Basic Health Habit No.6: Positive Mental Attitude Part Two: Happiness in Canada

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Happiness in Canada
Scientists in Canada are using new ways to measure happiness and some of the results may surprise you. In recent years, a number of researchers, from fields as widespread as economics, public policy, and psychology, are studying what makes Canadians happy. They are looking to define happiness, how we can achieve it, who is happy, and how to use the data to make society happier. What they have discovered is that many of the things that we have historically believed to be synonymous with happiness such as marriage, children, getting a raise, or a vacation, doesn't matter when it comes to happiness.
Dan McKinnon, a Canadian psychologist who focuses on happiness coaching, states that genuine happiness requires three elements: pleasure, which is more transient, engagement, and meaning, which are longer lasting. 
Piers Steel, a happiness researcher and a professor at the Haskayne School of Business in Calgary, believes that the more important question that we should be concerned with is not what makes us happy, but rather what gives our life meaning. Steel is the author of The Procrastination Equation, and states that we are procrastinating more than ever before, even though it makes us unhappy, fat, and poor. He believes that we gain longer lasting satisfaction from experiences, rather than material goods. 
The equation for happiness in life that Steel presents has a balance of pleasure and meaning influenced by a combination of factors dominated by personality but affected by variables like our social networks and relative wealth. He equates happiness to a poker hand where we are given five cards at birth and choose two cards later. The first could include biology, circumstances, family or country lived in and the second would be things like attitude, friends, job, activities and health habits. This happiness equation translates as 60% set + 40% determined. It means that we have more control of our happiness than we think and Piers concludes that we can train ourselves to be happy. 
This 40% determined factor interests researchers and they want to discover the happiness formula for individuals, neighbourhoods, cities and the country. John Helliwell, a Vancouver-based economist and co-director of the Canadian Institute for Advanced Research and one of the world's leading experts on well-being believes that the science of happiness deserves more attention and could be used by governments to develop public policies. National and local governments and organizations are interested in well-being data.  
The Centre for the Study of Living Standards released a report recently examining the happiness of Canadians. Compared to the rest of the world we rate high on the scale of wellbeing; ahead of Americans but behind the Danish, Finnish, Norwegians and the Dutch. Income matters but the countries at the top of the well being scale aren't  those with the highest per capita incomes. Strong social bonds and a sense of belonging are the defining factors. 
Building a supportive network of family, friends, co-workers and neighbours is one of the factors that all researchers can agree has the greatest influence on our happiness along with our attitude.  Throughout Canada where lower levels of happiness exist it is generally in areas of higher incomes with less social connectedness. Atlantic Canada with the lowest incomes but the greatest sense of belonging, reported the highest levels of well being. 
Positive psychology is finding its way into Canadian schools and targeted positive psychology methods are being developed to promote positive school environments and healthy lifestyle behaviours, to help with mental fitness, bullying, and to provide support to students and families in a variety of situations.  

Work - Life 
in Canada 

In a recent Globe & Mail Poll it was found that money is the number one cause of stress for Canadians. Just yesterday I heard a National news release state that the average post-mortgage debt per person in Canada is 25K which is up from previous years but that there is an increase in the repayment of debt in a more timely fashion. Canadians also claimed that they had 14 stressful episodes a week largely caused by themselves. In 2009 there  were 36.5 million unclaimed vacation days in Canada. It was also determined that the age group most likely to encounter stress is 30 - 49 year olds. 40% of Canadians have an income under 40K. 
A 2009 Maclean's survey of 3000 Canadians found that residents of Quebec are 7% happier than those living elsewhere in Canada and Quebec residents are the happiest Canadians with their work - life balance while people in British Columbia are the least happy. 
The survey also found that 84% of Canadians rate themselves as being very happy and 55% would not want to live anywhere else. 60% of Canadians rate themselves as a 7 or higher out of 10 in terms of their happiness with their appearance. 63% are happy with their health care. 52% are happy with their jobs. 88% of Canadians are happy with their sex lives with 22% of men choosing sex as a favorite activity and 8% of women preferring time alone. 5% of stay-at-home mothers are happier than their working counterparts. 
With 48% of Canadians unhappy with their jobs, these figures suggest that Canadians are too busy making money and gaining material possessions and may not be taking enough time for health, to enjoy simple pleasures and important time with family and friends. 

Are Canadians Humorous?

Rex Murphy

From East Coast kitchen parties to Prairie family reunions, gathering to share music, laughter and stories, one of our most admirable traits is our ability to poke fun at and to laugh at ourselves. 

With our Rick Mercer, Rex Murphy, Codco, This Hour has 22 Minutes, and Royal Canadian Air Farce, we have some of the most brilliant political pundits on the planet and they help to educate us about ourselves. We are known world wide for our comedians and this says something about our humour and is worth being proud of.
Perhaps it is our isolation and cold climate that breeds creativity  but whatever the reasons (and despite this) we have some of the most famous comedians. Mike Meyers, Jim Carrey, Eugene Levy, Martin Short, Mary Walsh, Catherine O'Hara, Seth Rogan, Howie Mandel, Russell Peters, Shaun Majumder, Colin Mochrie and Cathy Jones to name a few. Here in Manitoba we have some notable comedians highlighting our cultural uniqueness with our Comedy Festivals and Aboriginal comedians Gerry Barrett and Don Burnstick's Healing Through Native Humour. 

Happy Planet 

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This world map created by the New Economics Foundation (NEF: economics as if people and the planet mattered), after extensive study, measures ecological efficiency, human well being and environmental impact to fairly value world happiness. Costa Rica is first in the world in all three categories followed by the Dominican Republic and Jamaica. Canada is in the 89th position with the United States 114th. You can visit: the New Economics Foundation to read the full report and to sign the Happy Planet Charter.

Global Manifesto 
for a Happier Planet 
and Sustainable Well Being
  • Eradicate extreme poverty and hunger
  • Improve Health Care
  • Relieve debt
  • Shift values
  • Support meaningful lives
  • Empower people and promote good government
  • Identify environmental limits and design an economic policy to work within those limits
  • Design systems for sustainability, consumption and production
  • Work to tackle climate change
  • Measure what matters

From DARK GREEN (least optimistic) 
to LIGHT YELLOW (most optimistic)

Journalists Christina Frangou and Sarah Stefanson in this post

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