Lagom, Lykke, Pono, Ubuntu, Hygge, Ikigai and Wabi Sabi
Here are the Happiness Rankings by Country - a report devised edited and sub edited by white or south East Asian middle class men and one woman.
World Happiness Reports were issued in 2012, 2013, 2015, 2016 (an update), 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. In addition to ranking countries happiness and well-being levels, each report has contributing authors and most focus on a subject. The data used to rank countries in each report is drawn from the Gallup World Poll, as well as other sources such as the World Values Survey, in some of the reports. The Gallup World Poll questionnaire measures 14 areas within its core questions: (1) business & economic, (2) citizen engagement, (3) communications & technology, (4) diversity (social issues), (5) education & families, (6) emotions (well-being), (7) environment & energy, (8) food & shelter, (9) government and politics, (10) law & order (safety), (11) health, (12) religion & ethics, (13) transportation, and (14) work.
Now remember when SATs in the UK were first introduced and then about a decade later the questions and style of questions were found to be biased towards those pupils who had English as a first language from a middle class background? Concepts, styles of questions and format of the test were taken into account and the SATs became 'more inclusive' and those not from a middle class background were not so marginalised when taking the tests. I suspect this is what will happen to this World Happiness 'TEST'. A survey written by men and one woman, to test whether the citizens are happy with their country's policies and practices will always be biased toward what someone who is writing the 'test' considers should result in happiness. However, there are ways to make the questions more inclusive and fairer to Sub Saharan or South American countries, where I have met the most happiest and contented of people. It's not all about money, but really it is! When you hail from or live in country where the gap between rich and poor is small you are more likely to have accessible ambitions. We often see happiness as all of us being able to walk the gap between ambition and reality, that's me and my family and those that I love. Yet when that gap seems like a chasm, we are often challenged, anxiety grows alongside the fear, which can lead to you guessed it - UNHAPPINESS! Think of Maslow's Hierarchy Theory, if you are constantly trying to find safe and warm housing for you and the next generation, how can you possibly rise toward the love and belonging phase?
When housing in the country where you live, is seemingly accessible and safe for you and future generations this often generates happiness!
In a country which hosts most of the world's billionaires and millionaires the gap between rich and poor is enormous. In a country that is densely populated the housing situation is often in crisis. This is where you are more likely to find the least happy people. Yet in a society where capitalism rules, we are told that the wealthy countries are where you will find happiness. Hence the growth in economic migrants into these countries that are considered 'less happy'. Go where you can where you will find the gap between your reality and your ambitions the smallest and you will find contentment and lifelong happiness.
Lagom (pronounced “lar-gohm”) is probably why Sweden is one of the happiest countries in the world, with a healthy work-life balance and high standards of living. Lagom is a huge part of the culture in Sweden. It means “Not too little. Not too much. Just right.”
This single word encapsulates the entire Swedish socially democratic philosophy on life: that everyone should have enough but not too much.At the office, professionals who work hard — but not to the detriment of other parts of their lives — are following the lagom ideal.
Rather than burning yourself out with a 60-hour working week and then getting stressed, lagom encourages balance and living somewhere in the middle.
Other features include frugality, stress reduction, striking the perfect balance between work and play and focusing on environmental concerns and sustainability. The archetypical Swedish proverb, “Lagom är bäst”, literally means, “The right amount is best” but is also translated as “Enough is as good as a feast” and “There is virtue in moderation”. You are probably exercising lagom is many aspects of your life already.
For Swedes, lagom is a lifestyle, a habit of mind. ‘There’s an internal mindset of acceptance and contentment in Sweden. That’s part of the secret to being happy — don’t obsess about it. The philosophy of lagom is beautifully simple and offers an alternative to the idea of ‘always seeking the next best thing. The concept encourages an overarching balance across our lives: everything in moderation.
It’s the opposite of materialism and consumerism.
Anna Brones writes in her new book, Live Lagom: Balanced Living the Swedish Way, “Applying a sense of lagom to our everyday lives – in what we eat, what we wear, how we live, how we work – might just be the trick for embracing a more balanced, sustainable lifestyle that welcomes the pleasures of existence rather than those of consumption.”
Master the art of moderation
Be moderate in order to taste the joys of life in abundance. ~Epicurus
The key to experiencing greater fulfilment and pleasure is actually moderation. It’s about having only what you need. “Never go to excess, but let moderation be your guide, says Marcus Tillius Cicero.
In a busy world where we now have access to almost anything at any time, Lagom presents a simple and balanced way to live and work without missing out on anything.
Chef and author Bronte Aurell who runs a Scandinavian Kitchen in London’s Fitzrovia says, “Lagom is very important to the Scandi psyche.” In an interview, published in the telegraph, Aurell said, “There is balance and moderation in everything we do in Scandinavia — from our working hours to how many slices of cake we eat in one sitting. How much milk we take in our coffee, to the portion sizes of our dinner.” Lagom is the new minimalism for anyone with the desire to live with fewer material possessions but aim to enjoy a fuller life. But lagom goes far beyond embracing minimalism. In fact, it can teach us valuable lessons about how to live a happier life.
Niki Brantmark, autor of Lagom: The Swedish Art of Living a Balanced, Happy Life, argues, “In an age when we’re leading increasingly busy lives and feel connected 24/7 I think we should channel the Swedes, slow down and take more time out to relax. This might be enjoying fikas with colleagues, friends or family, it might be taking a decent lunchbreak to relax and prepare for the afternoon, using the weekend to head out for a day to the forest, beach or local park or enjoying an analogue activity like baking, reading, or crafting.”
Pursuing a more lagom style of happiness is preferable in many ways.
Jaime Kurtz, Ph.D., an associate professor of psychology at James Madison University writes in Psychology Today:
For a happier, more balanced life, start by asking yourself, “Is this lagom?” Ask it when you look inside your crowded closet, or as you consider your relationship with your work. Ask it when a massive portion of food is placed before you, or as you consider that second bowl of ice cream. Ask it about your life in general. Amid the more typical American life questions, like “Am I joyful?” and “Can I do better?” add in these much more reasonable questions: “Am I content?” “Is this good enough?”
If you can find that balance between work and your personal life — giving yourself time to do the things you love — in the long run, you find that balance. If you finish work on time, you give yourself more time for family and your relationships. Give yourself more personal time to do the things you love, you will become healthier and happier in the process.
Find ‘lagom’ by keeping track of your spending, upcycling furniture, consciously reducing your environmental impact on the world, taking purposeful breaks from work, spending quality time with family and friends, focusing on what is essential, and knowing when to stop.
I heard about Lykke (pronounced LOO-ka),Wiking decided to investigate why Denmark consistently ranks number one in every happiest citizens polls. Lykke is the Danish word for happiness. The author of The Little Book of Lykke, Meik Wiking, is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen and the author of The Little Book of Hygge in which he encourages people to explore the concept of everyday happiness and comfort. In his new book about Lykke, he explores what makes people happy.
Mr. Wiking traveled the globe to find the secrets of the happiest people. While the Danes top the World Happiness Rankings, they do not have a monopoly on happiness. His goal was to discover what makes people in other countries and cultures happy and how happiness and improved quality of life can be spread across the world. The Little Book of Lykke is the result.
Wiking identifies six factors that explain the majority of happiness around the world – togetherness, money, health, freedom, trust and kindness. People’s contentment with their lives can deepen with some shifts in perspective and actions. We don’t all have to move to Denmark. This book is filled with ideas and suggestions to help people become more satisfied with their lives.
For example, he loves the culture and ritual the French have around their food. They use mealtimes as opportunities to socialize with each other and be together. The French spend twice as long eating meals as people in the UK, and have lower obesity rates and a longer life expectancy. Another example is how much exercise the Danes get which he feels impacts their happiness. 50% of all working Danes ride a bicycle to and from work every day, so they have built in their exercise. Finally, one of his favorite happiness ‘tips’ comes from Bhutan. The school day begins in Bhutan with a mindfulness exercise called ‘brain brushing’. This has been linked to higher levels of academic performance and well being. The Royal Government of Bhutan has made Gross National Happiness (GNH) their vision for their country.
Wiking in his book talks about the common good and being able to rely on one another in times of need. Danes feel that there is a link between the good life and the common good. Their taxes are very high, but nine out of ten Danes are happy to pay because they feel they have a very high quality of life and that they will be supported if they ever have a time of need. In Denmark, there are no college/university fees, and students receive $790 (after tax) from the government monthly. Men and women get equal parental leave and there is universal health care. They believe in a strong sense of community. Wiking researches the importance of knowing your neighbors and describes communities in Denmark that are built with shared facilities so that villages are literally raising all their children together. He offers suggestions on how we each can turn our street into a village, get to know our neighbors, and build community.
In the World Happiness Reports from 2013 – 2017, Denmark ranks number one with a score of 7.57 out of 10. The United States ranks number 11 with a score of 7.07. According to Harvard professor Robert Putnam in a 2000 book called Bowling Alone: The Collapse and Revival of American Community, Americans are engaging less in their communities and their happiness is decreasing. Americans have become disconnected from family, friends, and neighbors. We tend to volunteer less, attend church less, and know our neighbors less. Our civic engagement has decreased dramatically, and a strong democracy depends on involved and connected citizens. We trail most developed countries in voter turnout.
Many studies have shown that people who have strong social contact live longer. People want to be with other people, but the trend is going the other way. Technology has not helped this problem because it can isolate people. Developed countries, specifically South Korea, also suffer from being richer, but not happier. South Korea’s rise to riches has been dramatic, but it ranks 55th in the World Happiness Report, and has top ranking in suicide rates in OECD (Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries. The inequality in the U.S. between the haves and the have-nots is worrisome for our future. If a country doubles in wealth but 90% of that wealth goes to the richest 10%, that is not growth, that is greed.”
Explore ideas for the rebuilding of trust, kindness, togetherness, empathy, and community good. It will not shock you to learn that New York City ranks absolutely last in how often people smile at each other on the street! I love the reports from Silicon Valley that the tech companies are so responsive to the happiness of their employees. They provide areas for recreation, day care, some provide pet care, good paternal and maternal leave and bonding opportunities. It is said that Steve Jobs built the new Apple headquarters with collaboration and openness in mind.