What does “happiness” mean to you? Is it a healthy body? Is it a healthy bank balance? Is it healthy relationships? Or maybe happiness for you has nothing to do with any sort of health … it’s just an indefinable moment of pleasure that once experienced, makes you crave for more.

Different people have different perceptions of happiness, making it traditionally a very hard concept to define. There is, however, actually a body of hard science measuring this elusive state. One of these measures is the World Happiness Report, which publishes an annual report on global levels of happiness.

How Happy are We?

The not-so-happy news from the latest World Happiness Report is that, overall, people aren’t very happy! Of the 155 countries surveyed, the report reveals a very mediocre happiness score of 5/10. Half of the surveyed population isn’t happy!

The second startling finding of the 2017 report is that happiness cannot be reduced to physical health or GDP (“income”), even though they are both key measures of happiness. Strong social connections and community are the most fundamental components of happiness!

This is proved by the fact that poorer, unhealthier countries like Mexico, Costa Rica, etc., often rank higher than the richer, healthier countries. Productivity-obsessed USA and China are seeing happiness levels fall over the years despite per capita incomes growing higher.

The World Happiness Report uses six variables to measure happiness levels:

  • Income

  • Healthy life expectancy

  • Having someone to count on in times of trouble (social connection / community)

  • Generosity

  • Freedom

  • Trust (or absence of corruption) in business and government

Why Happiness Matters

Happiness is no longer a new-age hippie quest. Increasing scientific evidence shows that it impacts all aspects of life, from the physical health of individuals to employee productivity and, therefore, economic health of countries.

Governments all over the world are realising this and taking steps like setting up ministries for happiness (UAE) and ministries to tackle loneliness (UK).

Increasing Happiness Levels

Now that we know how important happiness is, how can we increase our levels of happiness?

  • Increase social connections

  • Emphasize technology disconnections (get off social media to actually socialise!)

  • Engage in activities that add meaning to your life beyond the daily work routine like volunteering at animal shelters or homes for the elderly

  • Become part of a larger community, whether it is a running group, a mahjong team, a yoga class, a book club, etc.

  • Live in the present moment

Happiness is your birthright, don’t let the pressures of modern life take that away from you!