On Being Happy

At a recent staff meeting our team discussed the challenge of juggling escalating work demands against the need for ensuring a balanced lifestyle.  As someone who tends to spend a lot of time working and therefore not really walking the talk, I ended up being the recipient of a number of jests.  While I get how ironic that is, given I’m in the business of supporting individual and community well-being, the truth is I love what I do and ultimately consider myself to be a pretty happy person.

Later that same day, I happened to talk to my mother who at the age of 82 has just completed five weeks of training to qualify her as a palliative care volunteer.  While some might question why a woman at her age would make that kind of commitment, she told me she knows her health and happiness is dependent upon meaningful work that involves giving to others. She also told me that as she sat in the training it struck her that she was doing exactly what she was meant to be doing. She shared how exciting it was to be learning how to comfort those facing serious, complex illness.

So like mother, like daughter.  We are indeed two happy Canadians. As it turns out, recently released reports indicate we’re not alone.  Canada has consistently ranked as one of the happiest nations in the world.

Using measurements from a Gallup World Poll, the Happy Planet Index found that only Costa Rica, Denmark, Norway, and Ireland had life satisfaction measurements in 2007-2008 that were higher than those of Canadians.

Trying to determine what makes us happy, another report from the Centre for the Studies of Living Standards used data from the Canadian Community Health Survey to show that, on a scale from one to five, the average self-assessed rating of the happiness of Canadians is 4.26. 

Within Canada, happiness is highest on Prince Edward Island and lowest in Ontario and British Columbia. Among Census Metropolitan Areas, the average happiness is highest in Sherbrooke, Brantford, and Trois-Rivières, and lowest in St.Catharines-Niagara, Toronto, and Vancouver.

The report explains that people like my mother and I are more likely to be happy because our perceived mental and physical health is good, and we don’t have the higher levels of stress that have a negative impact on happiness.

But perhaps the most interesting aspect of the study is that the other key factor contributing to happiness isn’t money, as one might expect. Instead, it is a strong sense of belonging to the local community. As it turns out, household income is a relatively weak determinant of individual happiness. Apparently, money doesn’t buy happiness. 

As for the differences in happiness across Canada, the report finds that “the most important reason for geographical variation in happiness in Canada is differences in the sense of belonging to local communities, which is generally higher in small Census Metropolitan Areas, rural areas, and Atlantic Canada.”

So ultimately what do these reports tell us?

If you want to be happy, focus on taking care of your physical and mental health, avoid too much stress, and get connected to your community. 

Posted on 03-14-11


I love it and very happy to see this blog!  Hah… seriously though, I think that we are all looking for meaningful connections and this is what being part of a community does.  Maybe its a geographical community or maybe it is one based on interests and values - either way, it is so important to ones quality of life.

•Posted by Janet Naclia  on  03/16/11  at  05:46 PM


It has just been recently that I have learned the importance of my own well being and happiness for a more productive work life, too. 

It is amazing how spending less time at work and thinking about work-related things during my off hours has made me more effective and productive at work—and happier too.


•Posted by Jennifer Smith  on  04/27/15  at  11:42 AM

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