Have you ever stopped to contemplate the cost of happiness?
For some of us it might be as easy as the RRP of a pair of Manolo Blahnik’s or our morning cup of coffee, for others happiness might be a little harder to quantify. Perhaps it’s the smell or rain, a day at the beach, or the sound of your child laughing…how can you put a value on something as intangible as that? Well it turns out that our emotions are being capitalised upon in a world that is ever increasingly obsessed with wellness, happiness, and mindfulness. While it seems a little demonic to think that our intangible emotions and feelings have become big business The Happiness Industry: How Government and Big Business Sold us Well-Being, demonstrates how happiness has been worked into our economy to mean happier and healthier workers.
The Mindful and Wellbeing Trend
With headlines about wellness, happiness, mindfulness, one would be pretty certain from all the media, press, and marketing surrounding us that we as a globe obsessed with these ‘ness’s’ at the moment. You would be hard pressed to open the page of a magazine, newspaper or turn on the TV without some reference to happiness or wellness. There is a good reason for this, wellness and happiness is an industry all of its own! It’s something so in Vogue that British Vogue committed itself to a full investigation into the wellness industry on their (totally awesome) YouTube channel. As a yogi, a sustainability researcher, economic theory enthusiast and a lover of the idea of a happy, healthy and totally awesome future there might be no surprises that I’m one of the subsricbers to wellness, happiness and mindfulness movements. So you can only imagine my excitement to come across Davies book baby.
The business of wellness.
Davies starts this read by introducing how ‘mainstream’ the wellness industry has become by discussing the addition of a Buddhist monk at the 2014 World Economic forum. This monk (former biologist Matthieu Ricard), clad in red and yellow robes addressed delegates on the methods of mindfulness and relaxation. Ricard was well known for being ‘the happiest man in the world’ which gave him an education edge in all matters of happiness, mindfulness and all round general wellbeing. In a world where we are seeing people marginalised for their religious beliefs it’s a little mind blowing that in this gathering, and other gatherings across the globe, we are willing to accept a little discussion on happiness from a religious figure. While we go to war with others over a desire to spread their beliefs. So what is it about the message of happiness delivered by a monk that has made it so palatable, and in many cases, the start of a world-wide saleable industry! Happiness and wellbeing is no longer the realm of new age hippies, it’s become the must have accessory to all good businesses and now lives on the wrists or pockets of most busy people in the form of a fit-bit, Apple Watch or phone loaded with wellbeing and mindfulness apps.
Why are we ok with Happiness in business?
While we are totally ok with the idea of us being happy and well in our personal lives many of us have grown accustomed to being a bit miserable and unwell in our workplaces. Perhaps you stand all day with just a short thirty minute break, or sit all day hunched over a screen. Most of us would agree that the rhetoric of days past is that we do a ‘hard days work’ for our money. It’s something our grandparents passed down to us. Fortunately for many of us, big business is stating to realise that happy and healthy workers are more productive and less of a drain on resources. Which is why we have occupational health and safety officers at least, and at the other extreme companies are providing flexible schedules, healthy food, sleep pods and a designated ‘jolly good fellow‘. The reason for this revolution of health and wellbeing might be to do with the fact that your company cares for you, but is mostly to do with the fact that keeping workers happy and well makes them work harder, and this is the message that Davies drives home. You might feel a little ripped off (or be getting a little bit of a communist or dictatorship vibe) that your company is giving you a five minute mindfulness break so you will work harder later, but it’s a mutually beneficial exchange. It’s kind of a good example of how our seemingly evil economic system can be harnessed for good for people (and planet if we employ C2C manufacturing and the like). This little commentary is just scraping the surface of this read and I would have to say it’s been one of my hi-lights of the year. If you are into economic’s, wellness or futures thinking this could well be an enjoyable read for you. If that doesn’t float your boat just stat thinking about how wellness, happiness and mindfulness could be worked into your work day. Let your boss know it’s productive and on-trend to offer healthy food and meditation breaks. Your body and co-workers will thank you for it.
What do you think about the commercialisation of happiness and wellbeing? Does it make your skin crawl that someone can make money out of your emotions? Perhaps you are in the business of selling health and happiness? What makes you happy? Reflect and share below.