When it comes to being upbeat, the UAE are certainly smiling. The latest UN-commissioned World Happiness Report ranks the UAE at the 14th happiest country in the world – flying high above Britain and the US and confirming us as the happiest Arab country on the planet.
Factors they considered included the overall wealth and healthcare available in a country, but also the mood created by life expectancy, earnings, having someone to count on and the freedom to make life choices. It concluded that the world overall had become a ‘slightly happier and more generous place’.
It’s good news for everyone here but the age-old question remains – which gender are the happiest, men or women?
The biggest global happiness survey was done back in 2008 by the marketing and information firm Nielsen. They discovered that in 48 of 51 countries women were the happiest. The survey concluded that men found happiness with wealth, while women sought it from friendships and relationships with partners, family, friends and co-workers.
“Because they are happier with non-economic factors, women’s happiness is more recession-proof, which might explain why women around the world are happier in general than men,” said Bruce Paul, Nielsen Vice President of Consumer Research when the findings were released.
But Andy Cope, co-author of Be Brilliant Everyday, who is doing a doctorate in the science of positivity, which will officially make him a Doctor of Happiness, says that men score higher on the ‘happyometer’ than women. “Men and women are wired differently and I think it’s safe to say that women have more complicated circuitry than men!” he says.
“It won’t come as a massive surprise to tell you women are more nurturing and can squeeze more happiness from relationships. But men’s brains are more compartmentalised and they have a fabulous ability to think of nothing. If a woman asks her partner what he’s thinking and he says ‘nothing’ it’s probably true!”
So, while women are worrying and over-analysing things, men are busy getting on with being happy.
But what exactly is that? “It’s really difficult to define happiness,” says Andy. “It’s a feeling but it runs from a spectrum of ‘calm contentment’ at one end, to ‘zany euphoria’ at the other. Most people are somewhere in the middle and human beings are best summed up as being ‘mildly happy most of the time’.”
But he warns it’s a fragile state of mind. “Happiness can be fleeting. It doesn’t take much to knock you off your happiness perch. And in fact the manic pace of modern life can inhibit happiness. A lot of people end up living life fast but not particularly well.”
According to Andy, happiness is 50 per cent genetic. “Look at your parents and grandparents,” he says. “If they’re happy and upbeat, you’ve got a better chance of being the same. About 10 per cent of your happiness is to do with circumstances, such as your job, house and standard of living – which isn’t as much as you might think.” Andy says that leaves about 40 per cent of your happiness that is under your control, which is great news when it comes to increasing our happiness score. “However, here’s the health warning,” Andy adds. “It’s a lot easier to be negative and gloomy. It’s a doddle to sink into moaning about work, the economy, football scores…”
Being happy and upbeat requires practice and energy, and because it’s harder to learn to be happy, most people can’t be bothered.
“It’s time to get bothered!” Andy says. “The emotion of happiness impacts on your physical wellbeing. It’s very good for your health, relationships and career. Happy people are able to create and maintain strong relationships, they have bags more energy and they live an awful lot longer!”
According to life coach Carole Ann Rice (www.realcoachingco.com) women just don’t have the time to be happy to figure out what makes them happy. “Women are often time poor and put other people’s needs before their own, especially if they are mums,” Carole says. “Most of the time is spent whisking the kids off to various post-school clubs, weekend parties and running a busy home alongside a day job, which means they’re often at the bottom of the list when it comes to having fun.”
Carole says the difference is that men prioritise their fun. Things like a season ticket to the football become a life ‘essential’. “Men see sport as a well-earned right,” Carole says. “Whatever their hobby, they have no issues with scheduling it in.”
Men enjoy pursuits that involve them being part of a club, or a physical activity, but women are different. “Women enjoy making things, being of service to others, pampering or doing activities to better themselves such as yoga or meditation.” Carole says that women need to learn from men and prioritise their happiness and nurture it.
Relationship psychologist Martyn Stewart agrees that both genders want happiness but we go about finding it in different ways.
“We all want the same thing – the biological feeling when chemicals flood the reward centre in our brain. This is what we call pleasure, or happiness,” Martyn explains.
“However what’s different between individuals is understanding the thought process underpinning the behaviour that allows this to happen.”
Martyn says that although the world has dramatically changed, men and women are still striving towards the same fundamental things. Men are still driven to compete and be recognised, while providing for their families, while women are still striving for the ‘Cinderella fairy-tale,’ with love, commitment and security. But even if we’re able to achieve these states – we might find they make us content rather than truly happy.
“Each gender could learn from each other,” Martyn suggests. “Women are waiting and planning a unique fairy-tale, while men are designing their worlds by logic and compartmentalisation. Maybe male happiness could benefit from mixing in a little ‘Walt Disney’ and women could step back and see if their strict fairy-tales could fit into some of his compartments.”
Both genders could find themselves even happier if they work together.
Happiness ambassador Gloria Beléndez-Ramirez holds Decide to be Happy and Stay Happy workshops in Dubai (www.happiestgloria.com). She is convinced there is a difference between genders when it comes to being happy. “First let me define happiness,” she says. “Happiness to me is the ability to stay grateful, especially in times of deep challenge. You can be singing and dancing and not truly be happy, or you can be passing through rough times and be happy.
“Happiness between genders is different – but it’s also different between people. Everyone sees life from a unique perspective, what makes one person happy can be very different from another.” Gloria says she believes it’s a life choice so you have to actively make it happen.
Firstly she says we need to take care of what she calls our ‘divine vehicle’ – our bodies. “Sleep enough, eat properly, exercise regularly and get up early to make use of your day,” she says. “You must also take care of your mind and soul by having regular me-time and practise soothing activities that will give you inner reflection such as yoga. Or try reading biographies of people who impress you.”
Whether you’re a man or a woman, it’s important both genders are happy because it will enhance your life – big time. Andy says his action plan for happiness includes putting a deliberate spring in your step. Increase your smiling by 40 per cent and walk tall. If your posture is positive, your emotions will be too. “Write a list of the top 10 things you take for granted – and stop taking them for granted!”
Andy adds, “Both men and women are waiting for happiness. We say ‘I’ll be happy when…’ like we’re saving it for a special occasion. Wake up. Life is the ultimate special occasion!”
ON THE ROAD TO HAPPINESS? #100DAYSHAPPY
All over social media you’ll see people posting photos of things that make them happy, followed by #100happydays. It could be lunch with friends, a beautiful sunset or a cute dog in the street. The idea started at 100happydays.com, which asks the question, “Can we be happy for 100 days in a row?” Apparently not, “Seventy-one per cent of people tried to complete this challenge, but failed quoting lack of time as the main reason. These people were simply too busy to be happy. Are you?” Make time!
We all know the saying, “Laugh and the world laughs with you, cry and you cry alone.” Now scientific research suggests that it’s true and that when we laugh we change our brain chemistry and feel better. Usually, we laugh because we’re happy, but through the act of laughing, we can make ourselves happy. Why not try laughter yoga to get the giggles? Log on to simplylaughter.com/tag/laughteryoga-dubai.
Leap on to the free-jumping revolution that is Bounce, Dubai, and you’ll be feeling happier in no time. Why? Well, trampolining can help to combat depression, anxiety and stress thanks to those happy chemicals endorphins. It’s great exercise and will help you relax, promote better sleeping patterns and boost your energy levels. And there’s got to be something fun about jumping around like a big kid wearing brightly striped socks! Log on to www.bounce.ae