Happy at work with silent Thursdays: a Danish research says it
Imagine having one day a week in your job where there are no meetings with colleagues and your boss and where you can focus solely on your work, a “Mute Thursday” to be introduced as a practice in every company twice a month. This and many other anecdotes are contained in the book “The Secret of Happiness. Unveiled by the happiest people in the world ”by Meik Wiking, published by MGMT Edizioni. The author and founder of the Happiness Institute Research, returns to bookstore shelves after the international success of “Hygge”.
Happiness in the time of COVID
Happiness is a very current topic in the period we are experiencing, as Wiking himself observed on the occasion of the book’s release in Italy: “Despite all its challenges, the pandemic has perhaps allowed many people to better understand which things really matter to them, which make them happy, and which do not.”. And the Scandinavian countries have long dominated the rankings of the happiest nations: further confirmation has come from the United Nations World Happiness Report of 2020, in which four of the top five positions are occupied by Finland, Denmark, Iceland and Norway.
In this context, Meik Wiking has chosen happiness as the pivotal theme in his life. In addition to having made known the essence of hygge to the world, he is founder, researcher and CEO of the Happiness Research Institute in Copenhagen, through which he aims to give a solid scientific basis to the pursuit of happiness. Furthermore, also in Copenhagen recently opened the Happiness Museum.
In the new book, the author looks beyond his homeland: while starting from the cornerstones of Danish philosophy, he illustrates them in action through cases of individuals and organizations from all over the world. The premise: As much as the culture of the country we live in affects our well-being, the lives of happy people have in common a number of factors that we can cultivate to feel like them. And our happiness will also be good for others, emphasizes the author, whose declared goal is to “find the good that really exists in this world and bring it to light to facilitate its diffusion all together”.
The six pillars of happiness
The book’s treasure hunt revolves around six key factors for a happy life, which Wiking identified by drawing inspiration from the World Happiness Report: sense of belonging, money, health, freedom, trust and kindness.
A strong sense of belonging characterizes the cultures of the happiest countries in the world, whose inhabitants can always count on social support in times of need. In Scandinavia, this is reflected inter alia by thecitizens’ attitude towards taxes. “The strength of the Nordic countries”, writes Wiking, “is the awareness of the link between living well and the common good. We are not paying taxes; we are acquiring quality of life. We are investing in our community ”. Among the book’s suggestions for cultivating our network of social relationships, Wiking invites us to “create an analog critical mass”, that is a sufficiently large group of people willing to carve out periods without technologies in their daily life: the reason is that although in the our hyper-technological world we are more connected than ever, we continue to feel alone.
As for the money, according to Wiking, it has no guaranteed effects on well-being: while those who are poor are often unhappy, rich people do not necessarily have a happy life – also because “the reverse side of ambition is a sense of perennial dissatisfaction with one’s results”. In this regard, the author highlights the differences between the United States and Scandinavia: he considers the former “a perfect example of our inability to transform wealth into well-being”, while in the Nordic countries wealth is to a certain extent independent of individual well-being.
On the third key factor for a happy life, namely the salute, the Danes know a lot: they consider motion essential, and also for this reason they travel every time they can by bicycle. Among other healthy habits to adopt, Wiking mentions Forest Bathing. This practice born in Japan, where it is called shinrin yoku, allows you to take a real “forest bath”: immersing yourself in the wooded atmosphere and activating the senses has proven beneficial effects on psychophysical health. On the other hand, more and more studies show that people are happier outdoors than in urban settings.
L’balance between professional and private life, one of the most evident features of the Scandinavian approach, is essential to the fourth key factor: freedom. While in Denmark flexibility reigns in relation to time and place of work, so much so that smart working has been in use for a long time, in Sweden there are those who are experimenting with the thirty-hour work week. Further south, Germany promotes freedom from uninterrupted work: Volkswagen’s servers have been blocking email delivery half an hour after the end of the working day since 2011 and rehabilitating it half an hour before the next day starts.
Also there confidence – fifth essential factor for a happy life – plays an important role at work: in Copenhagen the practice of judging managers and employees based on the feedback of the people they assist rather than through periodic processes, monitoring and reports is spreading. For Wiking, the antidote to mistrust is empathy, which in his opinion should also be encouraged in education, from the earliest years of life. One of the things that generate more distrust in people is inequality: the author reports that in the UK, according to the New Economic Foundation, the areas that voted in favor of Brexit are plagued by inequalities in terms of happiness.
Wiking “ends on a sweet note” by offering numerous stories and advice on kindness, the last crucial factor for happiness. One case above all: Be My Eyes, a Danish app through which volunteers from all over the world “lend their eyes” to blind and visually impaired people who need them in their daily life. And in the conclusion of the book, it is the author who asks readers to “be his eyes”, carrying out the search for the good that exists in the world and communicating it to others. Only in this way will it be possible to demonstrate that happiness is not a false hope, but an opportunity within everyone’s reach.
Who is Meik Wiking: One of the most influential experts in the field of happiness and author of several books, including the international bestseller Hygge: The Danish Way to Happiness, over a million copies sold worldwide, translated into more than 30 languages. His research has been featured in the most celebrated media, including The New York Times, Guardian, China Daily, Figaro, BBC, CNN and CBS. He has advised cities, governments and organizations around the world, including working for the UAE Minister of Happiness, the state of Jalisco in Mexico and the city of Goyang in South Korea. economics, he worked extensively for the Danish Ministry of Foreign Affairs. He founded and directs the Happiness Research Institute and is a member of the policy advisory group for the Global Happiness Policy Report.
MGMT Edizioni: Launched and directed by Cristiano Iandolo, this publishing house is focused on topics such as marketing, business planning, fundraising, creativity, productivity and also on management understood as managing and improving oneself. Among the books translated and published by MGMT are Seth Godin’s Blind Lane and Emilie Wapnick’s Become Who You Are.