FE Lines: The pursuit of happiness

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November 22, 2020 4:30 AM

Why are some societies happier than others? Do emotions motivate and inspire us to be productive and take control of our lives?

A file photo of people celebrating Midsummer Eve Festival in Helsinki, Finland. The 2020 World Happiness Report ranked Finland as number one among 153 countries in global happiness rankings for the third year in a row (Credit: Reuters)

Measuring happiness is a fairly complicated business. It comes when you feel satisfied and fulfilled, a feeling of contentment that life is just as it should be. The book, The Art of Happiness, offers practical wisdom and advice on how one can overcome everyday problems and achieve lasting happiness. Combining the Dalai Lama’s eastern spiritual tradition with Howard C Cutler’s western perspective, the book is an accessible guide for a western audience, covering all key areas of human experience and exploring how one can find balance and spiritual and mental freedom.

The 2020 World Happiness Report ranked Finland as number one (among 153 countries) in the global happiness rankings for the third year in a row. Denmark comes second and Switzerland ranks third. This continues a longstanding trend of Scandinavian and European countries ranking among the happiest in the world. They rank highly in all six fundamental factors used in the report to explain happiness differences between countries: healthy life expectancy, social support, GDP per capita, perceived levels of corruption, generosity and a sense of freedom to make key life decisions.

The 2020 edition of the report also addresses another hot topic in happiness research: the happiness difference between urban and rural areas. The report finds that city dwellers are on an average happier than those in rural areas, especially in less developed countries. But among the most developed countries this is often reversed. In more developed countries, the report finds that high costs of living, weaker communities and more people living alone can lower average happiness levels in cities as compared to rural areas.

Meanwhile, Copenhagen’s Happiness Research Institute, an independent thinktank exploring why some societies are happier than others, opened the world’s first museum dedicated to happiness. Located in Denmark, which currently holds the title of the second happiest country on the planet, the museum website states, “We all seem to be looking for happiness—but perhaps we are looking in the wrong places. We have gotten richer as societies but often failed to become happier. Therefore, the Happiness Research Institute decided to create a museum where we can bring happiness to life.”

A small museum about the big things in life, it explains why Denmark is often called the happiest country on earth, what hygge has got to do with it and how you can measure something as subjective as happiness. It covers the history and geography of a country that fares well on the atlas of happiness, the science behind happiness, how it changes with age, the difference between fake and genuine smiles, and the future of how artificial intelligence becomes emotional intelligence.

Open to the public now, CNN reported that the museum is a cozy 240-sq-m space. Meik Wiking, CEO, Happiness Research Institute, says in the report, “I think people imagine that the Institute is like a magical place—a room full of puppies or ice cream—but we are just eight people sitting in front of computers looking at data,” he explains. “So we thought, why don’t we create a place where people can experience happiness from different perspectives and give them an exhibition where they can become a little bit wiser around some of the questions we try to solve?”

Clearly, the term ‘happiness’ is used in the context of mental or emotional states, including positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Emotions motivate, inspire and energise us to be productive and take control of professional, as well as personal lives. “Emotions drive us… and happiness is the primary emotion that can maximise potential… and that has not yet been truly leveraged in the Indian workspace,” says Namrata Tata, managing partner of Happyness.me, a consulting division of House of Cheer, a service media, entertainment and technology hub specialising in creation, curation and consultancy, founded by entrepreneur Raj Nayak.

Happyness.me has programmes with regular, happiness audits to help teams prioritise mental and emotional well-being of people. “Using behavioural psychology, neuroscience and data analytics—with inputs from experts in the field—combined with the team’s extensive experience leading large-scale operations, we have developed a service to measure the happiness quotient within an organisation and provide solutions to empower leaders and inspire teams,” says Tata. To visualise company culture and implement strategies to create a happy flourishing working environment, the future of work will look very different in terms of how people work. Effectively engaging and communicating with people is increasingly becoming a new set of emotional skills and insight.

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