National Geographic : 2017 Nov
happiest places 37 Consider Zúñiga, who like many Costa Ricans enjoys the pleasure of living daily life to the fullest in a place that mitigates stress and maximizes joy. Scientists call his type of happiness experienced happiness or posi- tive affect. Surveys measure it by asking people how often they smiled, laughed, or felt joy during the past 24 hours. His country is not only Latin America’s happiest; it’s also where people report feeling more day-to-day positive emotions than just about any other place in the world. Clemmensen represents a brand of happiness typified in the purpose- driven life of Danes. Like all forms of happiness, it assumes basic needs are covered so that people can pursue their passions at work and leisure. Academics refer to this as eudaimonic happiness, a term that comes from the ancient Greek word for “happy.” The concept was made popu- lar by Aristotle, who believed that true happiness came only from a life of meaning—of doing what was worth doing. Gallup measures this by asking respondents whether they “learned or did something interesting yesterday.” In Denmark, a country that has most consistently topped Europe’s happiness rankings for the past 40 years, society has evolved to make it easy to live an interesting life. And true to Singapore’s reputation for having a semi-fanatical drive for success, Foo—with all his ambition and accomplishments—represents the “life satisfaction” strand of happiness. Social scientists often measure this type of happiness by asking people to rate their lives on a scale of zero to 10. Experts also call this evaluative happiness. Internationally it’s considered the gold standard metric of well-being. Singapore has most dependably ranked number one in Asia for life satisfaction. The researchers who publish the annual World Happiness Report found that about three-quarters of human happiness is driven by six factors: strong economic growth, healthy life expectancy, quality social relationships, generosity, trust, and freedom to live the life that’s right for you. These factors don’t materialize by chance; they are intimately related to a country’s government and its cultural values. In other words the happiest places incubate happiness for their people. To illustrate the power of place, John Helliwell, one of the report’s editors, analyzed 500,000 surveys completed by immigrants who’d moved to Canada from 100 countries over the previous 40 years, many from countries considerably less happy. Remarkably Helliwell and his colleagues discovered that, within a few years of arriving, immigrants who came from unhappy places began to report the increased happi- ness level of their adoptive home. Seemingly their environment alone accounted for their increased happiness. Zúñiga, Clemmensen, and Foo pursue their goals intensely, but not at the expense of joy and laughter, and they look with pride on what they are doing and what they have already accomplished. They’re able to do this, in many cases, because the places where they live—their nations, communities, neighborhoods, and family households—give them an invisible lift, constantly nudging them into behaviors that favor long-term well-being. PEOPLE WHO LIVE IN THE WORLD’S HAPPIEST PLACES PURSUE THEIR GOALS INTENSELY, BUT NOT AT THE EXPENSE OF JOY AND LAUGHTER.