Periodically, we like to check in on happiness – what it is, who to get it, why we don’t have it… This political election season has caused many of us paying attention to call our own happiness into question. The wrap up of the final presidential debate seems like a great time to take the pulse of personal and national happiness. Right about now, we could all use a little bit of a happiness boost.
According to some sources, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, and Finland are the world’s happiest countries. Iceland often makes the list of happy places. Perhaps this is due to the magical effect of the Aurora Borealis?
Earlier this year, CNN published a list of the year’s top ten happiest countries. This year, Denmark is number one. This is due to its tradition of ‘hygge,’ a word that means ‘well-being’ in Norwegian. “In essence, hygge means creating a warm atmosphere and enjoying the good things in life with good people. The warm glow of candlelight is hygge. Friends and family – that’s hygge too.” (from http://www.visitdenmark.com/danish-meaning-hygge) It is surprising that Bhutan, the nation that invented the GNH Index – Gross National Happiness Index – did not make CNN’s list.
OK. We know who is happy – or maybe where the happy people are. But how did they get so happy? Did they employ ‘Fake it ’till you make it?’ Did they simply smile more? A recent study from the University of California-Irvine suggests that smiling selfies are the way to increases your overall happiness. In the study, participants took selfies of themselves smiling every day for four weeks and reported an increase in their overall happiness levels. Participants also found happiness in the responses their selfies generated online. Granted this study was not very scientific, but it might have been a good time.
A recent study from the University of California-Irvine suggests that smiling selfies are the way to increases your overall happiness. In the study, participants took selfies of themselves smiling every day for four weeks and reported an increase in their overall happiness levels. Participants also found happiness in the responses their selfies generated on social media. Granted this study was not very scientific, but it might have been a good time.
According to www.grossnationalhappiness.com, happiness is linked to “sufficient well-being in things like community, culture, governance, knowledge and wisdom, health, spirituality and psychological welfare, a balanced use of time, and harmony with the environment.”
The GNH Index finds that:
– Men are happier than women
– City dwellers are happier than rural folks
– Single and married people are happier than those who are widowed, divorced, or separated
– Educated people are happier
– Farmers are not very happy compared to other occupational groups
These findings are interesting but not very conclusive. The Easterlin Paradox tells us the rich tend to be much happier than the poor, but that rich societies tend not to be happier than poor ones. Easterlin concludes in his paper, The Economics of Happiness, that “Most people could increase happiness by devoting less time to making money, and more time to nonpecuniary goals such as family life and health.”
How do you find happiness? We took the question to history’s big philosophers.
According to Bertrand Russell, “Of all forms of caution, caution in love is perhaps the most fatal to true happiness.” Plato wrote that “The man who makes everything that leads to happiness depend upon himself, and not upon other men, has adopted the very best plan for living happily.” So did Aristotle, “Happiness depends upon ourselves.”
John Stuart Mill wrote “I have learned to seek my happiness by limiting my desires, rather than in attempting to satisfy them.” Friedrich Nietzsche: “Happiness is the feeling that power increases — that resistance is being overcome.” Lao Tzu: “If you are depressed you are living in the past. If you are anxious you are living in the future. If you are at peace you are living in the present.”
“The secret of happiness, you see, is not found in seeking more, but in developing the capacity to enjoy less,” wrote Socrates. And finally this from Confucius: “The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.”
As it turns out, happiness is completely subjective. I’m going with Confucius and maybe the kids at UC-Irvine.
image credit: https://www.flickr.com/photos/tomicpasko/14139726176