"Leaders can begin to take a look at HDI scores and match HDI scores with happiness scores to see if the scores are close or far apart. If the happiness scores are very low for example and the HDI scores are very high, the low happiness scores should create an alarm that triggers immediate response to salient social issues that may be agitating a constituency." Lemuel Baker, Ph.D
I became cognizant of the importance of 'happiness' being an essential part of my life as a result of an annual doctor's visit, a doctor recommended to me by a friend who I respected. The young doctor just starting his practice asked me this question with confidence "when was the last time you were happy?" I was a little disoriented by the question but took the challenge and began reflecting backwards and all I could come up with was a cloud of sorrow after sorrow and admitted to the doctor "I don't know if I've ever been truly happy." He smiled knowing that the probability of me saying I had been happy was low. He then began to give me tips, research data along with the benefits of personal intentional happiness and sharing with me the problems associated with a life that has not experienced happiness.
This realization happened over 22 years ago, seems like a lifetime ago but as you will realize, it began to change my life because now I was armed with knowledge. The truth is at that time in my life my heart and mind were not disciplined to access and to readily enjoy the many wonderful moments experienced as a child, teen and young adult as I frequently do today - too many to tell at one setting. Today I can place sorrowful times in context and figuratively speaking allow the sunshine of the good times to continually illuminate my 24-hour day.
Take a moment and reflect, and ask yourself, 'when was the last time you were truly happy?' If you cannot identify a moment or a recent time it may be time to make a change. If you can identify a moment but they are far apart then it may be time to make those moments regular occurrences in your life. You are missing out on one of life's greatest experiences, deep enjoyment rather than mere existence.
Here is an easy diagnostic question to consider. If we grew up with parents or guardians who themselves were never happy nor emulated happiness to us the probability that we ourselves will not experience happiness is at least 50% because some individuals have said 'I don't want to be like my parents' and break out of the mold. However many unconsciously continue the generational habit until someone points out to us they've never seen us happy.
The first obstacle that opposes happiness is an idea and attitude regarding happiness which says happiness is associated with a life of vanity or is unintelligent. You will understand that being happy is essential thus the intelligent thing to incorporate into our lives, that happiness is not vain but associated with a long satisfying life and higher quality of life. We consider the notion of happiness adversely because we may conflate mental health disorders such as 'pathological laughter' uncontrollable laughter due to a brain injury, sudden unset of Multiple Sclerosis, some tumors that cause seizures that include laughter and a very obvious developmental disability that includes uncontrollable laughter. These are just a few disorders that cause uncontrollable laughter but ironically these individuals are being challenged emotionally or clinically definitely not happy.
Genuine happiness is rooted in total coherence and in a life experiencing total well-being. Many of us also shy away from the experience of happiness because some people are irresponsible, using the concept of happiness as a crutch to shirk their responsibility to a marriage, to their children, employer or to the community at large. We should not conflate any of these situations that would cloud the reality of genuine happiness as part of a human beings gift from God that enhances our quality of life.
Happiness is a positive emotion unlike sadness which is a negative emotion. Happy people can expect their minds to open up to be more creative unlike sadness that constricts the mind to a pin point and focuses on the trouble itself. There is a mind-body connection and happy people can expect better health and a better immune system. The emotions of peace, rest, tranquility, contentment, relaxation, joy, excitement and passion are part of the family of happiness and results in being able to embrace the larger picture and to problem solve. Happy individuals are highly productive and highly creative with their spouses, family members, with friends, in the work place and in their communities. Happy people give the best presents and are thoughtful.
Here are some benefits that are essential to our quality of life. When we are happy we manage our lives better, we manage our calories and exercise so we are healthier, we learn and teach better, we make the best employees, our bosses and co-workers actually like us, we contribute substantively, we are more fun and others want to be around us and we have the benefit of being friends and having friendships. Just a light soft loving touch from a spouse, friend or family member significantly lowers our blood pressure.
Conversely negative emotions cause wear and tear on our bodies eventually contributing to illnesses such as heart disease, strokes and diabetes to name a few. Happy people are more likely to marry, will never become an old maid-male or female, have richer social interactions, never lonely having a large support system, can cope well, rebound from crisis, in trials can still genuinely rejoice, investigate the unknown by seeking answers to a crisis question, feel younger, look younger and live longer. Happy people pursue their dreams and help others reach their dreams. By the way for the most part people get fired as a result of bad relationships rather than for a technical mistake. Happiness is even essential in the workplace for promotion and longgevity.
So then, is America Happy?
Some of the worlds most influential people, trend setters, celebrities live in the United States yet America is not the happiest country in the world. You see happiness is a choice, finding what you were born to do and eventually seeing it come to pass. Those who ruthlessly seek wealth, hoard wealth not caring about others close off themselves to happiness. According to a 2017 United Nations Happiness Survey of >150 countries inconjunction with Gallup, the United States ranks number 14 among the worlds happiest countries which seems counter-intuitive given all the resources we have. The countries listed below are based on Gallup World Poll surveys conducted during 2014 through 2016.
1. Norway 2. Denmark 3. Iceland 4. Switzerland 5. Finland 6. Netherlands 7. Canada 8. New Zealand 9. Australia 10. Sweden 11. Israel 12. Costa Rica 13. Austria 14. United States 15. Ireland 16. Germany 17. Belgium 18. Luxembourg 19. United Kingdom 20. Chile 21. United Arab Emirates 22. Brazil 23. Czech Republic 24. Argentina 25. Mexico 26. Singapore 27. Malta 28. Uruguay 29. Guatemala 30. Panama 31. France 32. Thailand 33. Taiwan 34. Spain 35. Qatar 36. Colombia 37. Saudi Arabia 38.Trinidad & Tobago 39. Kuwait 40. Slovakia
41. Bahrain 42. Malaysia 43. Nicaragua 44. Ecuador 45. El Salvador 46. Poland 47. Uzbekistan 48. Italy 49. Russia 50. Belize 51. Japan 52. Lithuania 53. Algeria 54. Latvia 55. South Korea 56. Moldova 57. Romania 58. Bolivia 59. Turkmenistan 60. Kazakhstan 61. Northern Cyprus 62. Slovenia 63. Peru 64. Mauritius 65. Cyprus 66. Estonia 67. Belarus 68. Libya 69. Turkey 70. Paraguay 71. Hong Kong 72. Philippines 73. Serbia 74. Jordan 75. Hungary 76. Jamaica 77. Croatia 78. Kosovo 79. China 80. Pakistan 81. Indonesia 82. Venezuela 83. Montenegro 84. Morocco 85. Azerbaijan 86. Dominican Republic 87. Greece 88. Lebanon 89. Portugal 90. Bosnia and Herzegovina 91. Honduras 92. Macedonia 93. Somalia 94. Vietnam 95. Nigeria 96. Tajikistan 97. Bhutan 98. Kyrgyzstan 99. Nepal 100. Mongolia 101. South Africa 102. Tunisia 103. Palestinian Territories 104. Egypt 105. Bulgaria 106. Sierra Leone 107. Cameroon 108. Iran 109. Albania 110. Bangladesh 111. Namibia 112. Kenya 113. Mozambique 114. Myanmar 115. Senegal 116. Zambia 117. Iraq 118. Gabon 119. Ethiopia 120. Sri Lanka 121. Armenia 122. India 123. Mauritania 124. Congo - Brazzaville 125. Georgia 126. Congo - Kinshasa 127. Mali 128. Ivory Coast 129. Cambodia 130. Sudan 131. Ghana 132. Ukraine 133 Uganda 134. Burkina Faso 135. Niger 136. Malawi 137. Chad 138. Zimbabwe 139. Lesotho 140. Angola 141. Afghanistan 142. Botswana 143. Benin 144. Madagasca 145. Haiti 146. Yemen 147. South Sudan 148. Liberia 149. Guinea 150. Togo 151. Rwanda 152. Syria 153. Tanzania 154. Burundi 155. Central African Republic
So is Our World Happy?
The United Nations and Gallup surveys include questions such as " do you see yourself at the top of the ladder or at the bottom of the ladder?" Another question asked is " how do you rate your life from 1 to 10 with ten being the best score?" The top of the ladder response was scored a ten. The top 10 happiest countries in order from most happy to least happy are Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland,, Finland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Australia and Sweden. Israel ranks No. 11 and the United States currently ranks No.14. On the other hand Syrians #152, Burundians #154 and Central African nations #155 rate their lives as very bad.
In the UK for example, in 2016 their GDP grew at an average of 2% and unemployment dropped to 4.9% yet there was a Brexit. Happiness was the predominant variable as oppossed to HDI, human development index used by the United Nations to measure life satisfaction world wide. Along side the steady economic growth in the UK there was a 15 point decline in the number of people who said they were happy. They felt life was not better for them. Happiness affects elections. The Arab uprisings were a result of low happiness scores among the populations represented. Indicators such as increasing GDP and HDI scores in Egypt #104, Syria #152, Tunisia #102 and Bahrain #41 did not predict an uprising but the low happiness scores certainly did.
The 188 countries that comprise the United Nations' Human Development Index - HDI life satisfaction scoring shows different rankings for each country when compared with the UN - Gallup World Happiness Survey except for the following countries whose HDI scores and happiness scores are very close. Norway is the only country that had the same #1 ranking in both the HDI life satisfaction scores and the Gallup World Happiness survey scores. Australia #2 #9, Switzerland #2 #4, Germany #4 #16, Denmark #5 #2, Netherlands #7 #6, Iceland #9 #3, Canada #10 #7 and the United States #10 #14 show HDI and Happiness scores that are very close indicating these countries were heading in the right direction statistically for the survey period. These scores are fluid and can change with salient issues.
Leaders can begin to take a look at HDI scores and match HDI scores with happiness scores to see if the scores are close or far apart. If the happiness scores are very low for example and the HDI scores are very high, the low happiness scores should create an alarm that triggers immediate response to salient social issues that may be aggitating a constituency. Finland for example has an HDI score of 23 meaning the economy ranks well as the top 23rd economy in the world among the 188 economies measured world wide by the United Nations but is the 5th happiest country in the world. Finns are happy with their lifestyle and quality of life while maintaining a good economy, not the richest economy in the world but something they can live with given their quality of life overall. Finns not only choose to be happy but identify what is really most important to them.
Top 51 Global HDI Rankings
Note several countries show a tie such as Australia and Switzerland tied for 2nd place.
1. Norway 2 Australia 2 Switzerland 4 Germany 5 Denmark 5 Singapore 7 Netherlands 9 Iceland 10 Canada
10. United States 12 Hong Kong, China (SAR) 13 New Zealand 14 Sweden 15 Liechtenstein 16 United Kingdom
17. Japan 18 Korea (Republic of) 19 Israel 20 Luxembourg 21 France 22 Belgium 23 Finland 24 Austria
25. Slovenia 26 Italy 27 Spain 28 Czech Republic 29 Greece 30 Brunei Darussalam 30 Estonia 32 Andorra 33 Cyprus
33. Malta 33 Qatar 36 Poland 37 Lithuania 38 Chile 38 Saudi Arabia 40 Slovakia 41. Portugal 42 United Arab Emirates
43 Hungary 44 Latvia 45 Argentina 45 Croatia 47 Bahrain 48 Montenegro
49. Russian Federation 50 Romania 51 Kuwait
The following countries showed noticeable HIGH HUMAN DEVELOPMENT for this period:
52. Belarus 52 Oman 54 Barbados 54 Uruguay 56 Bulgaria 56 Kazakhstan 58 Bahamas 59 Malaysia 60 Palau 60 Panama
62. Antigua and Barbuda 63 Seychelles 64 Mauritius 65 Trinidad and Tobago 66 Costa Rica 66 Serbia 68 Cuba
69 Iran (Islamic Republic of) 70 Georgia 71.Turkey 71. Venezuela (Bolivarian Republic of) 73 Sri Lanka
74 Saint Kitts and Nevis 75 Albania 76 Lebanon 77 Mexico 78. Azerbaijan 79 Brazil 79 Grenada 81 Bosnia and Herzegovina 82.The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
So what is the secret?
The degree to which people rate their lives, do they feel good about their standard of living, do they feel good about themselves are important indicators just as the economy and jobs have been important indicators. Interestingly however people reported positive emotions in war challenged countries such as Israel according to Gallup and reported to be happy. Also many countries such as Chile #20, Brazil #22, Argentina #24, Mexico #25, Uruguay #28, Guatemala #29 and Panama #30 report a high degree of happiness despite their low GDP and low employment status. There are certain countries that make a decision to be happy regardless of their economic or political challenges. The secret is happiness begins on the inside, is a result of a decision, cultural and can quench sadness. Clinically, sadness that is medically disgnosed as part of clinical depression may require medical care, carefully prescribed medication and behavioral modification so do not be afraid to see your physician. But spiritually, God releases happiness as a gift in our human spirit that explodes, drowning out the effects of our negative situations.
Paul and Silas are excellent examples as they rejoiced in the midst of a horrible experience inside the dungeon called The Mamertine Prison located in Rome, Italy. Happiness is addictive and once we experience genuine happiness we never want to go back to mere existence! When we experience true happiness we anticipate deep satisfaction when we share our happiness with others.
Proverbs 17:22 records " A cheerful heart is good medicine, but a crushed spirit dries up the bones." Proverbs 3:13 records " O the happiness of a man who hath found wisdom, And of a man who bringeth forth understanding."
Pragmatically when we are in some form of distress, happiness comes when we get the answers we need to solve our life's problems, this includes a good education.The greatest wisdom however is to discover that humans were created to fellowship with God and that guilt causes sadness. Unless we can genuinely experience peace with God and with our fellow man happiness will always be far from us. Apologetically after research I've concluded that the claims of the Bible are historically, archaeologically and scientifically true so I accept the claim that Jesus Christ is indeed the Messiah who takes away the sins and guilt of the world. I have given my sin to Him and in return He has given me eternal life, peace and happiness.
Summary - "Happiness is a positive emotion. There is a mind-body connection and happy people can expect better health and a better immune system. Happy individuals are highly productive and highly creative.. Just a light soft loving touch from a spouse, friend or family member significantly lowers our blood pressure. Happiness is a choice. Happiness begins on the inside. Happiness is addictive and once we experience genuine happiness we never want to go back to mere existence. Happiness comes when we get the answers we need to solve our life's problems."