Resilience fosters happier communities

Happiness - Christianshavn, Copenhagen, Denmark

Happiness is biking in Copenhagen, Denmark

It’s not surprising that Denmark is among the four top-ranked (all Nordic nations) countries in this year’s World Happiness Report for it has held onto the ‘Happiest Nation in the World’ distinction since 1973.   However you may not be as familiar with its global status as a ‘Resilience and Sustainability’ leader.

Copenhagen is frequently the ‘sold-out’ destination for international symposiums focused on creating cities and communities with healthcare, childcare, education, environment, transportation… the list goes on… that are resilient and sustainable!  With this much consideration to holistic resilience it is not surprising that Danish people are themselves resilient and its no secret that resilience leads to happier and more successful lives.

For the most part Danes have embraced a lifestyle of minimalism over materialism and are not inclined to spend their time chasing consumerism.  They value friends and family over all else and prioritize their lives in this manner.  They value health and education and willingly pay some of the world’s highest taxes to ensure universal access is afforded all.  Their elderly are revered.  Their schools’ curriculum fosters social behaviors of empathy, responsibility and no-bullying policies which in turn evolves a more resilient population.

Danish resilience has been inherent for generations and bravely exemplified during WWII.  Upon hearing the Nazis were going to relocate Denmark’s 7,500 Jews into concentration camps, the Danish population spontaneously hatched a plan to ferry all its Jews to neutral Sweden.  7000 Jews returned home following the war to find that their property remained intact, generously safeguarded by their neighbors during their absence.  This action demonstrates Danish compassion, acceptance and courage, all attributes of a resilient nation looking out for each other.

Closer to home, Canada ranked fifth in the World’s Happiness Report and of equal interest, Vancouver reported the lowest life satisfaction in Canada.  Although Vancouver’s pricey real estate and rainy climate may be influences to a lower life satisfaction the quality of our social connections play a very important role in our happiness.

At last week’s ‘Happiness Symposium’ Meik Wiking, the head of the Happiness Research Institute, a Danish think-tank explained how satisfaction with social relationships is one of the best predictors of people’s happiness, beating out health, work-life balance, sense of community and purpose.

Interestingly, findings of a 2012 survey by a Vancouver Foundation discovered that one-third of Vancouverites surveyed said it is difficult to make new friends.  And one in four said they were alone more often than they would like to be. In both cases, people who experience this also reported poorer health, lower trust and a hardening of attitudes toward other community members.

Although most Vancouverites knew the names of two neighbours their connection typically ended there. Seemingly, Vancouverites prefer to keep to themselves, or have little interest in knowing their neighbours further. One-third of the people surveyed did not know if their neighbours trust each other. And barely a majority think that the ties in their neighbourhood were growing stronger.

Many Vancouverites are retreating from community life with the most often-cited reason being the feeling that they have little to offer.  Over one-third of us have no close friends outside our own ethnic group. And we generally believe that people prefer to be with others of the same ethnicity.

With the World Health Organization predicting that depression and anxiety will be the number two health burden in less than five years and the number one by 2030. Perhaps we should all pay more attention to our Nordic neighbors, look out for our neighbors, learn resilience and foster happier communities with greater life satisfaction.

"An intimate bike ride is far more rewarding than shopping at Walmart!"         
                      - Margaret Hansen

For more information on how you can learn to create resilience and joy in your life try practicing my 7-step-model-to-create-resilience.

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