There was a lot of outrage on social media when the annual World Happiness Report was released recently, and revealed that India ranked in the bottom 125 (out of 137) on the index. Although India’s position has improved from 136 in last year’s report, it remains below neighboring Pakistan and Bangladesh. And surprisingly, the two nations that tore themselves apart in war – Russia and Ukraine – ranked above India.
However, despite the heated debate on Twitter about how the questions asked in the survey are skewed towards Western society, and how the survey is biased against India, a completely different question was stirring in my mind.
What does happiness really mean? Is there the same definition for every person? Does it depend on external factors? Or is happiness deep within us? And is it up to each of us to dig and find? And in the context of the World Happiness Report, does it make sense to try to measure happiness on a sliding scale when it’s a fleeting feeling rather than an easily quantifiable quality?
Of course, there are traditional markers for happiness: a stable job, disposable income, a stable family life, good health. It would be fair to say that their presence doesn’t necessarily make you happy, but the absence of any (or all) of the above makes you actively unhappy.
But if you were to conduct a happiness audit in your life, how would it go? What are the things that contribute to your happiness?
Speaking for myself, it’s the little joys in life that make me happy. They may seem insignificant on their own but they have a cumulative effect, adding immeasurably to contributing to my overall sense of well-being.
· Enjoy a good book. It doesn’t matter if I’m reading a physical book or on my Kindle app. It doesn’t matter if it’s an improvisational tome or a bestselling thriller. As long as I have a good book to get stuck into, all is right in my world.
· A few hours spent in nature. It doesn’t have to travel to a scenic location and marvel at the mountains or scream at the ocean. It can be something as mundane as walking in the park and enjoying the vibrancy of spring flowers, or watching the leaves on the trees change with the seasons. Breathing in some fresh air is all it takes to make me feel better.
· Potter in the kitchen. There’s something oddly comforting about mechanically chopping and slicing, carefully stirring a pot on the stove, and being rewarded with a dish that delivers on the promise contained in its recipe. Not to mention, there is joy involved in feeding the ones you love.
· Writing for me. By which, I mean writing that is not meant for other people’s eyes. personal and private writing; Writing helps me negotiate my own feelings; An article that helps me understand my world. If I don’t have that, nothing else will be enough to make me happy.
So yes, I know it’s a cliché, but it’s true. Real happiness comes from within, not from without. And how can you possibly measure it in an index?
From HT Brunch, April 1, 2023
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