Seventy-two percent of adults preferred a calm life to an exciting one, according to a 2020 Gallup poll
released Thursday conducted in partnership with the Wellbeing for Planet Earth Foundation.
At least 1,000 people were interviewed from each of the 116 countries and territories included in the poll. The participants had the option to say they prefer a calm life, an exciting life or both a calm and exciting life. The results were then ranked according to what regions had the highest percentage of participants who said they preferred a calm life.
This is the first time Gallup has collected data about people's preference for a calm versus exciting life.
East Asia ranked the highest with 85%. Latin America ranked second with 82%; the US and Canada came in further down at 75%; Australia and New Zealand followed with 73%; Eastern Europe reported 71% and Western Europe 68%.
The pandemic has created an atmosphere of unprecedented stress and anxiety, which may have contributed to the high percentage of participants preferring tranquility, said Tim Lomas, senior researcher at Wellbeing for Planet Earth and study contributor.
"The notion of getting out there and trying something exciting feels quite loaded with risk," Lomas said.
In the coming years, researchers said they hope to collect more data to see how the pandemic affects people's life preferences.
As people search for stability, they often turn toward emotions that make them feel grounded, said William Van Gordon, associate professor of psychology at the University of Derby in the UK. He was not involved in the poll.
While the poll did not research why some regions ranked higher than others, Van Gordon believed finances could be a factor.
A greater number of people in East Asian countries like Japan and Korea, where participants overwhelmingly preferred calm, are likely to have experienced material wealth, which can bring comfort but sometimes at the cost of tranquility, he said.
South Asia had the smallest percentage of participants preferring tranquility at 56%. Countries in this region, such as Pakistan and India, have more low- and middle- income families, and "there is likely to be greater value placed on the excitement and the perceived benefits it can bring," Van Gordon explained.
Ways to bring Zen to your life
It's simple to say you want to live a calm life but doing so is a greater challenge.
At the heart of a calm life are fulfilling relationships, said Alice Boyes, former clinical psychologist and author of "The Anxiety Toolkit
," who was not involved in the poll.
It's crucial to form and nurture close relationships with people who are emotionally sound, she said. They can provide "a stable base for your own exploration of the world as an individual and a safe haven to return to when you need calm," she added.
Stability also plays an important role in calm, so people should also pursue healthy routines of sleeping, eating, exercise and more, she said.
Breath awareness can tie your mind to the present moment, so Van Gordon recommended people stop at least three times throughout the day and focus on breathing in and out for five minutes.
Excitement is a short-lived emotion that relies on what is happening externally to you, such as when you're riding on a roller coaster, Van Gordon said. It's unstable because humans cannot control what happens to them.
"Calm, on the other hand, is something that can be cultivated irrespective of what is happening externally," he said.
The two emotions are not mutually exclusive and can complement each other when you live a calm life, he noted.
"The present moment is full of exciting and wondrous things, which can be enjoyed even more fully by a mind that is present and calm enough to observe them," Van Gordon said.