Read of the month: “the art of being unhappy” requires the pursuit of meaning

Another month, another happiness book. My third read of the month was The Art of Being Unhappy (De kunst van het ongelukkig zijn), by Dirk De Wachter. After books focusing on what well-being is and on happy memories, it was time to look at happiness from another angle: is it sensible to pursue happiness, or should we strive for something else? And when we inevitably do face moments of unhappiness, how can we deal with them?

De Wachter is a psychiatrist. His perspective on happiness is different than most of the people I usually read, many of them positive psychologists. As a psychiatrist, De Wachter sees human sadness and depression in his practice every day. His diagnosis is that the idea picture of individual happiness leads many people to selfishness; or where they fail, to loneliness.

Finding inspiration in philosophy and poetry, De Wachter criticisises how people need bigger and bigger successes to experience happiness. We shouldn’t be contend to cycle up the Mont Ventoux; no, we ride up from the most complex side, twice. Running a marathon is not enough, we need to run three. To be special as individuals, we need to have ever more special experiences. And of course, they only matter when they are showcased on social media.

As a consequence, we are never special enough. Inevitably, unhappiness strikes. Is there any escape of the unhappiness we suffer due to our unsuccessful pursuit of happiness?

Don’t pursue happiness. Strive for meaning.

De Wachter claims that it is a mistake to have the pursuit of happiness as a major goal in life. When we strive for happiness for its own sake, it will never be enough.

Instead, we should become aware of the unhappiness in ourself and around us, and take that as a basis for social engagement: being aware of our own moments of unhappiness and the unhappiness around us can be a force for good, to motivate us to care about others or about social problems. According to De Wachter, real happiness is not found in individual experiences, but in doing meaningful things for others. That is what we live our life for. The ‘Art of Being Unhappy’ is the art of finding meaning in acting for others.

Hedonic and eudaimonic happiness

De Wachter is of course right that a life of happiness requires more than pleasure – the hedonic type of happiness. We feel more fulfillment when dedicating time to something bigger than ourselves. Often, this is understood as ‘eudaimonic’ happiness, which is based on a less fleeting and more permanent form of happiness. Feeling there is a purpose to our life is an important factor to our wellbeing. Indeed, theories of happiness and well-being – such as the PERMA model of prof. Seligman I discussed before and that we use as the foundation of our happiness vlog – see meaning as a key component of a happy life.

From all components of well-being, I feel, meaning is the most complicated one. Spending time in activities you enjoy or with people you like is easier than to find your source of meaning. But maybe the struggle to give a meaning to our lives is simply a part of life.

For many people, our purpose is in the others around to: taking care of children or family, dedicating ourself to protecting the environment or animals. Having a bigger reason to live, thus, is just as important as being able to enjoy the small pleasures of life. Thus, forget the ride up the mountain and profiling yourself online; dedicate yourself to a bigger cause instead.

Happiness read of the month: the art of making memories, by Meik Wiking

What do you remember about the day you got married, or the day you got your first kiss? Once you really start thinking about, you probably can replay a lot of details.

How about your first day of high school or university? Maybe a little harder, but you sure can bring back some sensations. And then: how about a random Tuesday in March five years ago, or even last year? Unless any of them was a special day, you may not even remember anything. Many days in our life turn into blanks without vivid memories.

But when we are prompted to tell stories about our happy memories, beautiful stories come out. These are the moments that define our life. Eight years ago – when I already started to be intrigued by the puzzle of happiness, but before my TEDx talk or the launch of the blog – I surveyed some friends and strangers (anonymously) about their happy memories*. After a quick search, I found the answer sheet back in my files. Here are some of the stories:

  • Re-discovering a long forgotten postcard from a close friend
  • The feeling of an adrenaline high after riding a horse at a very fast pace for a long time!
  • Being on XTC on an amazing technoparty
  • Laughing together with my love at a good joke – no matter if we are laughing at ourselves
  • Going to a secluded clean beach (preferably either from my favourite ones near home) on my own or with a few close friends. The sea makes me happy:)

* The stories are beautiful, so I am repeating the exercise now. If you want to share your happy memories, please fill out the form at the end

The art of making memories

I felt inspired to looking back at these stories by ‘The Art of Making Memories’, by Meik Wiking (the director of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen). His book touches upon a lot of fascinating research: tricks to remember long strains of data; the manipulation of memories; and nostalgia. But most importantly, he tells us how we can create happy memories and hold on to them. This is what he found:

  • The power of firsts: many memories are about things done for the first time. So how can you make days in your life memorable? By doing something new. Visit a park in a side of town where you usually don’t come, or – once they’re open again – a museum you haven’t been to. And even when you stay at home, there are plenty of opportunities to cook a new dish. Behold the first apple pie my wife and I baked together:
  • Storytelling: why do people buy souvenirs from their trips? Because they tell stories that will remind them of the experience. I have a small showcase with some memory-triggering objects: there is a decorated skull from Mexico that brings me back to the happiness conference where I met Meik. There are my espresso cups from Lviv and Porto, each carrying streams of memories. Another great example is the long forgotten postcard from a close friend the first respondent to my survey told me about.

  • Emotional reactions: events with strong emotions are memorable. Meik gives the example of a vacation day he planned to spend reading a book, when his friends proposed to go jet-skiing. In those situations, ask yourself: what will I remember in ten years? Not the book. I applied the same logic a few weeks ago when we missed the last skilift and couldn’t ski back to our parking. Instead of ordering a cab (boring, no emotional memory), we walked back through the snowy forest. It was a small struggle, but ultimately fun and memorable.

  • Meaningful moments: meaning is another factor that makes an event memorable. Those can be the big days – weddings or giving birth. Or they can be meaningful because of the time spent with an important person, like the person quoted above who was happy laughing with (and of) her boyfriend.

  • Invest attention: obviously, no attention = no memory. But it is important: in our daily routine, we often behave according to our usual patterns and fail to notice our surroundings. A ‘digital detox’ helps: phones are the most devilish distracting devices ever invented. Shape habits to prevent this; for instance, when I am outside in the dark I always consciously look out for the moon. Investing attention is also what the people that shared their memories did: they were aware of their feeling of adrenaline during a horse ride, the effect of XTC at a technoparty, or the simple beauty of the sea.
This is not the beach of the memory the person shared, but it’s one of my happy memories. Last week, after working from home, I released my tension through a bike ride and a short walk on my favourite beach.

Happy memories are beautiful to share and to read. If you want to share yours, please fill out the form:

Extra edition vlog: physical distancing, social connecting!

Wellbeing in times of corona is not obvious.

So many things have changed in the last few days: almost three weeks ago, we went to the theater to celebrate my birthday. Only two weeks ago, the Dutch government told us not to shake hands. Two days later (1,5 weeks ago), all events with 100 or more people where cancelled, and people were recommended to work from home.

Three days fast forward (just over a week ago), all cafes and restaurants closed, and trains ran only twice per hour. And today – after a sunny weekend with way too many people at the beach and DIY shops – the government announced that all events are cancelled until 1 June. #Covidiots will be fined €400 if they don’t keep a healthy 1.5 meter distance from others people. It’s such a different world than three weeks ago.

However the situation, Ania and I are lucky. We don’t suffer from corona or any symptoms (and don’t even know anybody who does). We don’t work in a place where we risk to be exposed to someone with symptoms. What we experience is a mild discomfort, working from home during the day only to exit to do groceries or get some movement. Now I still can, I still cycle, walk or run everyday – getting outside is important for mental and physical health. Though I can imagine that in a few weeks I’ll say: what was I thinking…

‘Social distancing’ is the term of the month. And as happiness vloggers, we don’t really feel good about that: social connections with other people are one of the key ingredients to maintain wellbeing. Therefore, in this extra episode of Happiness: A User Guide we propose an alternative: physical distancing, social connecting.

Stay safe and stay at home (no exceptions if you have even mild symptoms!). But also practice social connecting and pay attention to your wellbeing. Check our tips how to do this in the vlog!

vlog 2: the many manifestations of positive emotions

We’re back with Happiness: A User Guide, our vlog about happiness. Last time we introduced the ‘PERMA‘ model to understand what brings happiness to our lives: Positive emotions, Engagement, positive Relationships, Meaning, and Accomplishment.

Today, in our second episode, we tackle the P from PERMA: positive emotions. Check the video below.

In the video, we talk about some of our favourite positive emotions, like flow, calm, and hope. What are yours, by the way?.

We also said that we think that people usually can name only about three to five positive emotions like joy, happiness, and love. (The both competitive and brilliant guests that played our 2020 Blue Monday quiz some weeks ago were an exception. All teams listed ten to twenty-five).

What are all these positive emotions, you say? Well, here’s a list put together by Courtney Ackerman at PositivePsychology.com as part of a fascinating article on positive emotions generally. (Thanks for sharing, Courtney! We feel grateful for the possibility to use your list, and hope you feel a sense of altruism.)

  • Joy – a sense of elation, happiness, and perhaps even exhilaration, often experienced as a sudden spike due to something good happening.
  • Gratitude – a feeling of thankfulness, for something specific or simply all-encompassing, often accompanied by humility and even reverence.
  • Serenity – a calm and peaceful feeling of acceptance of oneself.
  • Interest – a feeling of curiosity or fascination that demands and captures your attention.
  • Hope – a feeling of optimism and anticipation about a positive future.
  • Pride – a sense of approval of oneself and pleasure in an achievement, skill, or personal attribute.
  • Amusement – a feeling of lighthearted pleasure and enjoyment, often accompanied by smiles and easy laughter.
  • Inspiration – feeling engaged, uplifted, and motivated by something you witnessed.
  • Awe – an emotion that is evoked when you witness something grand, spectacular, or breathtaking, sparking a sense of overwhelming appreciation.
  • Elevation – the feeling you get when you see someone engaging in an act of kindness, generosity, or inner goodness, spurring you to aspire to similar action.
  • Altruism – usually referred to as an act of selflessness and generosity towards others, but can also describe the feeling you get from helping others.
  • Satisfaction – a sense of pleasure and contentment you get from accomplishing something or fulfilling a need.
  • Relief – the feeling of happiness you experience when an uncertain situation turns out for the best, or a negative outcome is avoided.
  • Affection – an emotional attachment to someone or something, accompanied by a liking for them and a sense of pleasure in their company.
  • Cheerfulness – a feeling of brightness, being upbeat and noticeably happy or chipper; feeling like everything is going your way.
  • Surprise (the good kind!) – a sense of delight when someone brings you unexpected happiness or a situation goes even better than you had hoped.
  • Confidence – emotion involving a strong sense of self-esteem and belief in yourself; can be specific to a situation or activity, or more universal.
  • Admiration – a feeling of warm approval, respect, and appreciation for someone or something.
  • Enthusiasm – a sense of excitement, accompanied by motivation and engagement.
  • Eagerness – like a less intense form of enthusiasm; a feeling of readiness and excitement for something.
  • Euphoria – intense and the all-encompassing sense of joy or happiness, often experienced when something extremely positive and exciting happens.
  • Contentment – peaceful, comforting, and low-key sense of happiness and well-being.
  • Enjoyment – a feeling of taking pleasure in what is going on around you, especially in situations like a leisure activity or social gathering.
  • Optimism – positive and hopeful emotion that encourages you to look forward to a bright future, one in which you believe that things will mostly work out.
  • Happiness – a feeling of pleasure and contentment in the way things are going; a general sense of enjoyment of and enthusiasm for life.
  • Love – perhaps the strongest of all positive emotions, love is a feeling of deep and enduring affection for someone, along with a willingness to put their needs ahead of your own; it can be directed towards an individual, a group of people, or even all humanity.

Happiness read of the month: Flourish, by prof Seligman

I usually have New Year resolutions. Sometimes only one for the year, sometimes a bit too many. This year I have about five, and if there’s one that I really aspire to make, it is this one: I would like to read a book about happiness every month.

I built up a nice little collection of happiness books, so why not motivate myself to read a bit more this year. And – of course – find an excuse to buy a few extra books…

In January I read Flourish by prof Martin Seligman. I have spoken about prof Seligman, the role he played in positive psychology and the PERMA model of happiness and well-being already before. I however never read his book.

 

Happiness is out. Wellbeing and flourishing are in.

Flourish came out in 2011, and Seligman wrote it partially to correct his understanding of happiness in an earlier book, Authentic Happiness (2002). Over time, Seligman’s – and positive psychology’s –  understanding of what happiness and wellbeing are evolved. Gradually, the distinction between happiness and wellbeing  became more clear. Happiness relates to a brief, quickly passing moment, and is quite of a buzzword. It is a term easily understood by people, but when you look under the surface, it can have many meanings. Indeed, happiness is often used as a proxy for well-being or quality of life (in his book, Seligman also uses flourishing). Well-being is a more complex and generic phenomenon, describing everything what is important to a living good life.

In 2002 Seligman thought happiness manifested itself in three aspects: positive emotions, engagement, and meaning. In 2011, he argued that well-being or flourishing – a more stable and more permanent notion – should be the focus of positive psychology. He also added two ‘missing’ dimensions of flourishing: positive relationships, and accomplishment. The PERMA model was born.

The PERMA model. Source: Authentic Happiness pages, Penn University

The PERMA model. Source: Authentic Happiness pages, Penn University

 

The mission of positive psychology

The fundament now laid, most of the book is about fulfilling the mission of positive psychology: increasing flourishing. The chapters focus on what type of positive psychology interventions work. This can be compared to what standard psychology started to do when it was invented: find out, through academic research, what type of interventions can treat personality disorders and depression.

An example of a positive psychology ‘intervention’ is what Seligman calls the ‘gratitude visit’: think about someone in your life that did something for you for which you couldn’t thank them enough. Found the person? Now write down, in some detail, what the person did for you and what it meant to you. Then announce you want to visit the person, but don’t tell them why. When you visit the person, read out your gratitude letter aloud. I am sure that if you try it out, it will be a very powerful moment.

Seligman and colleagues then expanded these interventions in different areas. They built a positive psychotherapy programme to treat people with depression. They developed a positive education programme to reshape curricula in some pioneering schools. And they worked with the US Army to train soldiers on resilience.

The book then even stretches on to other areas, such as the economy and happiness – it was precisely the debate on alternative ways to measure progress than GDP that brought me into happiness blogging seven years ago.

 

What are your signature strengths?

One of the most interesting areas, though, is the work of Seligman and co on strengths. They defined what key call ‘signature strengths’. While acknowledging we all need to work on our weaknesses, they argued it’s just as important to build on our strengths when we define our ambitions and plans for personal development. The book contains a questionnaire, which can also be found on the website of the VIA Character Institute, that helps you to identify your personal strengths out of a set of 24. I did the test myself, and for me these strengths are honesty, gratitude, and curiosity. It’s a nice narrative to think that these traits define me.

  • Honesty is about authenticity, and being true to yourself. For instance, this helps to share your opinion when someone asks for it, or to name – and then improve – a bad habit.
  • Gratitude means being grateful for the good in your life, and being able to express that gratitude. This can help in maintaining relationships with others (people like to hear ‘thanks’), but also to accept life events outside your control as they are.
  • The strength Curiosity concerns an interest in new topics and experiences. I believe it’s a factor in personal growth, as it motivates to increase or go out of our comfort zone.

Curious what your strengths are? Read more and do the test here.

VIA Signature Strengths. Source: VIA Institute on Character

VIA Signature Strengths. Source: VIA Institute on Character

The King’s Speech: beyond happiness, pursue flourishing

“The pursuit of happiness is a beautiful thing. But it shouldn’t become an obsession.”

That’s one of the key messages of the Christmas speech of Dutch king Willem Alexander gave a few weeks ago.

It puts the finger on an important issue around happiness: happiness is worthwhile to pursue, but only in moderation. It should not become an obsession, indeed. Happiness gurus and positive thinkers may emphasise optimism so much, that they forget that bad things are a natural part of life. Sometimes life sucks, sometimes we fail, sometimes we doubt ourselves. And negative emotions – anger, guilt, self-doubt, sadness – are just as important in regulating our emotional health as positive emotions are.

If we shouldn’t obsess about happiness, should we still pursue it? Indeed, as Willem Alexander said: “one cannot force happiness. It is elusive. It comes suddenly”. In that vein, should we still wish each other a happy New Year?

Here the King’s Speech (in Dutch). The part on happiness starts around 3:00.

Have a Flourishing New Year

I think it’s still worth wishing each other a Happy New Year – it is an easy term and everybody has an image of what ‘happiness’ means. But we can also do better: in a way, ‘happiness’ is a lazy term. It is easily used incorrectly, and we have better, more precise alternatives. Many of them have been mentioned on the blog: well-being, meaning, life satisfaction, and flow.

Maybe the best one, though, is ‘flourishing‘, as described by Martin Seligman. A person that ‘flourishes’ doesn’t merely experience happy moments (and certainly doesn’t obsess about them!). Instead, he or she is doing well in a broad sense: positive emotions  and meaning to live well, but also resilient in face of the dark days that inevitably will occur during the year.

Beyond happiness, pursue flourishing

Let’s cheer to a year of flourishing. But how do you pursue flourishing? A start point might be to pursue a healthy life style. The example below is taken from Arts en Leefstijl (Doctor and Life style) in the Netherlands. They recommend to pay attention to six factors to develop a healthy life style: nutrition, your social life, relaxation, physical activity, meaning, and sufficient sleep.

On some you will already perform well. My examples here: I get my eight hours of sleep, I am grateful for what is good, I try to be friendly and interested in others. Some will be more challenging: I can definitely reduce phone time and do more sports. Others will be in between: my eating pattern is overall fine, but I can sure do more to reduce sugar and get enough fruit and veg everybody. A healthy life style finds a right balance on all of them.

With that, let me wish you a Flourishing New Year, full of positive emotions, a healthy life style, and resilience. Go beyond happiness, and pursue flourishing.

 

The wheel of flourishing. Source: adapted from Arts en Leefstijl, www.artsenleefstijl.nl

The wheel of a healthy life style, contributing to flourishing. Source: adapted from Arts en Leefstijl, www.artsenleefstijl.nl

We’re vlogging! Check Happiness, a user guide

We proudly present: the very first ‘Happiness, a User Guide’ vlog!

In the first vlog, my wife and vlogger-in-chief Ania and I introduce you to our vlog. As you can imagine, the mission isn’t too different from the blog. We both believe that it is worth to better understand how happiness works and to pay attention to what makes us happy. As we say in the first edition, we will use the vlogs to explore the science of happiness, and introduce some exercises that can contribute to quality of life.

Like every vlogger tells you: if you like what you see, don’t forget to click the thumbs up & subscribe buttons. Enjoy the video!

“Happiness is a warm kitty”: the joy of pets

Three months ago, I found myself facing an important question: did I want a cat?

My sister-in-law found a poor kitty on the street, without a home and a wounded tail (aaah…). After a day of reflection and rushed research in the question how to take care of a kitty, we decided to take him in. Since that moment, we are proudly housing Rembrandt – I negotiated the right to name him and to pick a Dutch name. We hope to do so for the next fifteen odd years.

Rembrandt a few days after arriving, with still a wounded tail.

Rembrandt a few days after arriving, with still a wounded tail.

Rembrandt is a pretty social kitten. He likes to lay on the couch with us and enjoys to play. He has grown tremendously in the short time he has been with us. If only we figured out how to teach him to leave the plants alone…

As a happiness blogger, I am not just going to share cat pictures or cat memes, though I take it that’s one of the main functions of the internet. So let me face these questions: do cats, and other animals, make us happier? And a more complicated one: do animals themselves experience happiness?

Is happiness a warm kitty?

Amazingly, almost every single question about happiness I could come up with has been answered by a scientist. To answer whether animals make us happy, I looked at the result of a small study published by Bao et al. under the title “Is Happiness a Warm Puppy?: Examining the Association Between Pets and Well-Being”. Based on a survey under 263 people, among which 94% pet owners (of which 53% dogs and 41% cats), Bao et al. find a slightly higher level of life satisfaction for pet owners.

Although the survey numbers may be too small to draw strong conclusions, intuitively the findings make sense. Human beings need both social relations with other beings and a purpose to feel happiness. Having a pet could enrich human lives in both ways

Bao et al.’s study also looks into a trickier issue: cats or dogs? Dog owners were found to be happier than cat owners, and again, intuitively this makes sense. Cats are more isolated and independent animals, while dogs display a lot more affection. Also, dogs require to be walked, and people with more active lifestyles and time in nature are happier. The study – again, based on a small sample – even found higher levels of conscientiousness in dog owners and higher levels of neuroticism in cat owners. Scientists have found neuroticism to be a personality trait that is correlate with lower levels of happiness.

Do animals experience happiness?

And what about animals themselves: does Rembrandt love me? Does he experience happiness when he’s purring on my stomach and I am petting him? We are always warned not to project human emotions upon animals, but that does not mean animals do not have feelings. Even Darwin already asserted that animals have emotions.

To measure human happiness, scientists use surveys as well as brain research. In case of animals, surveys do not make sense – I cannot ask Rembrandt to fill out a questionnaire asking him to value his health, social relations, quality of food and shelter, and overall life satisfaction. Brain research in animals has confirmed that animals have broadly similar cerebral systems. Even the frontal cortex, said to be the determining factor in human progression over animals, may not be as sacred anymore.

Indeed, the more complex animals’ brains are, the less their behaviours are hard-wired in intuition, and the larger and more complex their brains are, the more space there is for emotional systems to influence animals’ behaviour. We can watch animals – including Rembrandt – and observe their behaviour, and infer something about how they feel.

As Carl Safina says in his TED talk “What animals are feeling and thinking“,

“attributing human thoughts and emotions to other species is the best first guess about what they’re feeling”

As such, I can be confident that Rembrandt feels positive emotions – be it calm, pleasure, or even happiness – in my presence.

 

And Rembrandt now, ready to join on a trip!

And Rembrandt now, ready to join on a trip!

Coming up: workshop “Happiness, A User’s Guide”, Google Campus Warsaw, 8 March 2019

Save the date and tell your friends!

This International Women’s Day, be inspired by workshops on happiness and love at Google Campus Warsaw.

Together with my better half, I will give a workshop on “Happiness, A User’s Guide”.  The workshop takes place 8 March 2019 at 9.30 at Google Campus (Plac Konesera 10 in Warsaw). Afterwards, there will also be a workshop (in Polish) on love in business.

See below for the quick intro to the workshop, and for the short bios of my wife and fellow speaker Ania. You can register via Google Campus’ page here.

Looking forward to see you on 8 March.

 

Workshop “Happiness: a user’s guide’

Happiness. We all know it when we feel happy. At the same time, the pursuit of happiness is one of the most complicated endeavours in our life. How does happiness work? In the workshop, Jasper Bergink and Anna Koziarska-Bergink will go into the following questions

–      what does happiness mean, and can we measure it?

–      why is Poland a lot happier country than many Poles think?

–      what are the ten golden rules of happiness?

After the workshop, you will better understand what happiness is. We hope it will inspire you to live your life in the way that makes you happy.

 

About us

Since 2013, Jasper Bergink edits the blog For A State of Happiness (www.forastateofhappiness.com), dedicated to research about happiness and wellbeing. He is also a speaker on happiness and has delivered workshops for organisations including TEDxLuxembourg, the region of Jalisco (Mexico), Erasmus University Rotterdam (Netherlands), and Credit Suisse Warsaw.

Anna Koziarska-Bergink is a psychologist by training. Since 2012, she has given hundreds of hours of workshops on topics including personal and business growth, teambuilding, and marketing and sales. She is specialising in positive psychology and psycho-social training in a Warsaw University postgraduate programme.

 

Image source unknown

Image source unknown

Proudly presented: the For A State of Happiness Blue Monday Quiz!

Blue Monday is definitely a thing now. Dreamt up by marketeers and bogus scientists in 2005, the term has entered the public discourse by now. Media are full of tips to prevent Monday blues, and marketeers take it as a change to drive holiday sales and shopping in an otherwise dull January month. One could call it fake news.

And actually, I’ve also jumped on the Blue Monday bandwagon myself. Even though Blue Monday itself is bogus, there is such a thing as a winter depression, and January is still well in the dark season. Just as we meet family around Christmas, it’s sensible to meet up with friends around Blue Monday for celebration.

Since a few years, my wife and I tend to organise Blue Monday Eve drinks, inviting some friends to ensure we enter Blue Monday with a jolly feeling instead. We try to make it feel different from an ordinary house party; inviting friends on a Sunday instead and playing games (we still procured some wine though).

This year, we also played a happiness quiz with our guests, and on special request I post the questions and answers of the For A State of Happiness Blue Monday Quiz here – maybe you want to use them next year, or at a last minute Blue January event? You still have a week, and if not, February can be pretty blue too.

 

The For A State of Happiness Blue Monday Quiz 2019

What is the happiest country of the world?

According to the 2018 edition of the World Happiness Report: Finland.

What is hygge?

Hygge is a Danish concept that roughly translates to ‘cosiness’, typically felt sitting in front of the fire place with a hot chocolate during a storm. It stands for comfort, togetherness and wellbeing, according to Meik Wiking, author of a book on Hygge and director of the Copenhagen-based Happiness Research Institute.

What are the four elements making people happy at work, according to Pracuję bo lubię?

Energy, flow, purpose, and positive emotions. For more detail (but slightly different naming), see my post after sitting down with Aleksandra Grabska from Pracuję bo lubię (‘I work because I like it’).

Who are happier: people with cats or with dogs?

My post on this is not online yet, but the (unsurprising to most) answer is: dog owners tend to be happier.

Does the weather influence our quality of life?

This is the one many people get wrong: no, it doesn’t. Why not? Two psychological process explain why: ‘focus illusion’ and adaptation.

Which country invented Gross National Happiness?

Readers of my blog will know: Bhutan!

What ranking does Poland have in the World Happiness Report for 2018, out of 156 countries?

The answer is: 42, a bit higher than Poles would suspect. Compared globally, quality of life in Poland is pretty strong, and it has seen major improvements in the last 25 years. Still, Poland is a country where one has to find happiness in unhappiness.

When is the International Day of Happiness?

In 2012, on Bhutan’s initiative, the United Nations decided to institute an International Day of Happiness. It is celebrated each year on 20 March.

Name six positive emotions.

Naming six positive emotions may sound like a lot, but researchers identified even more of them. At Warsaw University, they listed ten: enchantment, love, inspiration, pride, amusement, hope, interest, calm, gratitude, and joy.

What motivates our behaviour more: positive or negative emotions?

Again, a question based on lectures at Warsaw University. While negative emotions can trigger strong responses to difficult events, ultimately positive emotions have a stronger impact on our actions than negative ones.

Character 'Sadness' from Inside Out - she is blue for a reason.

Character ‘Sadness’ from Inside Out – she is blue for a reason.

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