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Thread: Happiness

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    Moderator Wind's Avatar
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    Happiness

    I ran across this article about my home country and it made me think again, I find the irony of it amusing.

    Finland Is the Happiest Country in the World, and Finns Aren't Happy about It

    When the World Happiness Report announced recently that Finland is the happiest country in the world, we Finns reacted the same way as we have reacted to other top rankings in various international comparisons: we criticized the methodology of the study, questioned its conclusions and pointed to the shortcomings of Finnish society.

    It’s not the first time something like this has happened. When the World Economic Forum ranked Finland as the most competitive economy in Europe in 2014, the chief executive of the Finnish Chamber of Commerce, Risto Penttilä, felt obliged to write an opinion piece for the Financial Times where he tried to prove that the results couldn’t be right.

    This time it is my duty, as a Finnish expert on well-being research, to explain why the happiness of the Finns has been greatly exaggerated.

    More particularly, I’ll argue that there are four separate ways to measure happiness—and depending on which one we choose, we get completely different countries at the top of the rankings. I’ll also argue that Finnish people’s aversion to happiness might paradoxically make them happier.

    So, how did the World Happiness Report measure happiness? The study asked people in 156 countries to “value their lives today on a 0 to 10 scale, with the worst possible life as a 0 and the best possible life as a 10.” This is a widely used measure of general life satisfaction. And we know that societal factors such as gross domestic product per capita, extensiveness of social services, freedom from oppression, and trust in government and fellow citizens can explain a significant proportion of people’s average life satisfaction in a country.

    In these measures the Nordic countries—Finland, Sweden, Norway, Denmark, Iceland—tend to score highest in the world. Accordingly, it is no surprise that every time we measure life satisfaction, these countries are consistently in the top 10.

    But when you look at how much positive emotion people experience, the top of the world looks very different. Suddenly, Latin American countries such as Paraguay, Guatemala and Costa Rica are the happiest countries on earth. Finland is far from the top, which should not surprise anybody who is aware of the reputation of Finns as people who don’t display their emotions.

    Things get even more complicated when we look at the prevalence of depression in different countries. In one comparison made by the World Health Organization, the per capita prevalence of unipolar depressive disorders is highest in the world in the United States. Among Western countries, Finland is number two. Paradoxically then, the same country can be high on both life satisfaction and depression. While there are significant shortcomings in international comparisons of depression and while other research has estimated that the depression rates of Finland would be closer to the global average, what is clear is that Finland is far from the top of the world in preventing depression.

    So while Finland might be good at keeping the average life satisfaction levels high, those at risk for depression might not get enough social support to cope with their low mood. Maybe that’s why Finland has the highest number of heavy metal bands per capita in the world.

    Finally, some people might argue that neither life satisfaction, positive emotions nor absence of depression are enough for happiness. Instead, something more is required: One has to experience one’s life as meaningful. But when Shigehiro Oishi, of the University of Virginia, and Ed Diener, of the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign, compared 132 different countries based on whether people felt that their life has an important purpose or meaning, African countries including Togo and Senegal were at the top of the ranking, while the U.S. and Finland were far behind. Here, religiosity might play a role: The wealthier countries tend to be less religious on average, and this might be the reason why people in these countries report less meaningfulness.

    What I’m trying to say is that, regarding happiness, it’s complicated. Different people define happiness very differently. And the same person or country can be high on one dimension of happiness while being low on another dimension of happiness. Maybe there is no such thing as happiness as such. Instead we should look at these dimensions separately and examine how well various nations are able to support each of them.

    Luckily, Finnish people might have one asset regarding happiness: The Finnish tendency to downplay one’s own happiness and the norm against too much public display of joy might actually make Finns happier. This is because social comparison seems to play a significant role in people’s life satisfaction. If everybody else is doing better than you, it is hard to be satisfied with your life conditions, no matter how good they objectively are.

    This is why researchers are worried that social media, where people are constantly exposed to idealized versions of other people’s lives, might make people more depressed. By not displaying, let alone exaggerating, their own happiness, Finns might help each other to make more realistic comparisons, which benefits everybody’s happiness.

    So, when all is said, is Finland the happiest country in the world or not?

    If happiness is the prevalence of positive emotions (let alone the displaying of them), Finland is not the happiest country. If happiness is the absence of depression, Finland is not the happiest country. But if happiness is about a quiet satisfaction with one’s life conditions, then Finland, along with other Nordic countries, might very well be the best place to live.

    If you prefer to be happy in your own, understated way, then welcome to Finland!
    What is happiness really? It seems to be a pretty vague concept. All of us have moments when we are happy, but also we have moments when we are sad, upset and so forth. None of them are lasting and not really states of being. Although when it's comes to things like depression, it's said that it is a state of prolonged sadness.

    I've had depression in my life since my teenage years which is about half of my lifetime. I'm not depressed all the time per se, but I am still "categorized" as being moderately depressed and I do feel low in the mood probably far more often than I would feel uplifted. Perhaps I am prone to feeling more negative emotions and I could say that there are very good reasons for that too. Seasonal affective disorder is a big thing, because most of the year it's quite dark and miserable weather here in Finland. It affects me big time.

    Another major thing probably is my health condition or lack thereof, naturally that would cause a person to feel "unhappy" or "dis-eased" quite often. I would say that a very big contributor to depression could be genetical, it can be an autoimmune condition which is affected by our diets and the condition of our guts. Then you can add to that the environment, socioenomic status and other factors. I would also add that probably a big chunk of my moodiness is existential and that just has everything to do with the fact how I view the state of the world and my relation to it.

    So, I'm a Finn and yet I'm another of those people who suffers from this mental illness or dis-ease known as depression. We have a relatively good system here, but yet it could be so much better. It didn't prevent me from having a depression. It begs the question, why are so many people seemingly happy in poverty striken thirld world countries? At least they seem to be experiencing more positive emotions.

    Of course every individual experiences the world in their own way and there probably is no single answer or cure to depression, but you really have to ask what is happiness or unhappiness? Why are so many striving for happiness in their lives when it's just another fleeting feeling? Perhaps a good goal instead would be to find meaning and contentment in our lives. To be at peace, we can be at peace even if the conditions around us are horrible.

    I'd say that is something worth trying to attain.

    As Jordan Peterson said: "Happiness is a byproduct of something else."

    Last edited by Wind, 20th January 2020 at 20:29.

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    Senior Member NotAPretender's Avatar
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    "We are one thought away from changing the world, but in all the confusion I've forgotten what it was"

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    Moderator Wind's Avatar
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    Any takers? I'd love to hear your thoughts on this subject.

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    Senior Member NotAPretender's Avatar
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    It's true, of course, but he's hung up on the word 'responsibility'. It's a memetic euphemism for "Others are 2nd class citizens because they are shiftless" And nothing could be farther from the truth...I think 'facile' is the word I would use for that perspective...
    "We are one thought away from changing the world, but in all the confusion I've forgotten what it was"

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    Moderator Wind's Avatar
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    I'm not sure what you exactly mean by that, but I didn't ask so much of an opinion about Jordan's view (I know you don't like him either), but more about the topic of happiness and unhappiness, especially in these so called "developed" nations. Seems like that unhappiness is more common than we even realize and it's a sign of the times.
    Last edited by Wind, 23rd January 2020 at 18:50.

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    Senior Member NotAPretender's Avatar
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    Certainly agree with that wind
    "We are one thought away from changing the world, but in all the confusion I've forgotten what it was"

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    Super Moderator United States Dreamtimer's Avatar
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    I just got back from visiting my husband's family. I'll take a look.

    Synchronistically, we just met a woman from Finland while we were up there.

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    Moderator Wind's Avatar
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    I think JP shares Viktor Frankl's sentiment about happiness.

    "To the European, it is a characteristic of the American culture that, again and again, one is commanded and ordered to 'be happy.' But happiness cannot be pursued; it must ensue. One must have a reason to 'be happy.' Once the reason is found, however, one becomes happy automatically. As we see, a human being is not one in pursuit of happiness but rather in search of a reason to become happy, last but not least, through actualizing the potential meaning inherent and dormant in a given situation."

    "Being human always points, and is directed, to something or someone, other than oneself — be it a meaning to fulfill or another human being to encounter. The more one forgets himself — by giving himself to a cause to serve or another person to love — the more human he is."

    "The salvation of man is through love and in love. I understood how a man who has nothing left in this world still may know bliss, be it only for a brief moment, in the contemplation of his beloved. In a position of utter desolation, when man cannot express himself in positive action, when his only achievement may consist in enduring his sufferings in the right way —an honorable way—in such a position man can, through loving contemplation of the image he carries of his beloved, achieve fulfillment."



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    Super Moderator United States Dreamtimer's Avatar
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    My husband likes to say that anger is a secondary emotion, or a byproduct.

    The differing measures of happiness are interesting.

    I'm not prone to depression. I get frustrated at things which anger me and which I cannot affect much. That's not productive, so I try to not engage that anger too much.

    Redirect, refocus, expend energy on something positive, go out into nature, etc. These things all are helpful.


    Here's a different JP with a short analysis.


    Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=K-SI6bJ7upA


    Jeez, I think he read my mind on the next point I was going to make...

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    Super Moderator United States Dreamtimer's Avatar
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    Some folks look down on being happy. They equate it with being stupid. Some folks seem to want to wallow in depression. Here are some tools for that goal


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