What can we learn from the happiest places on the planet?
Posted in , Mar 28, 2022
Last month, the United Nations released its 10thth annual World Happiness Report, based on survey data collected from more than 150 countries worldwide. Statisticians analyzed data alongside several factors for each country, including levels of gross domestic product (GDP), life expectancy and more.
Finland topped the list for the 5th year in a row, followed by Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and the Netherlands. The United States ranked 16th on the list.
To capture the fullness of human happiness during a time of pandemic, war and other global crises, the report focused on happiness, benevolence and trust. The authors wrote, “As we battle the ills of disease and war, it is essential to remember the universal desire for happiness and the capacity of individuals to rally to each other’s support in times of great need.”
John Helliwell, professor at the University of British Columbia and the editor of the World Happiness Report, noted worldwide improvements in several measures of kindness and generosity. “In every global region, there have been large increases in the proportion of people who give money to charity, help strangers and do voluntary work in every global region. Altogether the global average of these three measures was up by a quarter in 2021, compared with before the pandemic,” he wrote.
Looking ahead, the report turns to “the science of happiness” as a key to understanding how to live with more happiness and positivity in the future. Recent research, for example, that highlights the benefits of “low-arousal” emotional states like calm and harmony can help us embrace the full range of positive emotions in addition to higher-energy feelings like excitement and joy.
Brain science, genetic research and sociological research on the impacts that national institutions have on happiness are other areas where science may hold keys to a happier human future.
At a time when headlines deliver such painful news, perhaps we can all take a moment to consider how these findings reflect our own experiences. Have you helped a stranger today, done an act of kindness or taken some deep, calming breaths to bring your body and mind into a moment of peace? Doing so can be the first step toward a (literal) world of happiness.