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Is Happiness Possible? How?

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Deepa is a freelance researcher and journalist. She writes and makes documentaries and videos.

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Where to Begin to Understand Happiness?

In my search to find an answer to the above question, first I found the book, ‘The Science of Subjective Well-Being” by Michael Eid and Randy J. Larsen. The book narrates the story of Ed Diener, a pioneer in the study of subjective well-being.

Ed Diener, the Happiness Scientist

Ed Diener is one of the most significant scientists who have studied the human sense of well-being. He published an article titled, ’Subjective Well-Being” in 1984. His parents owned a big farm. When he was a student in school, he submitted a research proposal to his teacher to measure the happiness of farmworkers. The teacher rejected the proposal on two grounds- one, he did not think happiness can be measured, and two, he thought farm workers could not be happy. This was an eye-opening moment for Diener. Later in his life, Ed Diener working with a team of scientists, developed a Satisfaction with Life Scale. He found scientific ways to measure happiness. However, Diener did not offer a single stop solution to understand what percentage of people are happy with their lives and why. His research proved that the happiest people in any sample are highly sociable, with good romantic and social connections, and that the social environment affects people’s happiness.


The book, ‘The Science of Subjective Well-Being”, observes that in western countries, happiness is related to independence and a sense of meaning but not so much in Eastern cultures. Interesting, isn’t it?


Do you know that ancient cultures talked more often about happiness than modern civilization? It is a fact. In modern society, moral behaviour became more important than happiness, if one is to measure by the volume of discourse that happened on both sides, then and now. The simple reason for this could be the growth of individualism. Individual authority brings more moral responsibility.


A Survey on Happiness

Ipsos Global Advisor conducted a happiness study involving 28 countries in 2019 and reported that 64% of the global adults are either very happy or rather happy. According to this study, Australia and Canada are the happiest countries. The study also reported that the greatest source of happiness for people across the globe is good health and physical well-being. Next in the line is children, and then the relationship that people have with their spouse or partner. The fourth position belongs to a sense of meaning and the fifth position is commanded by safety and security. Now we are beginning to get an idea of what happiness is, aren’t we? For the people of Brazil, Canada, Columbia, Japan and Malaysia, the greatest source of happiness is their children. For the people of Belgium, the greatest source of happiness is a feeling that their lives have meaning. For the people of some other countries, it is safety and security. So, where do you belong? Belgium?


Post-Pandemic World and Happiness

A 2020 study conducted by NORC, University of Chicago, found that Americans are at their unhappiest moment in the last 50 years. The UN-supported World Happiness Report that came out in March 2022 meanwhile found that Finland for the 5th consecutive year bagged the position of the happiest country in the world. The report also shows that worldwide, acts of kindness are on the rise. At least that is one reason to be happy about the state of the world! The first and foremost reason cited for Finland’s people being happy is- the state and its institutions take care of most of the people’s needs. A truly welfare state can bring happiness to its people.


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Harvard Study on Happiness

The results of a Harvard study that spanned 80 years came out in 2017. The study revealed that good relationships have a positive impact on health and happiness and that a lonely life reduces your mental and physical health.


The Okinawan Revelations

While studying the people in Okinawa, one of the longest-living populations on earth, Dan Buettner, in his book, ‘The Blue Zones of Happiness: Secrets of the World’s Happiest Places”, identified many factors that helped them live happily for a longer time- they walk more, they have a simple sense of purpose in life, they have relaxation routines such as prayer sessions and happy hours, they eat only to fill 80% of their stomach, they eat more vegetables than meat, they drink alcohol moderately, they belong to the community more, they take care of children and old people more, and they move in the right group of people, that is, a tight group of good friends.

These are the ways to be happy. Happy?


References

The Science of Subjective Well-Being, Michael Eid and Randy J. Larsen, 2008.

Global Happiness Study: What Makes People Happy Around the World, Ipsos Global Advisor, 2019.

Americans are the Unhappiest They’ve been in 50 Years, Poll Finds, 2020, nbcnews.com

Ranked: The 20 Happiest Countries in the World in 2022, Forbes.com.

Good Genes Are Nice, But Joy is Better, 2017, The Harvard Gazette.

‘The Blue Zones of Happiness: Secrets of the World’s Happiest Places”, Dan Buettner, 2017.


This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2022 Deepa

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