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The pursuit of happiness

on Fri, 03/20/2015 - 12:59

What does it mean to be happy? On an individual level, a career, a family, a social life, a home, a hobby, education and health could define happiness. Happiness has long been a holistic approach based on the fundamental idea that material and tangible gain must be balanced with emotional and social well-being.

The International Day of Happiness is March 20th and was declared a holiday by the United Nations to celebrate the happiness of individual nations across the globe. Countries looked at Gross National Product and realized that simply looking at the bottom line in terms of income doesn’t define the well-being of the country as a whole. Social and environmental considerations are equally as important.

The Sustainable Development Solutions Network releases an annual report that measures the happiness of 150 nations around the world. According to the 2013 report, the five happiest nations are: Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands, and Sweden.  According to the SDSN, there are six factors that had the highest impact on the results: Real GDP per capita, healthy life expectance, having someone to count on, perceived freedom to make life choices, freedom from corruption, and generosity.

The global community brings focus today on happiness as a way to celebrate a sustainable, progressive future based on income, social, and environmental success. Happiness is such a priority across so many disciplines that a Scopus search using the word alone generates more than 15,000 results.

In terms of number of documents, the top five journal in our Scopus search for happiness were Social Indicators Research, Journal of Happiness Studies, Emotion, Cognition and Emotion, and Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. The most popular article was, quite aptly, Positive psychology. An introduction. by Martin Seligman and Mihály Csikszentmihalyi (cited by 2688 documents).

Finding happiness may often seem an impossible task, yet it could be much simpler than we tend to think. As British mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell once wrote:

“The secret of happiness is very simply this: let your interests be as wide as possible, and let your reactions to the things and persons that interest you be as far as possible friendly rather than hostile.”