How do you know when an economy is thriving? In general, experts will look at the gross domestic product (GDP). However, this only notes trade and earnings. It does not indicate anything about the emotional state of a country. Indeed, an excellent GDP can hide exploited workers, more or less pleasant living conditions, a degraded environment, etc. Consequently, other experts have tried to take the pulse of the population and to estimate the general happiness. An approach that does not come from nowhere.
Whistling while working
Martin Seligman is the father of positivist psychology. The basic idea is that happiness leads to happiness. By putting people in a positive context, they themselves will be won over by the atmosphere, surpass themselves, exult and "contaminate" others around. This was all it took for an incredibly popular industry to emerge, that of personal growth. Thus appeared coaches and speakers to sow the missing seed of positivity in many of us. Arte has made a very interesting documentary about it.
Some people have been inspired and have decided in this vein to think of the "happy economy" or the economy of happiness. For them, it is important that professional environments offer contexts where everyone feels good. Moreover, many studies have shown how much productivity increased among employees and gave more of themselves to the company. A rather logical finding that, nevertheless, reversed a crude trend in administration to lead by fear.
When GDP drops, happiness drops and vice versa. In addition, nations have aimed to put the well-being of the population first. Bhutan, for example, has relied heavily on a healthy environment, decreasing poverty, etc. Thus, it is one of the few countries with a negative carbon footprint and has adopted strict measures on tourism to preserve natural and urban areas. National economic development has been steadily progressing for decades.
The tyranny of happiness
However, as the Arte documentary reminds us, this injunction to happiness and self-improvement can have its dark side. Indeed, how to quantify happiness? It is a very personal impression. Everyone, moreover, has their own interpretation; thus, it seems difficult to attach a global definition to it. Yet these repeated prescriptions from coaches, influencers, family members and now bosses can weigh heavily on individuals. Some sociologists call the phenomenon "happycracy" so much so that this industry encourages us to be positive.
What's more, it's fine to want to be positive, but when the world around you is not so good or when a recession begins, it's hard to keep a cheerful attitude. In fact, research by Australian researchers has shown that this relentless pursuit can lead people to brood when they don't feel well. A sense of guilt overcomes them since this negative bubble will, according to personal growth players, only lead to failure. The industry also tends to promote the idea of "detoxing" from bad thoughts. For example, some psychologists almost note in patients orthorexia nervosa where they do everything to get rid of it, sometimes in unhealthy ways.
Providing a caring context
In fact, for many mental health experts, it would be better to focus on self-care. Rather than feeling guilty about emotions of sadness or anger, embrace them and put your energy into things that feel good for everyone: a dive into a good novel, a country walk or a video game session. This means, for companies, providing an environment that offers both a satisfying salary and working conditions that allow employees to thrive.
Not to mention that a country can have economic indicators in the green without individuals experiencing joy. Despite decent numbers at the end of 2021, Americans felt strongly unhappy.
Much more so than other nations like Finland, which rely more on caring and togetherness. Indeed, the Scandinavian country invests heavily in initiatives such as the "baby box", some 40 items for new parents to get their parenting off to a good start. The Finnish government has decided that from September 2022, parental leave will be increased for fathers. Now, these initiatives are part of a collective goal. Finns pay a very large share of taxes every year. What if happiness also resided in public bodies that took care of their people?
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