What is happiness and how can it be measured? According to the recently compiled World Happiness Report produced by the U.N. Sustainable Development Solutions Network, for the second year in a row, the happiest country is Finland, a small Nordic country with a population of 5.5 million. The survey was based on factors including economic wealth, life expectancy, social support, freedom to make life choices and levels of government corruption. The United States dropped from 18th to 19th place. Venezuela came in last place, at 108th. I found a fascinating article in Wikipedia, regarding the philosophy of happiness. In his book Nicomachean Ethics, written in 350 BCE, Ancient Greek philosopher Aristotle stated that, “happiness (as well as being well and doing well) is the only thing that humans desire for their own sake, alike riches, honor, health or friendship”. The term Eudaimonia which was translated as “happiness”, is for Aristotle an activity rather than an emotion or a state of being. According to Aristotle, “the life of excellent rational activity is the happy life”.
In her book The How of Happiness, positive psychology researcher Sonja Lyubomirsky describes happiness as “the experience of joy, contentment, or positive well-being, combined with a sense that one’s life is good, meaningful and worthwhile.”
I do not know about you, but for me all of those words are just “words”. To support Aristotle’s statement that happiness is an activity, in 1604, Miguel de Servantes Saavedra, famously proclaimed in his book Don Quixote that, “The journey is better than the inn.” In this context, the question one would ask oneself is, which activity makes me happy? This can obviously vary from person to person. But then, since we would like to learn from others, let’s ask what the Scandinavians of Finland, Denmark and Norway, who were listed as first three countries in the Happiness Report, do that we in the United States do not.
For starters, those countries have a significantly smaller population. In addition, Scandinavians live under their own version of Socialism, something the U.S. Presidential candidate, Senator Bernie Sanders frequently references. You can read about “What is socialism like in Scandinavia” in a recent article written by Scotty Hendricks.
I feel happy when I see our dog Max in the morning with a ball in his mouth. I feel happy when we drive with Max and my wife Elfa to go for a walk in the park. I feel happy when I write a story for the “Encounters” series, and someone sends me an email liking it. I feel happy when I can help my clients with their mortgages. I feel happy when someone buys one of my books. There are too many things which make me happy to list. How about you?
P.S. My journey for happiness starts in the morning, when Max and I go for our ritual walks, during which I always carry my small camera. I encountered these four images of calla lilies in our neighborhood after the rain.
Enjoy, Share and Be Happy!