The Happiness Index

Happiness Index

“The most important thing is to enjoy your life-to be happy-it’s all that matters.”~~ Audrey Hepburn

Lately, the Happiness Index is being spoken about very frequently. Many opinions support it as a better indicator of growth than the prosperity/GDP etc. Finland is the happiest country in the world followed by Denmark, Norway, Iceland and the Netherlands holds the next top positions, as per the 2019 Happiness Index.

India was ranked at a dismal 144 as the United Nations released its latest World Happiness Report. A total of 156 nations were surveyed. India scored 3.573 points, ranking lower than Pakistan, which secured 5.693 points, ranking 66 out of all the countries surveyed. Mar 21, 2020

The question is, what does Happiness Index mean?

“Learn to value yourself, which means: fight for your happiness.” ~~ Ayn Rand

It is not just an Index, but also a development philosophy used to measure the collective happiness in a nation. The Happiness index, as a concept, was first used in Bhutan. It uses parameters like Housing, Income, Work, Community, Civic Engagement, Education, Environment, Health, Life Satisfaction, Safety, and Life-Work balance.

In 1979 the then king of Bhutan, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, said in an interview: “We do not believe in Gross National Product. Gross National Happiness is more important.” That is how the term ‘Happiness Index’ was coined. The concept of GNH has often been explained by its four pillars: good governance, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation, and environmental conservation and to create a widespread understanding of GNH and to reflect the holistic range of GNH values. Lately, these four pillars have been classified further into nine domains as have been classified further into nine domains as psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, resilience factor, and ecological diversity.

A lot of reports stating these indicators and their indicative values for different countries are available easily. So I would not go that direction but would instead point out that the income or what we have commonly known as the standard of living isn’t primarily the basis of the Happiness Index. It is more about the Quality of life, which includes the built environment, physical and mental health, education, recreation and leisure time, and social belonging as the standard indicators along with wealth and employment.

Happiness - Status of Mind

Does Happiness Index make sense?

“Happiness is when what you think, what you say, and what you do are in harmony.” ~~Mahatma Gandhi

It Does! It is a reflection of the Quality of Life. It is the indicator of the support systems, including the social safety net, integrated into the country’s culture that could be provided in a situation of any eventuality. It is a deliberation towards a lifestyle that propagates happiness and supports well-being by focussing on factors like income, freedom, trust, healthy life expectancy, social support, and generosity.

Short-term happiness is good. But would having an assurance to be taken care of in case of any eventuality, not increase the long-term happiness and give a sense of well-being. Probably that is why the countries with better quality public health care are found higher up on the Happiness Index list.

The situation of the Corona pandemic has only amplified this fact. Yes, happiness will not help create a vaccine or immunity against the virus for these countries but the high levels of trust in their citizens will propagate the

cooperation and attitude required to create a protective environment and to repair the damage and rebuild better lives. Social networks and their trust factor delivers a heightened sense of belonging, and pride that generates the willingness to work in harmony and help each other. These factors can act as a buffer in times of crisis and are often effective to compensate for the material losses.

Contrary to this, the chaotic situation in the United States (ranking 18th on the World Happiness Report) is the reflection of low trust in government and low performance and expectations of government by the public. Even without the impact of the coronavirus, the top 10 slots have been elusive for the world’s largest economies. The United Kingdom came in 13th place, while Germany came in 17th place. Japan’s 62nd place; Russia’s 73rd; and China’s 94th place confirms it beyond any doubt.

Coronavirus has made one significant and pressing impression: that there is no “us” and “them” in the world, but only “us”. It is a worldwide epidemic and it is all of us, as a world, fighting against this virus. There hasn’t ever been as much clarity about this ever before.

Another thing that has come out with absolute clarity is that active coping is vital. Powerlessness doesn’t make people happy, but taking control – even in chaotic circumstances like a pandemic – goes a long way to help us cope. Trying to do something rather than doing nothing is extremely important for resilience. This is a real opportunity, and we need to recognize it as such.

Why is Happiness Important

“Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.” ~~ Abraham Lincoln

Happiness is a fundamental and vital necessity to achieve life’s goals. It can help us achieve many other cherished personal ambitions and goals. Happiness is contagious. It not only affects you but it has positive effects on all those with whom you come into contact. It doesn’t just help the happy individual function better, rather happiness also brings substantial benefits for society as a whole.

Happiness has also been linked to better decision-making and improved creativity, two of the critical factors required to succeed. So, rather than success being the key to happiness, I see happiness as the collateral required to become successful. It’s not the reality that shapes us but the lens through which the brain views the world that shapes the reality. So, happiness is not the end but it is the beginning.

Happy Individuals = Contributing Individuals = Growth (Personal & Community)

Happiness - Purpose of Life

Happiness is not just a good feeling, it is the secret ingredient that contributes to making us healthier, more productive, and nicer. While happiness is about being able to make the most of the good times, but it surely is not about denying negative emotions or pretending to feel joyful all the time. Rather it is the ability to cope effectively with the inevitable bad times, to experience the best possible life overall. Happiness results in people:

  • Are more productive and more creative, thereby experiencing more success in multiple life domains, including marriage, friendship, income, work performance, and health.
  • Have more friends and a better support system.
  • Be more helpful and contribute more to charity, both with time and money.
  • Can engage in deeper and more meaningful conversations and have a positive influence on others.
  • Keep away from negative emotions like anger, despair, jealousy of others, etc. They keep happy with what they have while continuing to strive to achieve what they desire.
  • Happy people are healthier all around and more likely to stay healthy in the future.
  • Are engaged in healthy practices like smile more, exercise more often, and eat more healthily. Thus, happier people get sick less often, and experience fewer symptoms when they do get sick, and therefore tend to live longer than the ones who are not as happy.

So the Happiness Index is very important as Happiness does matter. Yes. Happiness is indeed an important thing in life, even scientific shreds of evidence are compelling. The pressures of contemporary society put the average person in a survival or existence mode. Fending to providing food, clothing, shelter, etc. often keeps from truly living, a happy and fulfilling life. Need to take control back in our own hands, stand back and refocus on what is important in life – make life meaningful and one with purpose. End of the day, all of us really just want to be happy, and we want the same for the people we love the most. Isn’t it? That is why Happiness matters so much.

Happiness is the meaning and the purpose of life, the whole aim, and end of human existence.” ~~ Aristotle


~~ Harish Kumar.

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