Congratulations to those of you that live in Leamington Spa – according to yet another new survey published this week, it’s the happiest place to live in the UK. Factors measured included ‘feeling safe’, ‘a sense of community’, and ‘friendliness of locals’ - all considered major indicators of happiness.
However the UK lags way behind many other countries when it comes to ‘World’s Happiest Places’ type surveys, with the Nordic countries – and the Danes in particular – regularly topping the lists. Why?
The obvious answer is that common to all the Nordic countries is a well funded Welfare State. High taxes don’t bring them out in a rash as they know that they don’t have to worry about paying for health care or university education, they have a safety net of generous unemployment benefits, and crime rates are relatively low. But the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen (yes, this really exists), also believe that once the big worries are taken away, it’s actually quite small things that make us the happiest.
I tested this by asking the followers on Snowbunting’s facebook page what made them happy, and everyone responded with small, simple things that bring them joy. Nearly all of them were related to stimulating one of our senses, including the sounds of rain, waves and children laughing; the smells of fresh cut grass, a new vinyl record, pine shavings or a new perfume; the feel of cold fresh sheets; the taste of a home cooked meal after a day outdoors; and the sight of an unfamiliar bird in the garden or a dark, wet and windy morning.
The anticipation of pleasure also brought happiness – getting away from the city and driving towards north Wales was Rachel’s choice, Nicky loved a fresh piece of paper on which to write a list, whereas the expectation of his wife’s lasagne made Richard a very happy man!
The Danish research bears this out: they found that simple treats, spending time with family and friends, having things to look forward to, not taking things for granted and being grateful for what you have were all major contributory factors to happiness. This well-being (or ‘hygge’) sees the Danes ignoring their mostly awful weather and instead making a cosy space to gather indoors with their friends to talk, eat, and – most importantly – laugh.
“Happiness consists more in small conveniences or pleasures that occur every day than in great pieces of good fortune that happen but seldom” (Benjamin Franklin).
So try this: think of something that you already have that makes you happy. Then think of something that might happen later today or later this week that will make you happy. Finally, make a plan to meet up with family or friends this weekend - for a chat, a coffee, a beer, a walk, Sunday lunch or a game of Monopoly. However, try to avoid discussing a move to the London boroughs of Brent, Barking, Dagenham, Newham or Croydon as the same survey rated them the unhappiest places in the UK!
Thanks to Carol, Nicky, Sharon, Sophie, Richard, Karen, Ian and Tracy for their contributions.