Back in 2006 I was lucky enough to spend six months in Vanuatu, a remote and sparsely populated archipelago in the South Pacific that had, that very year, been named ‘the happiest place on earth’ (The Happy Planet Index, 2006). Here, landline telephones, electricity and running water are still the exception rather than the norm and the tropical rainforest is home to a vibrant mix of tribes and traditions, including the origins of bungee jumping and a tribe that worships Prince Philip.
Although the basic conditions aren’t for everyone, happiness in places like Vanuatu is relatively simple. Stress is virtually non-existent and only ill-health or a bad harvest can put a dampener on the mood. However, back in the UK happiness seems to be harder to come by, so the government is investing £2million a year in the Measuring National Well-being (MNW) programme. The project is looking at ‘GDP and beyond’ with the aim of firstly identifying what makes us happy and then targeting areas of low well-being through changes in policy.
According to the first statistics, released last week, people living in the Scottish Highlands and Islands have higher levels of satisfaction and happiness, and lower levels of anxiety, than the rest of the UK. London comes in a solid last. Based on this, and the generally low happiness scores in cities, the data point towards a predictable conclusion: a slower pace of life, more balanced lifestyles and good health make for happier people.
Despite London’s poor standing overall, the report does highlight that, fundamentally, happy people are more productive and better for the economy. Sound familiar? It sure is, Aurora is based on the same principle, ‘happy team, happy clients’ (ahead of the game as always!).
If, having read this, you’re feeling in need of an ‘overall satisfaction’ boost and considering a mini-break in Vanuatu, a word of warning; what was ‘the happiest place on earth’ in 2006, is now, according to the UN World Risk Report, the ‘most dangerous place in the world’ because of its high exposure to natural disasters. Maybe stick to the Scottish Highlands…