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Episode 152: 15 Minutes To Happiness

Have a think about the following question for a moment.

“Please imagine a ladder with steps numbered from zero at the bottom to 10 at the top. Suppose we say that the top of the ladder represents the best possible life for you, and the bottom of the ladder represents the worst possible life for you. On which step of the ladder would you say you personally feel you stand at this time, assuming that the higher the step the better you feel about your life, and the lower the step the worse you feel about it? Which step comes closest to the way you feel?”

This question is asked once per year by Gallup, the famous poll company. They ask a thousand people in each of around 150 countries from around the world to work out how happy each country is on average.
Gallup don’t just ask this one question though, there are many more. They ask about their relationship status, how many children they have, how many friends they have. They find out how much time people spend driving to work and whether or not they mow their own lawn or get the kid down the road to do it for a fiver.
There are many other organisations that undertake similar research and if you take all of the data from all of these different sources and stick them into a computer you can look for correlations, so we can see what influences us for the better and what influences us for the worse. It makes some very interesting reading and some of it genuinely surprising.

What we find is that most people in the top 20 countries rate themselves as being between 6 and a half and 7 and a half out of 10.
The UK only just makes it into the top 20 by being at number 19 with an average of about 6.7. To put that into context, the world average is 5.3 and Europe is about 6. Norway is number one with 7.5. So that’s a good number to strive for.

On the whole a Norwegian attitude seems pretty good. Wages are high but so is tax and the cost of living is quite high. So financially, Norway is not really any better off than the UK. But people rarely work past 5pm and they have a great community spirit, which probably helps.

If we look at household income throughout the world, we do see that there’s a correlation with a higher salary and greater happiness, but it’s not a straight line. Once a household has a income total of about 50k it begins to curve quite considerably, almost flattening out so that it becomes increasingly more difficult to get any happiness out of the extra money you earn.

It’s such a gentle increase in life satisfaction that to go up one point on the happiness scale needs an extra £100,000 per year!
That’s not very realistic, but if you ask people to name something that they know would give them an instant happiness boost they’d say more money, a promotion, a lottery win, something like that.

The frustrating thing is that this is a foundation to a lot of peoples beliefs, it may well be yours. But it’s not enough! Having money in the bank might make it easier for you to do certain things that make you happy but maybe you could do those things anyway if you realised that it wasn’t the lottery win you wanted, it was actually spending more time with your family or it meant you had more time to do volunteer work or plan your meals better or exercise more.

It’s definitely worth looking underneath your desires to work out why you feel the need for more money, if you do. Because the security that money brings us has been with us for generations and the desire for it at an unconscious level is probably never going to go away.

Think about it like this. If you go back 10 thousand years most societies were quite small and everyone worked together. We used a bartering system as means of buying goods. One person was good at laying a cobbled floor and someone else was pretty quick at making flint tools and everyone swapped services and goods with each other.
The more flint tools someone had the more spears they could make, the more food they could eat and the safer they were. But it’s not sustainable as society gets larger. Eventually we started using something to represent those goods and services. These tokens became coins, which eventually become bank notes and soon enough they’re nothing more than numbers on a bank statement. But their origins are still about safety, the instinct to desire those numbers on a bank statement are all about preservation of the species, preservation of self, keeping you alive.
So it does take a little bit of strength to override it and ask yourself, “What is it that really makes me happy?” but I urge you to do so, really. Because it might not be the promotion that you want, often the promotion comes with longer working hours or more anxiety, a longer journey to work or phone calls from your boss at 10 o clock at night. When actually it’s working LESS that would have the positive influence on your mental health not working more.

It can be tricky to find the balance between doing too little and doing too much but it’s worth exploring because there are other things that can shift us up a point on the 1 to 10 happy scale. Being less anxious and having more control over your thoughts, being more grateful and appreciative of the simpler things in life, having a healthy opinion of yourself, spending any spare cash on experiences rather than objects. All these things have a better influence on our happiness than savings in your bank account does. So it’s really important to get our priorities right.

Episode List

Episode 138: Keeping Up With The Joneses
Episode 137: The Likeable You
Episode 136: Why It's OK To Be A Loser
Episode 135: The Psychology Of Extremism
Episode 134: Are You A Lobster?
Episode 133: Critical Thinking
Episode 132: There Is Nothing Either Good Or Bad
Episode 131: The For And Against Of Imagination
Episode 130: Loneliness & Social Networks
Episode 129: Letting Go Of The Past
Episode 128: What Is Love?
Episode 127: Procrastination
Ep. 126: Who Were You Before The World Changed You?
Episode 125: Stop Saying "Sorry"
Episode 124: Emotional Contagion
Episode 123: Patience
Episode 122: Building On Your Foundations
Episode 121: Dealing With The Critics
Episode 120: Being Assertive. Just Say No!
Episode 119: Inactivity
Episode 118: Social Functioning & Evolution
Episode 117: Unleash Your Inner Superhero
Episode 116: Goals, Values and Priorities
Episode 115: 10 Tips To A Happier Life
Episode 114: Lies And Confabulation
Episode 113: Confirmation Bias
Episode 112: Are You An Imposter?
Episode 111: What Doesn't Kill You Makes You Stronger
Episode 110: Are New Years Resolutions a good idea?
Episode 109: The African Violet Queen Of Milwaukee
Episode 108: Reframing
Episode 107: Spiders And Behaviourism
Episode 106: Practise Makes Perfect
Episode 105: Fear Of Flying
Episode 100 - 104: Happiness
Episode 99: Body Image And The Media
Episode 98: Evolution and Adaptation
Episode 97: Reflections And Regrets.
Episode 96: Dealing With Fear
Episode 95: Confidence
Episode 94: Enthusiasm
Episode 93: Tips To Relieve Christmas Stress
Episode 92: Dealing With Change
Episode 87 - 91: Self Esteem
Episode 86: Correlation Does Not Imply Causation
Episode 85: The Importance Of Being Lazy
Episode 84: Elephant Chains
Episode 83: Eating Bananas And Setting Goals
Episode 82: Ignoring The Media And Listening To Music
Episode 81: Awakening The Instincts
Episode 80: The Fine Line Between Love And Hate
Episode 79: The Best Medicine
Episode 78: A New Start
Episode 77: Time Distortion
Episode 76: Making Decisions
Episode 75: What's In A Name?
Episode 74: Pushing Ourselves Further
Episode 73: Conformity
Episode 72: Purpose
Episode 71: Perspective
Episode 70: Expectation
Episode 69: The Mind / Body Link
Episode 68: Overcoming Shyness
Episode 67: Mood Boosting
Episode 66: Sabotaging your goals
Episode 65: Self Talk
Episode 64: Money Makes The World Go Round
Episode 63: First Impressions Count
Episode 62: False Belief
Episode 61: Absolutes
Episode 60: The Psychology of feeling calm
Episode 59: Belief
Episode 58: Anchoring Emotions
Episode 57: Negativity and Perspective
Episode 56: Health And Happiness
Episode 55: Imagination vs Reality
Episode 54: Change