Thursday, September 19, 2013

The happiest places on earth

They say ignorance is bliss. And I'm living proof, because I'm pretty darn happy most of the time. I attribute at least part of my cheery existence to a daring, down-home approach to day-to-day life that includes a TV-less existence when we stay on the beach in North Carolina and no cable or dish hook-up when we're back in the midwest. I only read news magazines while waiting for doctor and dentist appointments, and generally depend on the Star Courier, the Galva News, and National Public Radio--which is not exactly a bastion of the mainstream media--to function as my primary conduits to what's going on in the rest of the world.
So it was just dumb luck that I happened on a bit of world news that created a bit of a ripple a few days ago.
The Word Happiness Report, which was prepared by a United Nations-sponored outfit called the Sustainable Development Solutions Network (whew), somehow managed to rank the happiness of over 150 nations worldwide.
So here's the thing. While I was a little bit surprised to discover that the United States didn't even break into the top ten, I was really startled to find that a bunch of northern European countries, namely Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, the Netherlands and Sweden grabbed the top five spots, while us Yanks occupied 17th place. Countries like Canada (6th), Costa Rica (12th) and Mexico (16th) all beat us out on the happiness scale, though we were able to vanquish those grumps from the United Kingdom (22nd), France (25th) and Japan (43rd).
I wondered how they came up with these rankings. Did they tell jokes to different national groups to see who laughed first and loudest? Or did they tickle the president of every country to see if he or she would giggle?
Turns out the report is based on how people around the world rate their overall satisfaction with life, not just on how they feel at any moment. It shows that while economic conditions matter, factors such as life expectancy, freedom and social support do, too. The report says human happiness should be a more important part of how we measure nation-by-nation progress.
According to one article I read, the 2013 World Happiness Report comes on the back of a growing global movement calling for governments and policy makers to reduce their emphasis on achieving economic growth and focus on policies that can improve people's overall well-being.
Hmmm. So, in other words, it apparently takes more than money to find happiness.
Maybe they made some kind of mistake.
Or maybe not.

The top five:  Just what do they have to be so happy about?

Denmark: The birthplace of LEGOS.
Norway: They're happy just remembering those halcyon days when the vikings beat the bejeebers out of the rest of the world.
Switzerland: It's gotta be the chocolate
The Netherlands:  Amsterdam, anyone?
Sweden: It can't be lutefisk.

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