In March the World Happiness Report for 2019 was published and the outcomes were quite discouraging. Negative feelings such as worry, sadness and anger increased by 27 percent between 2010 and 2018 and overall global happiness went down. One chapter of the report is titled, “The sad state of happiness in the United States and the role of digital media”. Happiness and well-being have been on a slow decline since 2000.
Several explanations, including decline in social capital and social support, as well as an increase in substance abuse and obesity, are cited as causes for the decline. This report and research suggest there is another explanation for this decline. Americans are making a fundamental shift in how they spend their leisure time. A large amount of time is spent interacting with electronic devices and this may have a direct link to unhappiness. Time spent in beneficial activities are now used for screen time. There is a decline in face-to-face time and sleep. This has caused a decline in well-being and may also explain the decline in happiness.
On a scale from 1 (unhappy) to 5 (extremely happy), how would you rate your happiness?
If you rated yourself below a 4 it might be time to give your life the “Marie Kondo” treatment. Marie Kondo or KonMari, a Japanese author and consultant, has taken the United States by storm with her book, “The Life-Changing Magic Of Tidying Up” and the recent Netflix series, “Tidying Up With Marie Kondo.”
How can we take some of KonMarie’s lessons and techniques and apply them to life?
Marie suggests that, before you start tidying, you practice some gratitude. Here are some guiding questions:
- What am I grateful for today?
- What am I grateful for in my life?
- Who am I grateful for?
The main premise of KonMarie’s book is to tidy up by asking yourself “Does this item spark or bring me joy?” If it does, you keep it and if it doesn’t, you say, “Thank you” and toss or donate it.
“To truly cherish the things that are important to you, you must first discard those that outlived their purpose.”
As a first step, try to connect to your personal values. Values are principles or standards of behavior; they are one’s judgment of what is important in life.
Examples of values include: integrity, freedom, love, kindness, commitment, accountability, perseverance, etc.
Write down your top three values and then answer these questions:
- Are you currently living according to those values?
- Is your behavior aligned with your values?
Think for a few moments about your job, the work you do and ask yourself some of these questions:
- What am I grateful for in this job? (Yes, we start with gratitude!)
- Are the values of the company I work for aligned with my personal values?
- What is the purpose of the company I work for and do I feel connected to that purpose?
- Am I excited to go to work in the morning?
- Does my work spark joy for me?
If you answered yes to all those questions, that’s awesome.
If you had a few nos, unlike KonMarie, who suggests you toss the items, I am not suggesting you should quit your job.
The purpose of this exercise is to give you some insight into where there might be some unhappiness. Now that you have identified the problem, you can take some corrective action and do something about it.
“If you are not part of the problem, you cannot be part of the solution.”
Social circle (e.g. friends and family)
Reflect on the people you surround yourself with:
- What am I grateful for when it comes to my social circle?
- Who are my cheerleaders and supporters?
- Who might be holding me back?
- Who are the friends who are always negative?
- Which friendships are aligned with my values, and which ones aren’t?
- Which of my friends bring me joy, and which don’t?
Again, I am not suggesting you end your friendships. All these people came into your life for a reason. This exercise serves as a way to take inventory of how and with whom you spend your time.
As a breast cancer survivor, this process happened almost organically for me. There were those who stayed with me throughout the process and those who became invisible and disappeared.
We just never seem to have enough of it. When was the last time you took a tally of how you spend your time?
Think about the last week and write down how your time was allocated each day. Working, exercise, family, volunteering, school, writing, etc.
In addition, if your phone has the capability, check how much “screen time” you had over the course of a week.
- What am I grateful for when it comes to time?
- What patterns can I identify in my time tally?
- Is my time allocation aligned with my values?
- Where did I “waste” time?
- How would I like to allocate my time?
- What time sparks joy for me?
Remember the self-rating about your happiness at the beginning of the article? Would you change it now that you have read this article?
Reflecting on your work, social circles and use of time is there anything that stood out? Anything you would do differently?
Here are some powerful questions to ask yourself about your happiness:
- What will I stop doing?
- What will I start doing?
- What will I continue doing?