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Happiness is in the eye of the beholder

Mar 24,2018 - Last updated at Mar 24,2018

The international effort to judge which country is the "happiest" to live in, and which one is the least is like a woman looking at the mirror and asking who is the prettiest of them all! Happiness is so subjective, and by and large it is in the eye of the beholder or rather in the soul of the person.

According to international standards, countries like Iceland, Norway and Denmark are the happiest, simply because social security is at its highest and respect for human rights is at its best. Yet, people in such countries are not really the happiest in the traditional way one views and judges happiness. By mere looking at the faces of people in the streets of some of these countries, one would never know that they are the happiest! Some of these countries have the highest suicide rates in the world, maybe because of the severe winter weather, which seems to last forever, and its associated gloomy atmosphere.

According to the Bible, man (or woman) does not live by bread alone. This is where spirituality in general and religion comes in. People who have strong religious or even spiritual convictions are generally happier than those who do not. Believers find solace in religious beliefs whenever hardships hit them hard. That is why religion must have a place in the equation testing happiness in any given country.

It takes more than just high social security or even high civil and political rights to be "happy". Happiness is, after all, subjective, but its enjoyment does indeed require living in a democracy, enjoying human rights both in their political as well as economic, social and cultural dimensions and, of course, in an environment of security and safety.

Happiness also requires the enjoyment of good health, which in turn needs not only the enjoyment of the right to health on the basis of accessibility and affordability of the right to high quality of health. Moderate climate conditions, especially the sunny kind, would surely augur favourable conditions conducive for happiness. Strong family ties and warm social contacts appear to figure highly in the factors that lend support to a happy living style.

That said, happiness is in the final analysis a personal matter. What makes one person happy may not make another feeling the same way. Arriving at objective criteria to measure happiness may require the expert opinion of sociologists and psychologists, and not only economists or political scientists versed in peoples' material state of mind.

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