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The link between happiness and refrigerators

It's intriguing: once people in western Europe earn more than € 60.000 a year, their feeling of happiness hardly increases. This has been proved by recent scientific research (2010) from Princeton University. An annual income of € 60.000 is the ‘tipping point’ after which the relationship between money and happiness disappears like snow in summer. In the best case, incomes of more than € 60.000 only temporarily lead to a higher feeling of happiness. In practice, making more money almost always means more work, less leisure time, more responsibility or more stress. And usually, a combination of those.

The Icelanders are often said to be the happiest people in the world. Dora Guorun Guomundsdottir, an Icelandic researcher in this field, has been investigating this phenomenon for more than a decade. During her lectures, she often asks her audience to guess which impact money has on happiness. Each time again, it appears that the majority of her audience thinks that someone’s income determines approximately 70% the level of happiness. In reality however, money only determines between 2 and 4% of someone’s feeling of happiness. ‘More money’ is not a purpose as such for everyone. Some people just want to earn more than others. In other words: they want to win. However, also for them it might be useful to realize that this approach isn’t the most effective way in order to become happy.

Guomundsdottir's scientific research has shown that all the ‘very happy’ people had gone through difficult periods in their life. Happiness doesn’t mean not experiencing difficulties. But it’s about the attitude you have towards the problems you encounter in your life. Eventually, her research resulted in the '10 commandments for mental health’:
  1. Think positive
  2. Cherish the persons and the things that you love
  3. Never stop learning
  4. Learn from your mistakes
  5. Get physical exercise every day
  6. Don’t make your life needlessly complicated
  7. Try to understand and encourage the people around you
  8. Don’t give up; gaining success in life is a marathon, not a sprint
  9. Discover and develop your talents
  10. Define your personal goals and make your dreams come true
Subsequently, these 10 commandments have been printed on refrigerator magnets by the National Health Service of Iceland. For Christmas, it sent a set of magnets to each address. These magnets were meant as a daily mnemonic device for the people of Iceland, so that it will remember what happiness is all about.

So, if you ever visit an family in Iceland, don’t forget to check the kitchen to see if these magnets are still there. Apparently, they are still hanging on many refrigerators.


By Paul Donkers

"my purpose is to help improve strategy execution, to create high performing teams and coach for effective business leaders"

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