Have you ever researched the happiest countries in the world? Well, we were curious, so we did. There are some interesting findings that we wanted to share with you guys. Perhaps you’ll be inclined to move to a new country, or perhaps you’ll take a moment to inspect your life and determine if you’re doing things that lead to happiness or unhappiness.
What is it with this American obsession with being “busy?” Far more emphasis seems to be placed upon business and financial success as opposed to happiness and mental wellbeing. All too often, we ask friends here in the States, “How are you doing?” The reply generally goes something like this, “Yeah, busy. But busy is good.” There is some bizarre psychological phenomenon going on here where people feel that being busy accomplishes 2 things which they deem quite important:
Money and success have somehow become synonyms here in the United States and workings more hours has been deemed to be the recipe to achieve both. Americans work, on average, 1,783 (2016 statistic) hours per year. Accounting for 2 weeks of holidays/time off, that is roughly 35 hours per week. Most of you reading this blog, however, likely work 40-50, right?
So based on how much we work and how much money we make, we have to be the happiest country on earth, right? Quite the opposite. Let’s compare the US with a few other countries around the world.
Depending which report you use, the United States ranks somewhere around 14 on the list of happiest countries in the world. Here are the top 20:
8. New Zealand
12. Costa Rica
14. United States
19. United Kingdom
Now let’s do something interesting and take a look at the number of hours each country listed above the US works per year (data provided by the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD):
1. Norway – 1,424 hours/year (#33)
2. Denmark – 1,410 hours/year (#34)
3. Iceland – 1,883 hours/year (#9)
4. Switzerland – 1,590 hours/year (#28)
5. Finland – 1,653 hours/year (#25)
6. Netherlands – 1,430 hours/year (#32)
7. Canada – 1,703 hours/year (#20)
8. New Zealand – 1,752 hours/year (#16)
9. Australia – 1,669 hours/year (#24)
10. Sweden – 1,621 hours/year (#26)
11. Israel – 1,883 hours/year (#9)
12. Costa Rica – Not listed = below 1,363 hours and lower than #35
13. Austria – 1,601 hours/year (#27)
14. United States – 1,783 hours/year (#13)
Assuming 1,300 hours for Costa Rica, the countries that are happier than the United States work, on average, 174 fewer hours per year than those of us in the United States. Assuming the previously mentioned 35 hours/week number, we can assume that Americans work about 5 weeks more each year than the 13 countries in the world that are happier than us. 5 weeks more work in the same 365 days that they have in Norway, Denmark, etc. Only Iceland and Israel rank higher than the US on both hours worked per year and happiness.
The countries listed who work more hours each year than the United States includes countries like Mexico, Russia, South Korea, Latvia, and Estonia. None of these countries are listed in the top 20 happiest countries.
Ask yourself this: Is your job the most important thing in your life? Because most people dedicate more time to their job than any other area in life. Let’s assume you sleep 8 hours each night and work 7-8 hours each day. Now let’s account for time getting ready for work, and commuting. You’re probably left with something like 7 hours each weekday. Now you have to cram your entire life into 7 hours or less.
Never forget the old Italian adage of “dolce fa niente.” The sweetness of doing nothing. There is a special sweetness in doing nothing. In being kind to oneself and taking time to just sit, relax, drink a glass of wine or a cup of coffee, and do nothing. Why? Becuase you deserve it.
So….are you happy in life? If not, perhaps think about how much time you dedicate to building someone else’s business vs. how much time you spend building yourself, your relationships, your family, etc. Happiness and hours worked seem to be inversely correlated. Working long hours has a negative impact on not only yourself as an individual, but also your relationships. When we choose work over our partner or our children, everyone suffers. Don’t take our word for it….instead, check out this 80+ year Harvard study on happiness. “Close relationships, more than money or fame, are what keep people happy throughout their lives,” the study revealed. So take time to yourself. Spend time with your family. Build close relationships and exert effort that benefits the community around you; not just your bank account.