Employees should be allowed ‘breathing breaks’ throughout the day to increase their productivity and happiness, a leading expert has said.
Author and happiness guru Max Strom, who offers lunchtime breathing workshops for office workers in central London, claims that calming the breath can have a huge impact on well-being.
Ahead of the United Nations International Day of Happiness day he argues that while smokers are allowed regular breaks outdoors, non-smokers are often forced to sit at their desks for long periods of time when they should be having regular trips into the fresh air.
“Pregnant women are taught to breathe because it is so beneficial when coping with physical and emotional distress, but nobody else is,” he said.
“So when smokers go out for their break, the rest of the workforce should be allowed to follow them out, to go and breathe in the fresh air. It would have such a big impact.
“Happiness is something we all want, and yet nobody is educated about how to achieve it. Nobody really thinks what makes them happy, they just think about what gives them pleasure. It’s not the same thing. We should teach happiness in schools.
“In the western world there are probably around 40 per cent of people who are suffering from anxiety or depression, because happiness is plummeting.
“And it’s largely driven by the rise of technology. People are more connected than ever, and yet they have never been more isolated. People are now starving for intimacy.”
Mr Strom, author of the book ‘There Is No App For Happiness’, claims the advent of air conditioning, the television and the internet are the three worst technological culprits for breeding loneliness.
Air conditioning or central heating has allowed people to feel far more comfortable in their own homes, meaning they need to venture out less. Likewise, television and the internet have allowed people to communicate without ever meeting.
“The problem is 90 per cent of human communication is not done through words, it’s visual,” he added.
“You can’t tell tone of voice, or see facial expressions. So when you communicate using text or email, you’re having 10 per cent of a relationship. We now have to rely on emoticons to get the true meaning across.
“The internet is the new white sugar. The more you use it, the more you want to use it, and the worse it is for you. People waste so much time on technology and what they don’t realise is that time is lifespan. When you kill time, you are killing yourself.”
International Day of Happiness was founded following the UN Conference on Happiness in 2012. It is a campaign cooridinated by Action for Happiness, which brings together groups for, 160 different countries to improve well-being.
Mark Williamson, Director of Action for Happiness said: "We urgently need a change in priorities.
“Ultimately we want to help create a society that puts people’s overall happiness first, rather than focusing just on economic growth. We want to encourage people away from self-obsessed materialistic and unfulfilling behaviour towards a more collaborative and loving way of living.”
Mr Strom said people could take the first step by demanding that technology simplifies life, not complicates it. He also suggests working out what makes them happy, and then telling family and friends.
“Some technology is good. The washing machine has hugely freed up time for people, for example” he said.
“But it’s important to define happiness at the deepest level. If you never go on this journey and learn what makes you happy, you will never find it.”