and sustainability matter so much is because they are all fundamental to human wellbeing.
Wellbeing isn’t some luxury for the privileged few, it’s the thing all of us want most for ourselves and the people we care about – whether in a field in Angola or an office in London. It should be at the heart of every discussion of local, national or global priorities.
Happy people live longer, are more productive, earn more and are better citizens, according to the second “World Happiness Report.”
by Josh Cable
Most industrialized nations track their gross domestic product, exports and unemployment rates, among other key economic and social metrics that help quantify their standing in the world.
A new report calls on policymakers to include happiness in the mix.
Authored by leading experts in economics, psychology, survey analysis and national statistics, the second “World Happiness Report” describes how measurements of wellbeing can be used to assess the progress of nations.
Published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, the report “further strengthens the case that wellbeing is a critical component of economic and social development,” according to the report’s editors…
Bonnie Greer 2013 Opening Lecture (Audio)
Theatre maker and cultural commentator Bonnie Greer deliverers the second annual lecture to open the 2013 Creativity and Wellbeing Week on the evening of 17 June 2013 in a collaboration with Community Learning at Tate Modern.
In this talk, Bonnie uses a story about how art saved her own life to make the case for the necessity of artists, arts and culture for wellbeing in our contemporary lives.
Here are the definitions for wellbeing that Bonnie offers (from 9’10”):
…a positive outcome that is meaningful for people, and for many sectors of society as well. People have to see and feel that their lives are going well.
Wellbeing is also what people think, and what they feel, bout their lives, such as the quality of their relationships, their positive emotions, their resilience, and the possibility of the realisation of their human potential, along with their overall satisfaction with life.
Another definition of wellbeing is a valid population measure that is beyond morbidity, mortality and economic status that tells us how people perceive their life is going from their own perspective.
And wellbeing is also associated with other realities like self-perceived health, longevity, healthy behaviours, mental and physical illness, social connectedness, productivity, factors in the social and physical environment…
Positive emotion, I’ve learned, is not just the opposite of negative emotion. Positive emotion is a measurable dimension – we can actually see its effects. It’s a dimension in which your job, your family, your health and your economic environment are as you want them to be. Also as you imagine them to be. Also as you think you deserve them to be based on your qualifications, your hard work, your mental and emotional capacity. Positive emotion is a dimension in which you feel that you are understood and you are appreciated and you can function, you can make a contribution.
So wellbeing has to encompass positive emotions. And these have been measured and shown in various health studies to decrease the risk of illness, of injury, and recovery is faster. Studies have also been shown that the human immune system functions better with positive emotions.
So positive emotions keep us healthy and they keep us happy.
These ideas are developed and enriched during a vital, dynamic and defiantly optimistic Q&A session with the audience, which includes Damian Hebron from London Arts Health Forum (LAHF) (from 42’58”):
Bonnie Greer: I know a one-year-old who is showing me how to do an iPad. And of course that means we’re in a revolution. We haven’t got the tools yet to gauge how that human being is perceiving the world. There will also be a place for live performance, live engagement, because we need the one-on-one, the body needs the one-on-one. And we’re going to have to be more fierce about that. I think what’s going to happen, in the next 10 years or so, as generations do, they’re going to be in technology but they’re going to turn around and look for the lie… We’re losing empathy as human beings. We’re losing the ability to look one another in the eye, to talk to one another, to listen to one another, to engage with one another. And it’s affecting our health. It’s affecting our mental health and it’s affecting our physical health. So one of the things that culture can do is stand in the juncture of this revolution and create forms and new engagements and new links by which these two – the live and the technological can come together … We need to see technology as a way to enable empathy to be created. That’s our first thing.
We may be forced to define human capability, to measure human capability. That may be one of the things those of us in culture. And in a very tangible way I don’t how you begin to do that. We’re going to need to make that case. But in a strange way I am optimistic. Because there is so much independence now … there’s a lot of independence-mindeness where people are breaking out and doing what they need to do, doing what they want to do in order to create these forms. What we have to do is to make language to speak to those people who we have to justify what we do…
(from 53’15” in response to a question about what leadership skills we now need to engage people with power and resources: what is it that we need to do in terms of individual leadership, leadership as a group, leadership as a nation, to reach the people we need?
Damian Hebron: One thing is what Bonnie was talking about: to speak the language that people are used to hearing. The other thing is what is unique about the arts and that is stories. The things that really reach people is the storytelling. One thing that artists can do well is to tell stories. And that is something that will always be powerful and that people will always crave. It can be easy to forget what we do so well which is to tell spell-binding stories in interesting and magical ways that actually speak to the whole human experience… to tell the stories of all human beings… all of the side range of voices in contemporary society that you don’t always get to hear from other quarters.
Bonnie Greer: One of the things that I love about the UK and that is really exciting about the UK is that you guys are rebels… It may not look like it or feel like it sometimes, but people want to make their own work in their own words, do their own work in their own way… People make culture very easily here, and are open to it, and know how to do it, and naturally feel the links between culture and wellbeing… We need to learn to shape stories to make a picture of how a community is functioning as a political entity, and also as a health entity… We mustn’t be put off by people who want to put us in the back of a bus, or call us all kinds of names, or say we don’t rate. Culture, and we know this, is what saves people’s lives and it holds a community together. And we must keep finding the language for saying this over and over and over and over and over.
We have to make a case for cultural GDP. We have to make a case for culture in our work and in our lives . We have to say to policy makers: “If we weren’t here what would it look like? What would community look like? …
Maybe we need to go back to what the Ancient Greeks thought about culture and art. It wasn’t just about decoration. It wasn’t just a way to pass time. It was a way in which human beings were able to understand the environment in which they were in, and to understand each other. But not only that, it kept them well. And one the things that we can do as cultural practitioners, is maybe we’re the people who have to use the word ‘wellbeing’. Maybe we’re the people who have to define wellbeing and not be afraid to do it, not be ashamed to do it, not be embarrassed to do it.
Because, in the end, wellbeing is what we’re all striving for. Wellbeing is what is going to cut those bills down. Wellbeing is what is going to allow us all to go forward. And culture becomes a way in which people can make and keep themselves well…
Being well is about being able to see the possibilities for yourself as a human being…
This is a superb article in which Louise Altman, Partner, Intentional Communication Consultants asks some really great questions about happiness at work in our contemporary lives:
The historian and author, Studs Terkel, famously wrote, “Most of us have jobs that are too small for our spirits.”
A few of you might be reacting to the title of this article thinking, “Hey, my work is my life,” or “My job is the most fulfilling thing in my life.”
But that’s not what this article is about. Because life isn’t work. Yes, it can be a Big part of life, but it isn’t life. In fact, in the recent popular news of a palliative nurses’ summary of the regrets of those who are dying, the only mention of work was, “I wish I had not worked so hard,” especially from men.
While it is thought that Freud said “Work and love are the cornerstones of our humanness,” it is true that work is the primary activity in most people’s lives. Work and love (however we define it) still are the primary forces that drive most of our actions.
For many, the role of work has changed dramatically in modern life. The way we work is being redefined. The meaning of work is in the process of global redefinition. Yet, in many ways work’s deeper meanings still form the underlying basis for how work motivates us.
David Whyte, the inspiring author of “The Three Marriages: Reimagining Work, Self and Relationship“, writes, “All of us living at this time are descended from a long line of survivors who lived through the difficulties of history and prehistory: most of whom had to do a great deal of work to keep the wolf, the cold and the neighboring tribe from the door. Work was necessity: work meant food, shelter, survival and a sense of power over circumstances. Work was, and still is, endless.”
While the need for “food, shelter and survival” remains, the meaning of how we define work – and the context of work as part of life is changing. And an important part of that equation is our constantly evolving sense of our “power over circumstances.” How that power is defined and who determines it is a critical aspect of the meaning of work – and life.
70 hour standard work weeks have, sadly, become the norm for many [us]. Even though there have been some gains in corporate policies (over half of companies surveyed say they offer some form of flex-time) research shows that employee experience doesn’t match corporate reports. In many cases, employers send their workers double-messages about expectations about the hours and ways they work.
We don’t discuss “work addiction” much anymore because it has become endemic in the [our] work culture.
We tend to think that the “movement” for work-life balance is simply about the real need to manage stress in this culture. Even though recent studies all point to the workplace as the single greatest source of stress in the culture, the desire for more life outside of work and more life at work, goes beyond “stress management.”
A growing body of research has revealed that as many women are approaching “mid-life” (technically these women are the upper percentages of the Gen X 30- 44-year-old age cohort ) they are “becoming on average, sicker and sadder.” Results from six recent major happiness studies show that this drop in happiness occurs regardless of marital or child status, economic conditions or work-life factors.
Marcus Buckingham, author of Find Your Most Successful Life: What the Most Successful and Resilient Women Do Differently writes, “Over the last 50 years, women have secured greater opportunity, greater achievement, greater influence and more money. But over the same period, have become less happy, more anxious, more stressed and, in ever-increasing numbers, self-medicating.”
For those juggling the real demands of family and work, they do so in many workplaces that are still sorely lacking in support of life outside of work…
The Need to Ask New and Different Questions
If how we define work – and how we do that work is going through a major transition – then we need to start asking a whole new set of questions about meaning.
- Is work still expected to be drudgery?
- Do the demands of a job supersede our “personal” needs and desires?
- How does the crumbling model of authoritarian command and control organizations impact the new mindset of work?
- How much emotional and creative freedom should we expect from our work?
Again, author David Whyte offers some illuminating thoughts, “The great questions that touch on personal happiness in work have to do with an ability to hold our own conversation amid the constant background of shouted needs, hectoring advice and received wisdom. In work, we have to find high ground safe from the arriving tsunami of expectations concerning what I am going to DO. Work is a place you can lose yourself more easily perhaps than finding yourself. It is a place of powerful undercurrents, a place to find ourselves, but also, a place to drown, losing all sense of our own voice, our own contribution and conversation.”
After hundreds of years of working in the shadow of a “Protestant” ethic, we are redefining work. But in the process, we are also redefining what makes a fully human life. To do that, we must challenge every assumption that underpins the public and corporate policies that govern work. But we also have to face our own thinking about what we believe about work, success and of course – money. Money is a big elephant in our mental room.
Our own personal beliefs often justify work without adequate life as much as weak public policy or self-serving corporate practices do. We may not (now) have the economic freedom to fully realize the balance of work and life – but we can reclaim what that means for us. It must begin there.
Randy Conley advises a re-think about the now perhaps outdated notion of work-life balance:
Work-life balance is a fallacy.
The very term is an oxymoron. Is “work” something you do apart from your “life?” Does your “life” not consist of your “work?” And think about the definition of the word balance – “a state of equilibrium or equal distribution of weight or amount.” We have bought into the idea that having fulfillment in our personal and professional lives means we have to give them equal weight and priority. It sets up a false dichotomy between the two choices and leads to perpetual feelings of guilt and remorse because we never feel like we’re giving 100% in either area.
Instead, we need to seek work-life harmony. Consider the definition of harmony – “a consistent, orderly, or pleasing arrangement of parts; congruity.” Work-life harmony is rooted in an integrated and holistic approach to life where work and play blend together in combinations unique to each individual. I can’t define what harmony looks like for you, but I can share five ways to help you discover it for yourself.
1. Be clear about your purpose in life ~ clarifying your purpose provides focus, direction, and energy to every area of your life…
2. Seek contentment, not happiness ~ happiness is fine, but true work-life harmony comes when you find contentment….
3. Understand the seasons of life ~ our focus areas will ebb and flow. When driven by our sense of purpose, they all fit harmoniously together at the right time in the right way…
4. Establish reasonable boundaries ~ the banks of a river provide the boundaries that support the direction and flow of the water. Without those boundaries, the river becomes nothing more than a large puddle…
5. Be present ~ operating from a mindset of work-life balance instead of harmony … creates stress, tension, and guilt, because we always feel we’re out of balance, spending too much energy on one aspect of our lives at the expense of another. The result is we’re never fully present and invested in all areas of our life….
Achieving work-life harmony isn’t easy. It involves trial and error, learning what works and what doesn’t. There is constant assessment and re-calibration of how you’re investing your time and energy, but the payoff is less stress, peace of mind, and increased devotion and passion toward all you do in life.
Are your emails too long? Too short? Sent to too many people? Or at the wrong time? Learn how to say exactly what you want – without annoying those on the receiving end
BY: AMBER RAE
Email. The bane of your existence, a tool that seems to define many of your waking hours, a mode of communication invented only two decades ago.
We all use it, some of us love it, and many of us dread it.
There are plenty of tips and tricks about making email more efficient–using specifictools like boomerang, limiting yourself to certain hours per day and chasing the dream of inbox zero…
Are your emails getting the results you want?
When you improve the way you write and learn how to design better messages, you will resonate with the reader, improve sharability, and increase the bottom line.
Last week, I caught up with writer, designer, and strategist Sarah Peck, who teaches workshops on developing effective communication skills. We talked about using email to get more of what you want and what mistakes everyone is making in this commonplace communication form.
Here are nine common mistakes you might be making:
1. Sending emails only when you need something.
The best time to build any relationship is before you need something, not waiting until the moment you need something…
2. Forgetting that there’s a person on the other side of your email.
Just as you wouldn’t walk into a friend’s house for dinner and bark out a command, often those little niceties in the intro and end of a message can go a long way. Social cues aren’t dated constructs; they’re valuable warm-up phrases in communication. Start by saying hi, comment on someone’s latest achievements, and wish the other person well…
3. Using the first person too much.
Many emails–and essays–are written exclusively in first person. Shift the focus to the recipient and consider what they want, need, or would like to hear. After writing an email, scan it quickly for how many times you use the word “I.” See if you can edit some of them out…
4. Sending the email at the wrong time.
Just because you’ve written it now doesn’t mean it needs to be sent at this exact moment. Delaying the send is one of the most powerful and underutilized tools of emailing.
Evaluate whether or not the message is urgent and needs to be replied to immediately. If you’re cleaning up your inbox during your scheduled time, fire off the messages that are urgent and consider sending messages in the morning…
5. Sending to too many people.
More recipients in the “To” field does not mean that you’ll necessarily get more answers. In the age of digital marketing, people who blast messages in broadcast form without understanding who is in the “to” line can erode their chances of a message being opened. A perfect email is one that’s sent to exactly who it needs to go to, with a specified desired outcome…
6. Knowing nothing about the person receiving your email.
Do your homework on the recipient. One great tool to glean fast information about who you’re talking to is Rapportive, a sidebar that lets you see the latest public posts (and a picture) of the person you’re communicating to.
7. Forgetting to send updates or interim messages.
If you’re waiting for an important message from someone, the time spent waiting for a delivery can seem interminable. If there’s a long delay in sending an item that’s highly anticipated or expected, or you’ve experienced a few hiccups–send a one-liner email to update your receiver on the status of the project. You’ll know that you need to send a quick note when you start to get anxious about not delivering or they seem to be a bit flippant.
8. Making messages too long.
Depending on the nature of the message, emails can vary from a few words to thousands of words. The longer the email, the less likely that someone will read the entire thing. Long emails generally mean that a larger strategy, framework, or document might be in order…
9. Using email exclusively.
Efficiency does not necessarily mean one single system. Often, redundancy in communication can be extremely helpful, as each tool (video, chat, email, Skype) adds a layer of human nuance back into the correspondence that’s happening…
Now: 4 ways to focus on writing better emails:
Tell sticky stories. Everything makes more sense with an illustration. Highlight and example, illustrate an ideal customer avatar, or tell a specific instance of a problem you had. Setting the context and the stage (that seems obvious to you, the writer), makes it easier for people to understand the pain point, the context, and the reason why you’re writing. When people can see your story–who you are, where you come from, why you’re doing what you’re doing–it’s easier for them to become a part of it.
Use the four-sentence, one-link rule: Keep your email to under four sentences (or five!). Focus on the pain point or problem you’re solving. Limit yourself to only one link. If you have to, make that link a document.
Be responsive and reflective: Observe how others communicate and adapt your style to meet them midway. Customize your communication by mirroring the style of a received message. Does someone send short messages with formal addresses? Respond in style.
Bookmark emails that you love with Evernote. Use the vast number of emails in front of you (and in your inbox) as clues to great messaging. Watch what emails you open first and are most excited about. Create a few folders in your mailbox system for great introductions, sample short messages, and thank-you notes that you like. Keep these for future use if you’re ever in a bind. In any art, there’s no need to reinvent the wheel–and paying attention to great writers (and what we personally enjoy) is a great way to get started.
Email is our number one form of communication, which means that everyone is a writer. The most powerful thing you can do in both your personal and business life is learn how to write well and tell great stories. Messages that persuade, content that converts, and language that inspires action are critical for getting what you want.
There are a great many benefits to working from home, including flexibility of working hours, taking unscheduled days off, waving goodbye to working in formal business wear and spending more quality time with the family. However, working from home can also produce challenges, including reduced creativity…
Fortunately, you need not despair as there are a number of strategies to help you maintain your creativity.
Have a Change of Scenery…
Do Something Different…
Start a Pet Project…
Get Some Exercise…
Analyse Why Your Creativity is Waning…
Take A Nap…
Seek Help From Your Peers…
Take Time for Laughter….
Rosella Hart remembers the good and the bad aspects of directing a show with Shaky Isles Theatre and her 7 month old son in the room:
Baby is not really welcome in most places in fact. Not truly…perhaps if they are impossibly well behaved the whole time.. perhaps in certain social settings… but I am not aware of any model in our society that allows for the mum/baby unit to exist together in a working or professional context (if they WANT to; a crucial point and another topic)
So having an opportunity to work creatively in a company that would welcome us as a unit was something I really had to do, knowing I might not get another chance for a long time…
OK, so the bad stuff first…for me, it was stressful to split my focus, I had moments of feeling like a bad parent and honestly it was a relief when he was taken out for a few hours. I wasn’t able to be at opening night, and promptly broke out in stress hives the next day (which I have never had before) and by the time the show opened I was pretty much at the end of my physical endurance regarding sleep. In retrospect, probably the biggest down-side was that rehearsals began just as he was starting to get better at sleeping, and the combination of disrupted daytimes and a knackered mother once the show was up and running, did put us on a bad sleep cycle which we have only just now started to kick (now being a year later)
BUT, I got to do something else with my brain, and socialise, which I wasn’t doing before; partly because I was too tired, disorganised and unmotivated to get out the house, but also not having family or close friends in London. My theatre family filled that gap (as it always has done). Although my physical health suffered, I think my mental health was better for it, and if I had the choice to make again, I would do it again.
For Jasper it was definitely a positive experience. Socialising every day all day with other adults, in that specific environment, listening to and watching actors work (he was particularly fascinated by the ‘yes-no’ game in improvisation) and also to be taken away from me for a bit and have some time with other (wonderful, creative) people was great for his development. The negative impact on his sleep after being fed, held and prammed to sleep all day every day for a few months, was a big price to pay, but really it was me that paid it…
It’s funny how often the word ‘inclusion’ is bandied around, usually in terms of disability or minority, seldom in regard to babies and children, who must be among the most excluded groups out there. Or perhaps ghettoised; there is plenty for kids, but it is a world apart. So many gigs and interesting things start after bed time, which means that if, like me, your wee one isn’t really sleeping reliably at night without you, as an adult you are suddenly cut off from a huge part of adult life, especially if you have no aunties, uncles, grandparents etc around to help out. Not something you can really appreciate or factor in before having kids. One of the best things for me about being in the production was the opportunity to do something normal and not about ‘baby’, and to be enabled to do that by the support of people who believed that I should be able to…
So… thinking of doing it yourself? A few ideas…
Taro Fukuyama, co-founder and CEO of AnyPerk writes about happiness at work and his take on why it matters so much:
It’s fairly common knowledge that happy employees are simply better at their jobs. No matter the industry, hours, or education required, individuals perform better when their spirits are high. They are more engaged, more motivated, more likely to be pleasant to one another and any customers they encounter, and are thinking more creatively to solve problems and improve company operations.
This makes perfect sense, and the opposite is equally true. Employees who are miserable, angry, depressed, or just generally unhappy do not perform to the best of their abilities. They are disengaged and easily distracted, they cut corners and deflect responsibility, and simply don’t care about the quality of work they produce.
And yet a great deal of businesses just don’t do it. They think that extra investment in perks, or making their employees happier won’t get them anything other than in the red.
They’re wrong. According to clinical psychologist Dr. Noelle Nelson, you can literally Make More Money by Making Your Employees Happy. I’d have to agree – when CEOs and managers can put their egos aside and focus on making the actual workers happier, they’ll be richer too.
The challenge? Well, because every company, and every individual, is different, there’s no steadfast rulebook for making employees happy and engaged. It’s interpretive at best, and most companies will have to reflect on their own internal processes and workflow to determine how to make the company a more enjoyable place to work.
While this is vague at best, there are a few principles to follow. And they’re obvious to some – but you’d be surprised how many companies (startups and Fortune 500′s alike) fail to provide them:
People want to know when they are doing something right. They want to receive credit for their accomplishments, and they want to know that their contributions to goals of the company are seen and appreciated…
This goes hand in hand with recognition, but on an even more individualized level. People don’t like to feel like cogs in a machine, with no identity beyond their job description. The best way to avoid this is to get to know employees individually, and, more importantly, to understand the complex and unique lives that each and every one of them lead…
People want to be proud of the place they work, not just of the company’s end product or service, but also proud of what it means to be an employee of that particular company. One of the best ways to add prestige to particular job is to include bonuses that go beyond a standard paycheck…
…As a CEO, a manager, or anyone ordering around other people, you have to understand, use and work on your own product. I don’t care if you’ve got a million meetings. I don’t care if you like your comfy chair and the lack of stress. As a manager you should be as or more stressed as the employees. If they’re not, they’re probably a crappy manager.
This also means that if someone makes a mistake you cannot and should not skewer them. Disciplining an employee is a necessary and painful evil. Making an example of them and breaking them on a personal level is worthless. I’d also wager it makes you worthless too.
5. Ignorance of “Company Culture”
Your company culture should not be complex. It should be about doing good work, making your customers happy and executing on an idea. This may come with a few elements of stress. This may involve the eventual firing of people. This should not at any point involve not taking someone on because they’re not a good cultural fit.
“Culture” in companies has become an abused term to ostracize and oust those who might disagree with the incumbent staff. It’s very easy to be upset when someone says that something that everyone does is wrong, or that someone who has been around for a while is doing wrong. You have to be wiling to review every process and element of your company with a critical eye…
Much of this boils down to respect, and just taking steps to foster a work environment that radiates positivity. When individuals are surrounded by smiling, happy people, they tend to feel that way themselves. Happiness has a way of breeding more happiness, and when each employee feels like an asset to the company, those feelings of value multiply upon themselves.
Value really is the key principle here – what can companies do make employees feel valued?
By treating each worker with respect, recognizing their individuality, and trying to make sure that whatever the job may be, it fits in with the other aspects of their lives as best it can, businesses can build a mutual commitment between workplace and employee…
When a company legitimately cares about its employees (and shows it), it’s much easier for the employee to care about the wellbeing of the company, and put in the effort to help it flourish.
Turns out your smiley Facebook friends really are happier than you
By Kate Knibbs
Take a quick look at your current Facebook profile picture. Are you posing alone? Is is a boisterous group picture? A professional-looking headshot? Is there duckface involved?Whether you’re teetering with a Coors Light in your hand or sitting serenely in a tasteful pose, a new study says there’s only one thing that really matters: Are you smiling?
According to researchers at the University of Virginia, the intensity of smiles in Facebook profile pictures can accurately predict the well-being of undergraduates over the course of their college careers.
“One implication of my paper is that you can get a fairly accurate indication by looking at people’s Facebook photos based on how intensely they’re smiling in the photos how good those people are socially,” says one of the researchers, post-doctoral instructor Patrick Seder. The paper, titled “Intensity of Smiling in Facebook Photos Predicts Future Life Satisfaction” explains that it took authentic looking photos with smiles (no “jokey” pictures allowed) to make these predictions…
The researchers looked at two groups of Facebook users, taking their first assessments in 2005 and 2006. They selected users were freshman in their first semester at the University of Virginia, and had profile picture photographs that could be analyzed for smile intensity. They measured the intensity of the sample groups’ smiles after taking them through a series of tests to gauge their general well-being and levels of extroversion. The researchers checked back in with their subjects at the end of their college careers and looked at their contentment levels again.
They found that the students who had the most intense smiles in their profile pictures during the first semester of school reported more happiness both in that first semester as well as 3.5 years later. They also found that they could predict whether these students would increase their reported well-being based on the smile intensity.
To boil it down, the students with bigger grins in Facebook photos posted at the beginning of college reported more life satisfaction both during the time period they posted the photos, and at the end of their college careers…
the researchers noted that people who express positive emotions tend to elicit positive emotions in other people (in simpler terms, smiling is contagious). Since people value those who make them smile, a Facebook photo that reinforces the image of someone as a smiley, happy person could strengthen relationships.
It’s a sort of “the chicken or the egg?” conundrum. Do you smile because you’re happy or do you smile and become happy? Either way, there’s a correlation. And since these researchers ran the test twice and got the same results, you’re probably better off playing it safe and deleting that sourpuss face profile picture.
…Although many people believe we self-aggrandize on Facebook, research finds that for the most part, what we see is who we are; our Facebook profiles tend to be pretty accurate expressions of our personalities.
But we all know that even people whose lives appear to be thrill a minute on Facebook sometimes get cranky; sprout zits; have boring evenings; fight with their significant others; have bad hair days; and other not super-duper fun things. They just choose not to share those moments.
Let us consider instead the positive power of Facebook for making us feel good about ourselves: We can do the same thing. We can make ourselves look fun and fascinating on Facebook by selective posting. What’s more, if we do it without making stuff up, then we are actually the person we appear to be on Facebook.
Maybe you’re not as dull as you think. There’s a really good chance you look as cool to other people as other people do to you. While you’re busy envying other people’s lives, maybe other people are envying yours…
THORIN KLOSOWSKI reports on more new research using Facebook to understand more about what might help to make us happy:
In research published in Frontiers in Human Neuroscience, researchers found that they could predict people’s Facebook use by looking at how their brain reacted to positive social feedback in a scanner:P
Specifically, a region called the nucleus accumbens, which processes rewarding feelings about food, sex, money and social acceptance became more active in response to praise for oneself compared to praise of others. And that activation was associated with more time on the social media site.
As it turns out, the social affirmation that comes when people like your status updates is addictive, which might help explain why people tend to spend so much time on Facebook:
On the social media site, the pleasure deriving from attention, kind words, likes, and LOLs from others occurs only sporadically. Such a pattern for rewards is far more addictive than receiving a prize every time, in part because the brain likes to predict rewards, and if it can’t find a pattern, it will fuel a behavior until it finds one. So if the rewards are random, the quest may continue compulsively.
The research is still fresh, but it makes sense that social media addiction is tied to the reward center of the brain…
And this research throws upside down some of the conclusions many us of us might have been making about the effects on young people of video gaming…
BY TIM COLWILL
A research group comprised of members from various Australian universities has concluded a review showing strong positive effects on the well-being of young people across key areas.
The review analysed over 200 papers from various research teams across the world and revealed strong patterns that show many of the negative myths surrounding video games are, well, exactly that.
Among the key findings from the analysis are that:
- There are many creative, social and emotional benefits from playing videogames, including violent games (Kutner & Olson 2008).
- Although ‘excessive’ gamers showed mild increases in problematic behaviors (such as somatic symptoms; anxiety and insomnia; social dysfunction, and general mental health status), it was nongamers who were associated with the poorest mental health correlates (Allahverdipour et al 2010).
- Frequency of play does not significantly relate to body mass index or academic grade point average (Wack & Tentelett-Dunn 2009)
- Videogames have been found to be an effective play therapy tool. Children can be helped to change their views of themselves and the world around through metaphors in games, e.g., ‘the force’ in Lego Star Wars, gaining ‘attributes’ in SSX-3 (snowboarding), and conquering ‘quests’ in RuneScape (Hull 2009).
“We found that playing video games positively influences young people’s emotional state, vitality, engagement, competence and self-acceptance,” explain the authors of the review on The Conversation, saying that it is “associated with higher self-esteem, optimism, resilience, healthy relationships and social connections and functioning”.
“Emerging research suggests that how young people play, as well as with whom they play, may be more important in terms of well-being than what they play. Feelings of relatedness or flow while playing, and playing with people you know are better predictors of well-being than the genre of game played.”
You can read the full story and analyse the findings for yourself over at The Conversation.
abduzeedo recommends this book is about positive psychology, the title is The Happiness Hypothesis: Finding Modern Truth in Ancient Wisdom by Jonathan Haidt, which I am currently reading and thoroughly enjoying:
In his widely praised book, award-winning psychologist Jonathan Haidt examines the world’s philosophical wisdom through the lens of psychological science, showing how a deeper understanding of enduring maxims – like Do unto others as you would have others do unto you, or What doesn’t kill you makes you stronger – can enrich and even transform our lives.
The spirit is willing but the flesh is weak, lamented St. Paul, and this engrossing scientific interpretation of traditional lore backs him up with hard data. Citing Plato, Buddha and modern brain science, psychologist Haidt notes the mind is like an “elephant” of automatic desires and impulses atop which conscious intention is an ineffectual “rider.”
Haidt sifts Eastern and Western religious and philosophical traditions for other nuggets of wisdom to substantiate—and sometimes critique—with the findings of neurology and cognitive psychology. The Buddhist-Stoic injunction to cast off worldly attachments in pursuit of happiness, for example, is backed up by Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi’s studies into pleasure. And Nietzsche’s contention that what doesn’t kill us makes us stronger is considered against research into post-traumatic growth.
An exponent of the “positive psychology” movement, Haidt also offers practical advice on finding happiness and meaning. Riches don’t matter much, he observes, but close relationships, quiet surroundings and short commutes help a lot, while meditation, cognitive psychotherapy and Prozac are equally valid remedies for constitutional unhappiness.
Haidt sometimes seems reductionist, but his is an erudite, fluently written, stimulating reassessment of age-old issues
Psychotherapy, voodoo, and complementary/alternative medicine (CAM) are all cut from the same cloth; they are ‘healing methods’ that relieve symptoms because they provide two key things: empathy and the placebo effect (E&P).
…Belgian physicians Mommaerts and Devroey in a new paper: From “Does it work?” to “What is it?” … say that, given that Empathy + Placebo effect are a powerful psychological force, it makes little sense to ask of any particular complementary/alternative medicine, “Does it work?”. So long as it provides non-specific Empathy + Placebo effect, just about any intervention will work…
Empathy + Placebo effect is often the only thing people need. But it can be hard to find it in mainstream medicine. The authors write:
Complementary/alternative medicine represents a failing of scientific medicine, in that complementary/alternative medicine seeks to address patients’ needs that are lost in the technologically focused interactions of modern medicine. Complementary/alternative medicine represents many patients’ search for empathy.
Perhaps there’s a solution: more empathy in mainstream medicine, or in general, some kind of ‘pure’ Empathy + Placebo effect that doesn’t rely on unscientific foundations? This is what the authors suggest….
“No poet is ever going to write about gazing into his lover’s emoticons.”
I bought a perfectly good flip phone three years ago, but lately people tease me about it as if I’m using something from the Victorian Era. Before that, I had a different flip phone, which followed an analog cell phone. Remember those? And before that, I had a telephone with a wire that stuck in a wall. You want to know which one had the best sound quality? The one that stuck in the wall. But I digress… What I want to talk about is what hasn’t been upgraded: the quality of human communication. The quality of our conversations with friends and loved ones hasn’t improved one bit. In fact, many people now send text messages instead of conversing at all. We have far greater access, but far less intimacy.
Information technology is expanding at such a rate that nearly every aspect of our world has been impacted, yet there has been no corresponding expansion of personal happiness. Instead, we find that we have become anxious, sleep-deprived, depressed, and over-medicated. For example, one in four women in the United States takes antidepressants and/or anti anxiety medication, with men not far behind. And for sleep? The Center for Disease Control has declared that insufficient sleep is an epidemic.
My premise is not that technology is supposed to increase our happiness but that our society now believes it does. We have become confused as to the difference between happiness and entertainment. The constant glancing into our smart phone to see if anyone has pinged us, while a friend is sitting across the table speaking to us, are indicators that we are addicted to something that is making us less considerate and more alienated.
Here is one of the most important statistics you may ever read that explains the clash of human happiness with text-based technology. According to research from 1981, approximately 90 percent of human communication is nonverbal. So although we are more connected than ever, when we communicate with text, it is only 10 percent of us that is connected. It is no wonder we feel more alienated. The overuse of social media, texting, and gaming is causing our society, especially young people, to develop symptoms that remind me of Asperger syndrome — verbal difficulties, avoiding eye contact, inability to understand social rules and read body language, and difficulty in forming true friendships.
Emotional intimacy requires personal knowledge of the deeper dimensions of another being and is developed through trust. Trust can begin, or end, with a first glance, because, like other animals, we inherently know a great deal about each other through body language and tone of voice. In fact, we often ascertain the trustworthiness of a person in mere seconds, without a word spoken. Based on nonverbal communication we regularly make life-altering decisions; whether or not to begin a business relationship, accept a date with someone, or allow someone to look after your child. We rely on nonverbal communication at the deepest level of our being.
Innovators are making great strides in programing humanoid-type robots that have faces and can produce human expressions. These robots are programmed to make eye contact and to read and respond to human emotional expressions, tone of voice, and body language. The strange and perhaps history-bending irony is that we are teaching robots to make eye contact and watch for nonverbal cues, but meanwhile, we humans are now avoiding these things, opting instead to send texts and then adding smiley faces to crudely humanize the message. We are humanizing robots as we voluntarily dehumanize ourselves.
In my new book, There is No App for Happiness, (Skyhorse August 2013) I introduce readers to three imperatives that accelerate change from the inside out, humanizing change that I believe can make us happier. The one I will mention here is Life-Span Management. We have an incongruous schism between the concepts of our time and our life as if they were two completely separate things. In one hand we have a precious short life, and in the other hand we have time to kill. Time is not only money, it is much more than that; it is the minutes and seconds of our mortal life. Your time is the finite resource from which you experience this world — everyone, everything, and especially that which you are devoted to and live for. Because it is a finite resource, whether we are aware of it or not, we all purchase each time-event at the cost of another. When we come to this realization, a giant bell rings as we comprehend how much of our life-span we have been wasting on meaningless activities that serve no one and nothing. Happiness costs something. What are you willing to sacrifice to have more life/time? And what is stealing your time?
Remember Steve Job’s famous quote? “My favorite things in life don’t cost any money. It’s really clear that the most precious resource we all have is time.”
I am sharing this quote not because it is unique, because it isn’t. I share this particular quote because these words were spoken by the icon of tech success. Jobs achieved great wealth, power, and fame, only to discover that his favorite things in life were free — and not made from silicon.
To be clear, I am not anti-technology. Quite the contrary, I am even an advocate of self-driving cars. But I think that we have to select our technology wisely. If we bring technology into our life, it should simplify our life and give us more free time, not take it away. If it doesn’t make your current life run more seamlessly, get rid of it. Everything new is not better.
Maybe it’s time we start applying Silicon Valley style innovation to ourselves so that we find a path to a more meaningful experience of living, and a more sane world.
Alison Nastasi gives a few brief definitions of poetry by famous poets:
We’ve been thinking about poet Meena Alexander’s incredible address to the Yale Political Union, in which she refers to Shelley’s 1821 essay, A Defence of Poetry. The English poet’s work famously stated, “Poets are the unacknowledged legislators of the world.” Alexander concludes:
“The poem is an invention that exists in spite of history…In a time of violence, the task of poetry is in some way to reconcile us to our world and to allow us a measure of tenderness and grace with which to exist… Poetry’s task is to reconcile us to the world — not to accept it at face value or to assent to things that are wrong, but to reconcile one in a larger sense, to return us in love, the province of the imagination, to the scope of our mortal lives.”
Other poets have attempted to interpret “what is deeply felt and is essentially unsayable.” …
Percy Bysshe Shelley
There are a few more choice snippets from Shelley’s 1821 essay, A Defence of Poetry, that articulated the essence of poetry:
“Poetry is the record of the best and happiest moments of the happiest and best minds.”
“Poetry, in a general sense, may be defined to be ‘the expression of the imagination’: and poetry is connate with the origin of man.”
“If I read a book [and] it makes my whole body so cold no fire ever can warm me I know that is poetry. If I feel physically as if the top of my head were taken off, I know that is poetry. These are the only way I know it. Is there any other way?”
“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
“Poetry is what gets lost in translation.”
“Poetry is the revelation of a feeling that the poet believes to be interior and personal which the reader recognizes as his own.”
“Poetry isn’t a profession, it’s a way of life. It’s an empty basket; you put your life into it and make something out of that.”
“I have said that poetry is the spontaneous overflow of powerful feelings: it takes its origin from emotion recollected in tranquillity: the emotion is contemplated till, by a species of reaction, the tranquillity gradually disappears, and an emotion, kindred to that which was before the subject of contemplation, is gradually produced, and does itself actually exist in the mind.”
“There is poetry as soon as we realize that we possess nothing.”
“Poetry is a deal of joy and pain and wonder, with a dash of the dictionary.”
“Poetry is all that is worth remembering in life.”
“Poetry is the deification of reality.”
“Poetry is the art of creating imaginary gardens with real toads.”
“You must believe: a poem is a holy thing — a good poem, that is.”
James K. Baxter
“The poem is a plank laid over the lion’s den.”
Lucy Jeynes writes in Guardian Professional:
…I confess that I myself wondered whether reading 19th century French novels could honestly be considered study and not pure indulgence. When I first entered the world of work, I felt that perhaps I should have studied something more “useful”. It has taken the perspective of a 20-year-career in a fairly technical, male-dominated field to appreciate the enormous benefits of my degree.
Living and studying in other countries has helped me to understand cultural cues, essential in today’s global economy. The study of other languages has given me a deep understanding of the richness of English, which enables me to say precisely what I mean.
Studying languages has helped me to write compelling proposals, unambiguous tender specifications, complex arbitrations, engaging conference speeches and insightful trade press articles – all of which have helped me to reach the top of my career in facilities management.
In a profession filled with engineers and surveyors, the ability to communicate technical content effectively and quickly has turned out to be a valuable skill…
…Belinda Parmar is right to highlight the gender bias: only 33% of university languages students are male. We need more men to study languages, just as we need more women to study STEM subjects. In our technological age, we still need thinkers, writers and artists. Otherwise, who will develop the content for all the wonderful devices that geeks are inventing?
Study what you love and you will do well. You will find a way to build it into your career: learning anything is never a waste.
Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.
– Nelson Mandela
Steve McCurry’s new collection celebrates moments of people learning, and, as always,, his photos are powerful testimony to the very best of what it can mean to be human and alive in today’s world across our blue planet.
The mind is not a vessel to be filled, but a fire to be kindled.
Teaching might even be the greatest of the arts since the medium is the human mind and spirit.
– John Steinbeck
Mary O’Connor reflects in the Shaky Isles Theatre blog about change and moving on:
Etymology:- 1550s, from Latin transitionem (nominative transitio) “a going across or over,” noun of action from past participle stem of transire “go or cross over”
“I’m not very good at transitions” I say to myself, to others…
“it’s just this bit, I’ll be ok when Autumn comes with leaves , conkers, apples , Halloween, golden light and a promise of Christmas” is not an end.
I’m on a bridge. From one experience to the next. So, I’m not good at bridges? This bridge feels a little bit rickety right now?
Ok , so I’m going to have to let go, and hold onto the bridge. Look where I’m going. Look ahead.
You will find all of these stories, and many more, in this week’s Happiness At Work Edition #63 of 13the September 2013
We hope you enjoy…