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Building happiness, the Danish way

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Meik Wiking


Last week I wrote about my quest to mindfullý and mindlessly seeking out joy since picking up the book The Key to Happiness, How to Find Purpose by Unlocking the Secrets of the World’s Happiest People by Meik Wiking.

Wiking is the CEO of The Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, the author of the international bestseller The Little Book of Hygge, and he’s been described by The Times as the happiest man in the world.

Who better than this guy to give us tip and explain the factors behind that fleeting feeling we call happiness? Following on from his tips on building a community, disconnecting digitally and investing in experience rather than possessions, he also write about other contributing factors to our communal and individual happiness such as health, freedom, trust and kindness.

Walk the walk
“A city is successful not when it’s rich but when its people are happy. Creating bikeability and walkability shows respect for human dignity. We’re telling people ‘You’re important – not because you’re rich, but because you’re human. A developed country is not a place where the poor have cars. It’s where the rich use public transport,” says Guillermo Peñalosa, the former Commissioner of Parks, Sport and Recreation for the City of Bogotá, Colombia. The biggest obstacles to happiness are feeling inferior and excluded, says Wiking, and a good city doesn’t let its citizens feel this way.

You may not live in a “good city” but that’s no excuse not to get some exercise. Walk over and talk to colleague instead of relying on calls and emails. Take the stairs at work instead of the lift. Take care of your body anx you will feel it in your spirit too.

Protect your work-life balance
“No people can truly be happy if they do not feel that they are choosing the course of their own life,” states the World Happiness Report 2012. Having freedom of choice, it explains, is one of the six factors that explain why some people are happier than others.

Wiking suggests, more important than freedom of movement, assembly and expression is the freedom of time and reminds us that every day we each have 1440 minutes. Between work, commute and spare time it’s down to us how we use these. Batch cook your food for the week so you don’t spend time cooking daily. Use the time you spend waiting on something practical. Don’t waste time mindlessly scrolling on social media. Schedule when you have to start a task and when you have to finish it so it doesn’t expand to fill the time available for its completion.

Build trust
“People who trust other people are happier, and trust does make life easier,” says Wiking. One of the reasons Danes top the polls as or of the happiest nations of the world is because they trust each other as “social trust spurs a sense of life satisfaction.”

The key to happiness is to start building trust. While Danes teach empathy, trust, collaboration and kindness starting right at school, even if we don’t get the head start they have, there are ways we can build trust. Within your social circle cultivate collaboration as opposed to competition.

Cultivate kindness
Have you heard of the Free Help Guy? After chucking in his day job which he felt served no purpose he took six months out to offer free help to those who need it – especially if their needs were fun, different and morally deserved. From finding baby names to finding organ donors, he helped many who reached out to the ad he’d placed on social media. Since his six month stint as a superhero, he’s gine back to work but still continues to offer free help.

We may not all have the time or resources to be the Free Help Guy but we can all help out in our own little ways. Volunteer for a cause you feel passionate about, mentor a person who needs the skills you already have, smile at strangers and perform random acts of kindness. All guaranteed to bring a smile to your face as well.


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