Measuring happiness | Daily News


Measuring happiness

What is happiness? It is a state of mind, a state of contentment with one’s circumstances. We have all heard the saying “money cannot buy happiness” (there are different views on this – just see our Thought for the Day below), which implies that being rich does not necessarily translate into being a happy person.

Today, on the International Day of Happiness, a United Nations declared and recognized day, is an opportunity for people around the world to gauge how happy they are and how they can make their lives happier. Since 2013, the United Nations has celebrated the International Day of Happiness as a way to recognize the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world.

In 2015, the UN launched the 17 Sustainable Development Goals that seek to end poverty, reduce inequality and protect our planet – three key aspects that lead to well-being and happiness. The United Nations invites each person of any age, plus every classroom, business and government to join in celebration of the International Day of Happiness. Moreover, experts on happiness from around the world are meeting in Miami, USA as we write at the World Happiness Summit.

How important is happiness in our lives? Many countries are now considering happiness as an “index” that is even more important than the usual monetary indices such as Gross Domestic Product. Bhutan was one of the first countries to have a Happiness Index and now the UN has followed suit, measuring countries in terms of happiness. According to the UN, the top 10 countries with the happiest people are Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia. All the top countries tend to have high values for all six of the key variables that have been found to support well-being: a good income, healthy life expectancy, social support, freedom, trust and generosity. Sri Lanka, at 116, does not have a very high ranking in this report, but many other surveys have shown that most Sri Lankans, rich or poor, are happy with their circumstances.

One way of achieving happiness is to take life as it comes. The Buddhist concepts of Karma (fate) and Upekkha (equanimity - a perfect, unshakable balance of mind, rooted in insight) have permeated the entire Sri Lankan society. This is the reason why Sri Lankans can bounce back from even the worst of disasters and predicaments such as a civil war and a tsunami with their heads held high. Lost your job? Just shrug it off and move on. Lost your purse? Just my luck, you would say and move on.

In Sri Lanka, religion plays a major role in making people feel blessed and blissful. Today, on Medin Poya Day, Buddhists will participate in religious observances at temples islandwide. At least for one day, they will focus solely on spiritual matters, leaving out worries and stress – in other words, they will be in a state of happiness, albeit one arising from Buddhist concepts and values. After all, it was on a Medin Full Poya day that the Buddha, along with 20,000 disciples’ trekked from Veluwanaramaya, Rajagriha, to Kimbulwathpura to meet his father, King Suddodhana, relatives and friends of the Sakhya Clan. Needless to say, they were elated to see the Enlightened One. All religions have the power and the potential to make their followers happy.

People in many countries have expressions that help them to cope with stress and be happy again. In South India as well as Sri Lanka, we often say “Aiyo” when something bad happens, but just as quickly, recover from that ordeal to focus on what lies ahead. This word has now entered the English dictionaries as well. In Denmark, one of the happiest countries on Earth, people just say “Pyt” -- which sort of sounds like “pid” when they have to get over a rough patch. It was recently voted the most popular word by Danes.

Pyt doesn’t have an exact English translation and is usually expressed as an interjection in reaction to a daily hassle, frustration or mistake. It most closely translates to the English sayings, “Don’t worry about it,” “stuff happens” or “oh, well.” At its core, it is about accepting and resetting. It is used as a reminder to step back and refocus rather than overreact. Instead of assigning blame to yourself or anyone else, it is a way to let go and move on. Pyt can reduce stress because it is a sincere attempt to encourage yourself and others to not get bogged down by minor daily frustrations. In fact, Danish schools have ‘Pyt buttons’ in classrooms for students to let out steam.

De-stressing is thus the key to happiness in this highly commercialized world. It is also the key to living a longer, more meaningful and active life. Instead of worrying about everything around us, it is time to count our blessings and focus on the good things in life. Life is too short to worry about unnecessary things – strive to add life to your years, not years to your life.

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