Reporting on World Happiness
I had no idea that this marks the tenth anniversary of the World Happiness Report, which includes the average happiness scores of 146 countries. The Report shows average scores from 2019 to 2021, and highlights which countries are the happiest—or unhappiest—and why.
I did know about Bhutan’s Happiness Index but didn’t realize the concept was hijacked and quantified in a totally different way that the Bhutanese intended. In Bhutan, Gross National Happiness (GHN) is rooted in Buddhism, with a focus on calmness, harmony, compassion and contentment. According to Khedrupchen Rinpoche, “Happiness is the concern of everyone. Whether or not you acknowledge it, this is the purpose of every human being.”
He believes that loving kindness “is the key to generating happiness; not just on a personal level, but for others as well.” Being kind to yourself first leads to compassion to others. “You must love yourself and truly know, that no matter the circumstance, you are good enough. From there, you can spread compassion to others.”
Now, Back to World Happiness
According to the World Happiness Report, happiness levels depend on a number of factors (and notice their order): our financial security, perceptions of social support, and feelings of personal freedom. For countries, happiness is a matter of:
- Social support
- Life expectancy
- Freedom to make life choices
- GDP per capita
- Perceptions of corruption
- Positive and negative affects
In their own words: “The World Happiness Report grew out of that worldwide determination to find the path to greater global well-being. Now, at a time of pandemic and war, we need such an effort more than ever. And the lesson of the World Happiness Report over the years is that social support, generosity to one another, and honesty in government are crucial for well-being. World leaders should take heed. Politics should be directed as the great sages long ago insisted: to the well-being of the people, not the power of the rulers.”
“We found during 2021 remarkable worldwide growth in all three acts of kindness monitored in the Gallup World Poll. Helping strangers, volunteering, and donations in 2021 were strongly up in every part of the world, reaching levels almost 25% above their pre-pandemic prevalence. This surge of benevolence, which was especially great for the helping of strangers, provides powerful evidence that people respond to help others in need, creating in the process more happiness for the beneficiaries, good examples for others to follow, and better lives for themselves.”
For the fifth year in a row Finland takes the top spot as the happiest in the world. This year its score was significantly ahead of other countries in the top ten.Denmark continues to occupy second place, with Iceland up from 4th place last year to 3rd this year. Switzerland is 4th, followed by the Netherlands and Luxembourg.
The top ten are rounded out by Sweden, Norway, Israel and New Zealand. The next five are Austria, Australia, Ireland, Germany and Canada, in that order. This marks a substantial fall for Canada, which was 5th ten years ago.
The rest of the top 20 include the United States at 16th (up from 19th last year), the UK and the Czechia still in 17th and 18th, followed by Belgium at 19th and France at 20th, its highest ranking yet.”
But are happy people truly living happy lives? What is actually being measured as a better life if we are always solving increasing number of problems and conflicts? When will we realize that better is just not good enough anymore; and it’s time for healthy systems that serve the vast majority of us; not the few? Why are we measuring whether we are free or not to make life choices; and what does any of this really mean?
In A World that Measures and Tracks Happiness, What’s Important to You?
Reading this incredibly extensive report made me wonder how happiness is defined in these studies and question whether the mere definition used makes us happy? While many researchers have tried to get to the bottom of what really makes us happy, it’s personal and there is no universal answer, which is why for me, these studies are simply part of our societal conditioning. Not a true reflection of what is possible.
Let me ask you, what makes you truly happy? Are you in the pursuit of happiness?
Did your answer show up quickly or do you have to get to the root of this question?
Having happiness as a goal has been a trend and has caused much unhappiness for many people. Inner peace comes from harmony, balance and a capacity to love ourselves and each other; not how happy we are in every moment of our lives.
Measuring happiness in a world filled with suffering will keep us trapped when our opportunity is to step out of this story and create healthy lives where we no longer need to be better or happier than anyone else.
What happens when being generous, compassionate and real become simply a way of life?