Where can you live well and prosper?

OECD has created a website which allows you to figure out which country scores high on a number of factors, which you can rank by order of preference to your life.

Sweden and the other Nordics always come up top no matter how you rank these factors. I’m pretty sure none of those places would be places where I’d like to live. Thinking about it, i realize that my life satisfaction probably isn’t really based on any of these factors – so what factor is missing? What is making India or China rank up top on my scale? It’s for sure not “exoticism” or anything ridculous like that, but maybe it’s access to Seligman’s “meaning”?

Try yourself, which country scores high on your indicators? 


(note you’ll obviously only find OECD members on this list, so in case they’re not really your idea of a perfect place to live, you might find the tool slightly lacking … 🙂 )

Picture courtesy of Free World Maps.

A Wandering Mind is an Unhappy One: Scientific American

We spend billions of dollars each year looking for happiness, hoping it might be bought, consumed, found, or flown to. Other, more contemplative cultures and traditions assure us that this is a waste of time (not to mention money). ‘Be present’ they urge. Live in the moment, and there you’ll find true contentment.

Sure enough, our most fulfilling experiences are typically those that engage us body and mind, and are unsullied by worry or regret. In these cases, a relationship between focus and happiness is easy to spot. But does this relationship hold in general, even for simple, everyday activities? Is a focused mind a happy mind? Harvard psychologists Matthew Killingsworth and Daniel Gilbert decided to find out.


What about the kinds of activities we do, though? Surely, the hard-partiers and world travelers among us are happier than the quiet ones who stay at home and tuck in early? Not necessarily. According to the data from the Harvard group’s study, the particular way you spend your day doesn’t tell much about how happy you are. Mental presence – the matching of thought to action – is a much better predictor of happiness.

So, according to these researchers, basically focusing on what you’re doing, being present and not distracted letting your mind wander is what brings us a greater state of happiness.

Crossed my mind that it seems like David Allen (“Getting Things Done”) is not only helping with productivity, but also happiness!

Work makes you happy, at least the challenging, meaningful sort

In article on work and happiness in Sonja Lyubomirski’s (professor in
psychology) and Signal Patterns’ iPhone application “Live Happy”, they

/”Positive Psychologists are often asked, ‘What makes people happy?’
Until a few years ago, the answer always reflected the common wisdom
and empirical findings of the field – ‘It’s relationships, stupid.’
That is, our interpersonal ties – the strength of our friendships,
familial bonds, and intimate connections – show the highest
correlations with well-being.

However a meta-analysis (a “study of studies”) of 225 studies of
well-being conducted by Sonja Lyubomirsky, Laura King, and Ed Diener,
proved otherwise. What they expected to discover was that social
relationships – more than any other variable – would be both causes
and consequences of being happy. However, what they observed was
something rather different. One factor towered over relationships in
its connection with happiness. That factor was work.

The evidence, for example, demonstrates that people who have jobs
distinguished by autonomy, meaning and variety – and who show superior
performance, creativity, and productivity – are significantly happier
than those who don’t. Supervisors are happier than those lower on the
totem pole, and leaders who receive high ratings from their customers
are happier than those with poor ratings.”/

This, and the book “Flow” which I also recently read, gives a nice
framework to explain what I have known intuitively for a long time
(and probably share with many others): That meaningful, challenging
work is not only important, but essential to a life of well-being.

What amazes me that it has an even greater impact than social connections.

For me personally, this is a strategy that can help me lead other
areas of my life. If I have meaningful, challenging work I will be
overall happier, thus attracting more social connections, thus
creating an upward spiral of happiness.

By focusing on where my natural preference for happiness lies (work) I
can, through conscious effort use it to leverage other ares of life

Deep conversations increases your happiness

Researchers found the happiest people had about twice as many substantive conversations and engaged in only about a third as much trivial small talk as the unhappiest people.

“A happy daily life seems to be social rather than solitary and has meaningful conversations,” Mehl said.

Researchers defined “small talk” as uninvolved conversations where trivial information is discussed, such as: “What do you have there? Popcorn? Yummy.”

Substantive conversations involve more meaningful exchanges like this: “If you educate kids, they actually have a future. They’re not going to cause problems in society.”

In the happiest individuals, meaningful discussions made up about 46 percent of their total conversations.

I had a conversation today with a good friend about the difference of simply existing, engaging in little more than the logistics of life and how to make life move forward vs. engaging in things beyond your own life. She asked , “Well what is to say that you cannot be perfectly happy just ‘existing’?”.

Well, in a study at the University of Arizona researchers found that the happiest individuals in the study where having more deep, meaningful conversations as opposed to “small” talk. Given my enjoyment for understanding how things work I think that this type of result is exciting – potentially meaning that a habit of increasing the amount of meaningful conversations you have would increase your sense of well-being.

So now, go out and discussing something that’s not the logistics of life!

Respect: New Beginning by Lisa

I love this blog post by my friend Lisa – being able to feel grateful, optimistic and happy in face of any challenge is a wonderful, beautiful skill!

Having a Friend and Being a Friend

Having friends is clearly one of the most critical things to a longer, happier and better life. 

Now question is – how good are you at both having friends AND being one? 


“If I Seek [Beauty] Elsewhere Because I Do Not Find Her at Home, My Search Will Prove a Fruitless One.” (from Google Reader)

“Such is beauty ever — neither here nor there, now nor then, neither in Rome nor in Athens, but wherever there is a soul to admire. If I seek her elsewhere because I do not find her at home, my search will prove a fruitless one."
— Henry David Thoreau

The failure of “developed” societies (and Japan: A Story of Love and Hate)


I found myself the other day in front of this documentary about a story of rise and fall in a rich society – and it touched me!

The challenge of being different in a society (like many “modern” societies) that almost completely lack strong social bonds between people creates a loneliness that is undeniable strong. Further curiosity lead me to a Forbes study of happiness and well-being around the world, and then more material about suicide rates.

Interestingly – in many rich countries people are overall thriving and feel they have strong future prospect. However, day to day life experience is affected more by how well our psychological and social needs are filled – something that rich countries seemed much less adept at providing.

The failure of the “developed” societies to provide the adequate social community to take part not only in the successes but also the failures of the members of the society. It seems to me that true community building (not only that which connects us around a sports club…) is a skill that we need re-learning in many societies.

Be somewhere different, Do something else, Feel something new, Get to know someone old!

Secret to happiness? Nah… just something that popped up in my head!

What is your social networks driving you to?

Our social networks influence everything from happiness to how obese we are, in both direct and indirect ways.

More and more I think it’s crucial to let go of the idea that we human beings exist as independent entities. Social networks, mirror neurons and more research I’ve read recently seems all to suggest that our concept of us being disconnected individuals simply isn’t true.