Are you happy today?

Everyday we do various things to keep ourselves happy. They could be simple tasks like listening to our favourite music or having a hot cup of chai (tea) on a cold winter day or pampering ourselves with a full body massage in an aromatic spa! It could be something more intense like searching for our true love or taking on a physical or spiritual quest high up on the Himalayas! Wherever we go, whatever we do what we do not realise is that we come right back home to seek true happiness. Cause happiness lies within, lies in our bodies, in that chemical called endorphins trapped inside our brain, which is waiting for a trigger to be released into our system, to give us that much needed boost in our everyday life.

As far as I am concerned I think I am a fairly positive person and constantly seek out ways to keep myself happy. According to me happiness can only spread and if you are happy then the world around you is happy. Maybe that is why last Thursday when my husband sent me a link to read about the world's happiest countries, it grabbed my complete attention and set me thinking.

The survey is conducted by a reputed research firm, Forbes and the results were released this month so from that point of view, it is quite professional and up-to-date.

List of the world's happiest countries (in ascending order of the happiness quotient)

  1. Norway
  2. Denmark
  3. Sweden
  4. Australia
  5. New Zealand
  6. Canada
  7. Finland
  8. The Netherlands
  9. Switzerland
  10. Ireland

I started looking for the common factor underlining these happy countries. As per the article the most obvious one was that they were all socialist countries with generous welfare benefits and fair redistribution of wealth giving abundant civil liberties and hence the happy people. But I was searching for more....

The Weather? Did you notice that most of these happy countries might not be too happy about their climatic condition? I mean it's OK to have a ski vacation there where you can don your new snow suit, stand tentatively on your snow board and give a quick smile while you ask someone to take a picture, but living in that freezing weather day in and day out could be quite daunting, don't you think? Isn't the biting winter supposed to make people's hearts cold and frigid? I completely believed in this logic until I had the opportunity to move to London. It was my first winter there - cold, wet and miserable with the sun, if it ever did show up, setting at 3 pm! However instead of moping about the gloomy weather, I used to bundle up my kids and escape to a friend's house. Acquaintances at first we would sit by the fireplace and over a hot cup of tea and delicious English muffins our conversation would start of with the weather, leading to our hobbies, our lives and before we knew it a strong bond of friendship was formed! I think cold actually makes people warm, it is like coming together in unison to fight against a common enemy. Happiness is the obvious by-product! Just to add I had experienced the same warmth and hospitality extended by complete strangers during our holiday in Scotland.

Air quality? Most countries listed above have relatively clean, fresh air to breath. To breathe in deep gulps of oxygen without the fear of sucking in pollutants or harmful gases. That oxygen goes straight to our cells keeping them healthy. In fact that there was a study conducted in Canada on the link between air pollution and people's happiness. Their analysis suggests that air pollution leads to unhappiness while the converse is also true. As we all know overpopulation, crowded streets, traffic blocks lead to pollution, which in turn causes irritation, anger and unhappiness in the citizens.  I am still to find a pollution-free zone for my early morning jogs in Hong Kong!

Clean, green spaces: The endless view of a clear blue sky, the freedom to run around freely in the park without having to say "Excuse me" or "Sorry!", or just plain walking on the streets without your elbow nudging into a stranger would keep one in a positive frame of mind if not ecstatically happy. Yet most of us living in these big, modern cities have to fight for space whether it is on the roads or sitting in the bus or standing in a lift. We search for places where we can breathe freely, take off on weekends to see a bit more of the sky and enjoy the greenery. Sometimes I have this big frown on my face and a curse on my lips the minute I step out from home. A sweeper pushing her handcart into me on the narrow footpath, a heavily built man who almost sits on my lap in the bus as the seats are ridiculously small, or a person who just about manages to cram himself into the already packed elevator making sure that someone steps on my toes in the bargain, are just a few reasons for that frown that is slowly turning into a wrinkle! Now do Norway or Canada face that problem? I don't think so.

Fresh local produce: As I went through the country list one more time another thought came to my mind. Maybe the people in countries like Australia, New Zealand, Finland and Denmark eat fresher, healthier foodstuff than their counterparts in other countries. Vegetables could be as fresh as grown in your back garden or in shared organic farms and milk could be as fresh as straight from the cow or a sheep grazing in a nearby field! Meats might not need preservatives as you can buy  fresh stock straight from your neighbourhood butcher and bread if not from the local bakery could be just baked at home! Does fresh food trigger some chemical in our brain leading to happiness? Maybe, maybe not. But it is definitely food for thought, don't you think?

Would love to know if you could think of any more correlations?

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