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THE BOTTOM LINE

The criteria for happiness

Ten years ago, the UN General Assembly adopted a resolution inviting member countries to measure the happiness of their people and hence use the data to help guide public policy. By definition, "happiness" is quite subjective. That is why probably the UN later identified three key goals - to end poverty, reduce inequality and protect our planet - that would lead to well-being and happiness. For the last eight years it has been celebrating International Day of Happiness on 20 March.

The Top 7 of the latest published World Happiness Report 2020 reads, in happiness order: Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, the Netherlands and Sweden. This means their citizens perceive themselves to be happy and also happen to be some of the wealthiest in the world, thus confirming/fulfilling the UN's criteria of happiness.

However, it looks like the variables are more appropriate for measuring happiness on a national rather than individual level.

So, maybe, that is why numerous individual representatives of the happiest countries leave their homelands quite often and settle elsewhere, in Spain, among other places. For example the Costa del Sol attracts lots of people from the aforementioned happy countries.

If we follow the idea of the proverb - when you are well-off you don't seek better - then nobody would want to move and emigrate. However they are acknowledging that there are better lands. Does it, therefore, mean that the coast of Malaga can be considered as a super-happy place? The answer could be totally affirmative, but not for the local people. Spaniards have never made it to the top 10, let alone the top 30 of Happy Nations. Indeed, only in 2020 did the country manage to achieve the rank of 28th for the first time. All this poses something of a paradox or just peculiarities of national mentality.

Spanish people do love their country but at the same time don't mind moaning about it. Probably this self-underestimation prevents it from being listed among the happiest nations. And "no pasa nada". Indeed I can see that they don't care about this rating because daily emotional experience is appreciated by them much more. Spanish people just live happily - with their fun carnivals and generous ferias, enjoying big families and creating friendly atmospheres.

Another paradox... Some of the top 'happy nations' are also known for alcohol abuse, a high number of suicides, and high level of depression as well as soft drug tolerance and even the norm of living with firearms. Might it be the cost of happiness? Some psychologists state that being content and happy is better as it's an inner feeling of satisfaction that isn't dependent on external factors.

If this is so, then it would be wrong not to try this Mediterranean lifestyle and live differently, or rather, more happily.