Today is the International Day of Happiness, the day when the world recognizes how important happiness is for everything from health to wealth. The U.N. designated day of happiness makes it official: world progress should be all about “increasing human happiness and well-being not just growing the economy.”
It’s about time.
In the world of work, employees report that while it’s nice to get a bigger paycheck, the money doesn’t make up for an unhappy, stressful work environment. Employees’ unhappiness at work is bad for the boss too. According to World Happiness Report and The Business Journals, workers who are stressed out at work produce less and cost their companies more in absenteeism.
Workers around the world who feel less satisfaction, less sense of accomplishment, and less all-around happiness are far more likely to stay home whenever they can, and that costs money.
“Employee burnout directly impacts your bottom line and business performance.”
A 2010 report published in the health care journal Health Affairs “found that medical costs fall by about $3.27 for every dollar spent on wellness programs and that absenteeism costs fall by about $2.73 for every dollar spent.”
The report emphasizes that when workers are happy, shareholders and executives save money. Workplace wellness programs are a worthwhile investment even for CEOs who puts profits before people.
The Founding Fathers understood what happiness meant to the well-being of the nation. Every American schoolchild learns that not just life and liberty, but also happiness, are the three rights woven into the very fabric of the nation, and those rights must be protected by the government.
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness…”
CBS News reports that, despite the 2.5-century old commitment to happiness promised by the Founding Fathers, the United States of America doesn’t measure up on the feeling-good scale.
In the United Nations’ latest World Happiness Report, released on International Happiness Day, the results are alarming for Americans. While Norway has catapulted to number one in the world from fourth place and “most countries were either getting happier or at least treading water,” the U.S. has slipped from 13 to 14 on the list.
“Norway is the happiest country on Earth, Americans are getting sadder, and it takes more than just money to be happy.”
The report considers several factors that contribute to happiness and well-being in everyday life. Most will come as no surprise, especially to those who have suffered the lack of any one of the ingredients for happiness.
Along with having caring friends and family, happy people enjoy “freedom to make life decisions, generosity, good governance, honesty, health, and income.” Employment, social support, and trust in government and business leaders join the list of essential elements for a good life.
There’s a twist to the story. The pieces of the personal happiness pie are connected to all the other pies. The same flour used for one flaky, tender crust is the flour that makes all the other crusts just as delectable. It turns out that when employment is down, for instance, it’s not only the unemployed who experience less happiness. Everyone pays the price.
“A rise in unemployment, in fact, affects the happiness of everyone, even those with jobs.”
CTV News reports that if there is one thing that explains the difference in happiness ratings between Norway and the U.S., that single factor would be a sense of community. Jeffrey Sachs is a World Happiness Report co-author and an economist at Columbia University. He said that Norway is a very community-oriented country where people look out for each other, but the sense of community in the United States is “deteriorating.”
On top of that, as we lose our connections to neighbors, local shops, libraries, and entertainment, we become “more and more mean spirited.” People are more cynical about government and believe that along with mean-spirited attitudes all around, “inequality is rising…. government is becoming more and more corrupt,” and there’s little expectation of change.
“It’s a long-term trend and conditions are getting worse.”
But don’t lose hope! The United Nations has a list of 17 ways to make happiness in our world today.
[Featured Image by Cindy Ord/Getty Images for Sony Pictures]