We chat with our expert, Dr Tim Sharp, Chief Happiness Officer of The Happiness Institute and official ambassador for The Life’s Good Project, for his thoughts and tips on being happy.
What is it that makes Australians so much happier than the rest of the world?
In short, we’re not actually that much happier than the rest of the world! We are, however, pretty happy and tend to fall in the top 20% or so and that’s probably for a few reasons including...the fact we live in a stable democracy; we have good social support mechanisms; there’s a general attitude of equality and (mostly) of tolerance; education is common and accessible; we have a great climate; and we tend to encourage fun and play.
Do we really have that laidback Aussie lifestyle and is this a major factor in our happiness?
Any generalisation is, obviously, a generalisation! So some Australians have that attitude but not all. Generally, however, this probably does play a role in our national happiness
What role does a work/life balance really play in allowing someone to feel happy with their life?
WLB is a complex construct and one that’s defined differently by different people. Typically, Australian’s work relatively long hours but they also generally have good and active social and recreational lives and this “balance” is definitely a good thing.
If a person has a very busy work schedule, what can they do to incorporate more happiness into their everyday routine?
Well firstly, a busy work schedule is not always a bad thing! Many people gain a lot of satisfaction and happiness from their work via achievement and meaning and relationships etc. If, however, work is causing stress or negatively impacting on happiness then I’d suggest that person tries to find ways to love what they do more. This might mean changing jobs but more often it might mean approaching the same job with a different attitude. Further, I’d encourage everyone to actively plan fun and play into their working lives and other parts of their lives. Happiness should be a priority and if we want to achieve our priorities we need to plan to do so.
The study is being conducted through Facebook – however, do you think that people are spending too much time on social media websites and that this is impacting on their happiness?
Yes and no! Most things have good and bad sides and there’s no doubt that FB and the internet can have negative effects in some cases. But the research suggests that for most people, using social media to connect actually enhances their relationships and their lives. As noted above, balance is probably relevant here but if used properly and appropriately then I don’t believe FB is inherently a bad thing but rather, can be used for good and can have many benefits
Do you feel there is a strong difference between what constitutes happiness for women and men?
Again, yes and no! In short, the principles of happiness are the same for men and for women. At the same time, however, there are some differences in, for example, how they go about building relationships and in their priorities and in what’s meaningful etc.
Healthy, strong relationships are obviously essential in allowing someone to feel good about their life. What are the sorts of relationships that negatively impact on one’s self-esteem and what are the ‘flashing red lights’ that tell us we’re in this sort of relationship with someone?
Relationships are one of the most important contributors to happiness but as you’ve noted, they can sometimes go wrong! So any relationship that causes more distress and joy, more negative emotions than positive ones would be a concern.
Some people believe they are happy because they have a ‘comfortable’ life, but is setting challenges that are outside of your comfort zone important to achieving happiness?
Yes, most definitely. Although comfort and security and stability are important so too are challenges and finding opportunities to stretch ourselves. In fact, we tend to experience more of certain types of happiness when we stretch ourselves just beyond our comfort zones (although not too far because then we just get stressed!)
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