Words John Gray

In life we all strive to be happy. But what constitutes happiness? Are they the series of perks in which we indulge? Perhaps the scrumptious meal enjoyed at lunch, the wonderful vacation we just had, the nice apartment in which we are living, or having spent a great night out with friends? Experiences and conditions that are pleasurable or make us feel good about ourselves contribute to a sense of positivity, which no doubt contributes to happiness. Happiness, however, is more than simply being in a positive mood.  It’s not only about momentary pleasures but it is rather an overall state of wellbeing that encompasses living a good life. Today experts can survey the state of global happiness based on the science of measuring quality of life. Countries are actually ranked by their happiness levels as seen in The World Happiness Report.

Increasingly, happiness is considered to be the proper measure of social progress. The science of measuring quality of life is taken seriously and ultimately serves as a guide to improving public policies. The first World Happiness Report, published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, came out in 2012, and since then a new updated report is released almost yearly.

Measuring happiness

The latest report ranks 156 countries by their happiness levels and reviews the state of happiness in the world today. It shows how the new science of happiness explains personal and national variations in happiness. If anything, this report reflects a new worldwide demand for more attention to happiness as a criterion for government policy.

Key variables

To prepare this report data is collected from individuals in the 156 countries represented.  Six variables are looked at, which has been identified as the reason for three-quarters of the differences among countries. These variables are: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and perceptions of corruption. Each country is also compared against a hypothetical nation called “Dystopia,” which represents the lowest national averages for each variable and is used as a sort of regression benchmark.

Denmark came in first in this report, followed by Switzerland, Iceland, Norway, Finland, and Canada.  The last five countries on this list were Benin, Afghanistan, Togo, Syria, and Burundi, respectively. Lebanon came in somewhere in the lower middle at 93, just after Pakistan and before Portugal.  Overall this report finds that people are happier living in societies where there is less inequality of happiness. They also find that over the years, happiness inequality has increased significantly in most countries, in almost all global regions, and for the population of the world as a whole.

This type of report really highlights the need for countries to look into policies that promote the wellbeing of their citizens on all levels. Too often countries pursue individual objectives, such as economic development while compromising on other key areas. For example many countries in recent decades have achieved economic growth at the cost of rising inequality, social exclusion, and extensive damage to the natural environment. 

On a positive note, the cause of happiness as a primary goal for public policy continues to make progress. So far, four national governments—Bhutan, Ecuador, the United Arab Emirates, and Venezuela— have appointed ministers of happiness responsible for coordinating their national efforts.

In Bhutan ensuring its citizens’ happiness is even written into the 9th article of the constitution. As a result the Bhutanese practice what they preach; it is a country free of wars and crimes and they have completely banned fertilizers – so its people eat only organic food.

There are also cities and communities around the world committed to setting up policies for people to live happier lives. There are even organization such as the Happiness Research Institute based in Copenhagen and the Action for Happiness in the United Kingdom—designed to implement actions that can increase wellbeing in homes, workplaces, schools, and local communities. Let’s hope that more governments and organizations will start to cater to the pursuit of happiness.

Data for this article was taken from the World Happiness Report 2016 Update

Copenhagen, Denmark

It’s no surprise to see Denmark top the happiness list, with its abundance of free public services, such as health care and education. It also prides itself on its strong sense of social life and community. “Hygge” is the Danish word for cozy social gatherings and intimate get-togethers with family and friends. Denmark is also considered to be one of the most egalitarian societies in the world, where both men and women have careers.

carpe diem

[kahr-pe dee-em]

Latin. seize the day; enjoy the present,

as opposed to placing all hope in the future.


A prosperous nation famous for its gorgeous ski slopes, fine watches, and rich chocolate, Switzerland has plenty of outdoor spaces for its people to explore and in which to practice sports (it has the lowest obesity rates in Europe).  Perhaps the happiness comes from its fine chocolates, which cause the brain to release dopamine; or perhaps it could be related to the fact that its cities are often situated besides lakes (working by the water is sure to ease your stress levels).

Reykjavik, Iceland

Iceland is defined by its dramatic landscape, including volcanoes, geysers, hot springs, and lava fields. It has a population of 332,530 people, of which the majority lives in the capital, Reykjavik. The country ranks high in economic, political, and social stability, as well as equality. An impressive 85 percent of the country’s energy supply is derived from domestically produced renewable energy sources (mostly geothermal).

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you know what happiness is to you

Because I’m happy

Clap along if you feel like that’s what you wanna do

Montreal, Canada

There’s plenty to explore in this expansive and culturally diverse country that has ranked particularly well in the citizenship, entrepreneurship, and open-for-business categories.  Canada also has a great deal of uninhabited space and beautiful national parks.


Swahili phrase; roughly translated, it means “no worries”.

It is formed by the words hakuna (there is not here)

and matata (plural form of problem).


In Finland, people believe that children learn through play, imagination, and self-discovery, so teachers allow and encourage play during school hours. Perhaps the country’s educational system has something to do with happiness. Or perhaps its happiness can be attributable to its traditional saunas, where the Finns can steam their worries away!


This Nordic country is renowned for its breathtaking mountains, glaciers, and deep coastal fjords. It’s a wonderful place to be anytime of the year, where people can enjoy fishing, hiking, and skiing. Norway is also one of the most sparsely populated countries in Europe, with much of the country dominated by mountainous or high terrain.  Perhaps having fewer neighbors is the key to happiness!


Being ranked at 93 out of 156 may not be something to boast about, but plenty of Lebanese will claim that their country is the best country in the world in which
to live, despite all its flaws. Let’s
hope that the “Jewel of the Middle East” will make the necessary changes and climb up the list soon.  We are rooting for you!

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