The last weeks I've been thinking a lot about happiness. Both before and after I went to a MiniTED talk in Hangzhou last weekend to (I) listen to a speech about happiness from the perspective of a Buddhist (I) talk about happines from the perspective of a happy Dane in Shanghai.
Denmark has been ranked the happiest country two years in a row - since the UN started ranking World Countries' happiness level in 2012. I personally believe that happiness is a very individual thing and I would say impossible to scientifically research on and rank. For this Official Happiness Report someone obviously have to somehow do this in order to arrive at valid and reliable results. According to this survey Denmark rank high in all six factors which are used to compare nations:
High Individual income level and low gap between rich and poor
Healthy life expectancy at birth
A lack of corruption in leadership
Freedom to make life choices
Culture of generosity
At the Mini-TED talk I gave my view on Danish happiness and how it is connected to the Danish welfare model. We are truly privileged in Denmark and very few people will claim that they do not have their basic human needs covered. Most people indeed have more than we need. Does that make us happy?
What me and Frank - the director of Hangzhou buddhist studies where both discussing at the Mini-TED talk was the difference between short-term happiness and long-term happiness and in relation to these two, the ever-returning question: does money make us happy - can we buy happiness? I believe that as long as we have our basic needs covered new things, good food & wine, even a perfect-made cappuccino can actually make us very very happy... For a very very short while. In the long run we need something else.
I had such a hard time finding the words for this other "thing" we need in order to be happy in the long run. This "thing" I have been and still is pursuing in my life and which is why I am not currently sitting in my apartment in Copenhagen with a good career boosting job, a secure income, surrounded by a lot of designer stuff. I've realized that this would not make me happy in the long run.
Frank describe this "thing" as well-being. According to him happiness is not what we as human beings need to feel good - feel happy. According to him we need well-being. We need to feel the same - feel good about ourselves, feel good about about our situation and feel good about our surroundings no matter whether we are sitting on a buddhist mountain in Tibet, in a designer apartment in NYC or on a deserted island in the pacific ocean.
To share the core message from Frank: according to buddhism we can can achieve well-being through meditation and a high level of daily awareness. When we interact, when we eat, when we are. We need to be aware about how we feel, how blessed we are and what we truly want and need in order to have a happy life. I gained much from Frank's point of view and his concept of well-being and awareness. Furthermore I am soon going to his temple to practice my meditation. I would just love to be able to master my mind and meditation. How can 10 minutes of silence and deep breathing be so difficult to master? As I like to say, sometimes it feels like my mind is a little a monkey on coke.
Apart from some insides from the Danish society my core message at the Mini-TED talk was about how I personally use conscious breathing on a daily basis in order to improve my daily awareness. Like very-very-short term meditation
Everyday I try to stop whatever I am doing and just breathe. It can be in my bed in the morning, in the shower, in the queue in the supermarket - wherever.
I breathe, I feel and I ask myself: how do I feel right not, in this moment. Am I okay? Do I feel okay about what I am doing? What am I actually doing? Does it make sense? Am I happy?
I find that in our busy lives and societies it is so important to take the time to feel ourself, get to know ourself and be aware of ourself in our current situation. I think that is why I looove to travel, move around and never know what is going to happen next. This really gives me the opportunity to get away from my daily life, to breathe & to feel.
Another thing I practice on a daily basis and which I find vital for our own happiness is gratitude.
Being grateful about who we are, what we have and not least: the amazing people we are surrounded by and come across everyday. I am not a fan of long posts so I will dig deeper into this subject in another post.
Breathe friends, just breathe. And say Thank You rather one time too much than one time too little.