Active efforts towards happiness

Published on April 12, 2011 at 11:27 PM · No Comments

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD

Now the world's first membership organization dedicated to spreading happiness has been officially launched. It is called “Action for Happiness” and claims to have 4,500 members in more than 60 countries.

It says it prioritizes healthy relationships and meaningful activities as a means to happier living. It has ambitions to become what it calls “a global mass movement for fundamental cultural change”. The launch event was held in London and included tips on how to be happier.

According to a spokesman, “Despite massive material progress, people in Britain and the US are no happier than they were 50 years ago, while there are many societies in which people are much happier than in Britain. Rejecting a societal focus on materialism and self-obsessed individualism, the movement instead prioritizes healthy relationships with others and meaningful activities as a means to happier living.” Once a person signs up, he or she pledges to produce more happiness and less misery.The launch was addressed by the happiness guru Lord Richard Layard, of the London School of Economics, Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College, and Geoff Mulgan, director of the Young Foundation.

There is a website for the organization wherein it gives advice for happier living, such as do things for others; keep learning new things; be comfortable with who you are; and connect with people. The movement originated last year by Richard Layard, a Labour peer and professor of economics at the LSE, Geoff Mulgan, chief executive of The Young Foundation and Anthony Seldon, master of Wellington College. It has no commercial, political or religious affiliations.

This movement comes in the wake of a government survey measuring happiness in some UK households where people are asked how satisfied they are with their lives. The Office for National Statistics has added the questions to the existing nationwide Integrated Household Survey, which is currently taking place. After becoming Conservative leader in 2005, David Cameron said gauging people's feelings was one of the “central political issues of our time”.

According to a study people in Britain have a less positive outlook than those in the United States. It showed that less than half of British adults feel they are thriving, while American citizens experience more happiness and enjoyment, scientists say.

This comes from a survey of 3,000 adults over the past three months, were presented yesterday at a meeting to discuss how data on well-being could be used to change policy and create a happier and more productive society.

The first survey conducted by Gallup in association with Healthways, an American organization which has run similar surveys in the US since 2008, found the British are healthier than the Americans, with lower rates of diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and rate higher on measures of “basic access” to the essentials of life, such as free NHS healthcare. One in four Britons are obese, the same as in the US, and another third are overweight. Less than half in both nations take regular exercise but Britons are healthier eaters and consume more fruits and vegetables. But smoking is more popular in Britain. And four out of 10 Britons say they are unhappy with their bosses, who do not treat them as partners but as people to take orders.

The Well-Being Index designed by Gallup and Healthways is based on six domains and suggests overall well-being declines from age 18 to 64. The six domains are: life evaluation; healthy behaviours; emotional health; basic access (to food, shelter, healthcare); work environment; and physical health. People who are thriving have healthcare costs 20 per cent lower than average, while those who are struggling have costs 50 per cent higher. Ben Leedle, president of Healthways, said that increasing healthcare costs were a threat to the economies of all developed nations but solutions that focused on the ill left out half of the picture. “Healthier people cost less and perform better,” he said.

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