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A Zeitgeist of 21st Century Living

Across society we see an unprecedented convergence of interest upon the subject of happiness (and its opposite). As of January 2016, the book­seller Amazon.com has under the category of ‘happiness’ over 50,000 books on the topic. Remarkably, more than 90% of these books have only emerged over the last decade – more than all the previous decades combined.

In universities across the world in kind there’s the emergence of entire bachelor degrees in ‘positive psychology’ and an exponential addition of happiness subjects to enhance a student’s education. When Har­vard University introduced an elective subject on happiness a decade ago, it proved to be the most chosen elective it ever had.

Online, on the most popular video forum of ideas – TED’s set of global conferences- the topic of happiness is quickly approaching 200 million views. Although listing only 57 lectures, this subject has the highest viewer­ship for any subject choice, by far. It even beats the subject of ‘sex’!

… how come?

The last decade also has seen major political shifts towards governance measures that seek to incorporate hap­piness. In 2005 the International Insti­tute of Management introduced the first Gross National Happiness Index, which provides a framework to integrates the objective /economic factors, with the subjective/ happiness factors, to meas­ure a country’s socioeconomic develop­ment.

Since then, so many countries have adopted it:

  • 2007: Thailand adopted directly this governance measure.
  • 2008: France launched a Gross Domestic Happiness index for national governance policies under President Nicolas Sarkozy.
  • 2009: USA launched a Gallup poll system to measure happiness.
  • 2011: United Nations – the UN General Reso­lution titled, “Happi­ness towards a holistic approach to develop­ment” passed in and released a World Happiness Index.
  • 2011: Canada – Canadian Index of Well­being Network (CIW Net­work) releases The Cana­dian Index of Wellbeing (CIW).
  • 2012: South Korea launched the Happiness Index.
  • 2013: Singapore…
  • 2014: Dubai…
  • 2015: UK…

… why this fascination with happiness?

The World Economic Forum in Switzerland brings together over 2,500 top business leaders from the world’s top 1000 companies, together with international political leaders, selected intellectuals and journalists to discuss ways of improving the world.

In the 1970s when this conference started, it simply looked at slumping productivity in Europe; in the 1980s it focused on market deregulation issues; in the 1990s the preoccupation was with innovation and the Internet.

In the 2000s it started introducing for the first time, a range of ‘social concerns’, and has continually added topics related to happiness and well-being ever since. In 2008 there were already 12 sessions on questions related to happiness and well-being. At its most recent conference, there were 25 sessions – more than double than in 2008.

For according to Gallup opinion-polling unhappiness costs the US economy $500 billion a year in lost productivity, tax and health-care costs. It is hoped that a new understanding of happiness would help restore people’s well-being.

Google and many other companies are now employing ‘Chief Happiness Officers’ to help curb this trend – to cheer up employees, to restore enthusiasm and how to deal with negative emotions…

…. again, why and why now???

Because to put is simply, we are experiencing …

A DEPRESSION EPIDEMIC!

While it may sound bizarre to some – precisely because we are living amidst the most prosperous time in human history – today’s world is increasing unhappiness, not decreasing it! Here are the sobering facts:

– From 1960 to 2020, depression increased more than 10 times in countries like Australia, USA, Canada and UK.

– In 1960, the average depression starting age was 29 years of age. Today it begins at 14.

– By the end of this decade, predictions are that 1 in 2 people are  to be depressed.

– In children it’s rising at an alarming rate that’s doubling every ten years…

The World Bank declared that in 21st century, the three biggest killers will be heart disease, cancer and depression. Harvard Research is estimating that within the next 10 years, depression is set to become the second biggest killer in first world countries, right behind heart disease – although it is linked to heart disease itself…

For people aged 15-29, depression translates into suicide, which is in itself the leading cause of death for most physically healthy people in first world countries. It takes the lives of more than 800,000 people each year!

… so what on Earth is going on?

How is it possible that despite the fact that each person has more wealth and more conveniences than most kings in ages past, we are increasing getting less happy!?

How is it possible that despite the fact that we have more rights, more freedoms, more affirmative programs, more diversity and self-esteem teachings than at any time in history – we’re sad and miserable?

How is it possible that despite the level of information available about depression and happiness… despite the thousands of research projects being done each year trying to fix this… despite the billions of dollars more that have been directed towards mental health by governments…

… we’re still sliding further and further into depression!?

How is all of this possible?

Because if you think about it, all these facts just don’t make sense!

Could it perhaps be because we are facing up to this problem, all wrong?

‘The Great Aha!’ begins here and takes you on a journey to see our pursuit of happiness, with new eyes.

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