As far as I am concerned I think I am a fairly positive person and constantly seek out ways to keep myself happy. According to me happiness can only spread and if you are happy then the world around you is happy. Maybe that is why last Thursday when my husband sent me a link to read about the world’s happiest countries, it grabbed my complete attention and set me thinking.
The survey is conducted by a reputed research firm, Forbes and the results were released this month so from that point of view, it is quite professional and up-to-date.
List of the world’s happiest countries (in ascending order of the happiness quotient)
- New Zealand
- The Netherlands
I started looking for the common factor underlining these happy countries. As per the article the most obvious one was that they were all socialist countries with generous welfare benefits and fair redistribution of wealth giving abundant civil liberties and hence the happy people. But I was searching for more….
The Weather? Did you notice that most of these happy countries might not be too happy about their climatic condition? I mean it’s OK to have a ski vacation there where you can don your new snow suit, stand tentatively on your snow board and give a quick smile while you ask someone to take a picture, but living in that freezing weather day in and day out could be quite daunting, don’t you think? Isn’t the biting winter supposed to make people’s hearts cold and frigid? I completely believed in this logic until I had the opportunity to move to London. It was my first winter there – cold, wet and miserable with the sun, if it ever did show up, setting at 3 pm! However instead of moping about the gloomy weather, I used to bundle up my kids and escape to a friend’s house. Acquaintances at first we would sit by the fireplace and over a hot cup of tea and delicious English muffins our conversation would start of with the weather, leading to our hobbies, our lives and before we knew it a strong bond of friendship was formed! I think cold actually makes people warm, it is like coming together in unison to fight against a common enemy. Happiness is the obvious by-product! Just to add I had experienced the same warmth and hospitality extended by complete strangers during our holiday in Scotland.
Air quality? Most countries listed above have relatively clean, fresh air to breath. To breathe in deep gulps of oxygen without the fear of sucking in pollutants or harmful gases. That oxygen goes straight to our cells keeping them healthy. In fact that there was a study conducted in Canada on the link between air pollution and people’s happiness. Their analysis suggests that air pollution leads to unhappiness while the converse is also true. As we all know overpopulation, crowded streets, traffic blocks lead to pollution, which in turn causes irritation, anger and unhappiness in the citizens. I am still to find a pollution-free zone for my early morning jogs in Hong Kong!
Clean, green spaces: The endless view of a clear blue sky, the freedom to run around freely in the park without having to say “Excuse me” or “Sorry!”, or just plain walking on the streets without your elbow nudging into a stranger would keep one in a positive frame of mind if not ecstatically happy. Yet most of us living in these big, modern cities have to fight for space whether it is on the roads or sitting in the bus or standing in a lift. We search for places where we can breathe freely, take off on weekends to see a bit more of the sky and enjoy the greenery. Sometimes I have this big frown on my face and a curse on my lips the minute I step out from home. A sweeper pushing her handcart into me on the narrow footpath, a heavily built man who almost sits on my lap in the bus as the seats are ridiculously small, or a person who just about manages to cram himself into the already packed elevator making sure that someone steps on my toes in the bargain, are just a few reasons for that frown that is slowly turning into a wrinkle! Now do Norway or Canada face that problem? I don’t think so.
Would love to know if you could think of any more correlations?
Cheese Mehroo … they all have good cheese 🙂
Mehroo Turel says
I did include fresh produce but you bet I would have never thought of that!
Most of the countries you listed above also have a homogenous population. People talk about how these countries have a great welfare state, but one of the biggest reasons socialized healtcare works in these countries is because of homogeneity of the population. Satisfaction with the state is often a predictor of a country's happiness. I have a very good book called "The Welfare State" which discusses different countries and how the welfare system affects standard of living, happiness, life expectancy, life satisfaction etc.
Mehroo Turel says
Thanks Chermeen, I didn't know that. Is it homogeneity of the population in terms of income or interests? But probably both could lead to a stress free life and happiness. Hoping for some more comments from you in the future….happy reading!