Happy Holiday

If you subscribe to Disneyland’s claim of “the happiest place on earth”, you’re really talking about the several happiest places on earth.  Besides the original parks in California and Florida you now have more exotic locales like Tokyo, Shanghai, and Paris – a total of twelve Disney theme parks across the globe.  Now throw in Hawaii’s Aulani (Disney) Resort & Spa for a baker’s dozen.  But do a search on “the happiest place on earth” and nothing remotely close to the lands of Disney comes up.  Instead, you get the land of the Finns.

Maybe you haven’t heard of the World Happiness Report? I have. I first blogged about it five years ago in my post, Happy Days Aren’t Here Again.  Back then I wasn’t lamenting the fact the UN established a rather desperate-sounding holiday (“International Day of Happiness” – March 20th).  Rather, I was un-happy the United States ranked #14 in the holiday’s companion report.  Thirteen countries, including #1 Norway, were happier places on earth.  To make matters worse, the U.S. had been slipping in the happiness rankings since the first report in 2013.  This year?  The Americans dropped again, to #16.

The Northern Lights make me happy

An objective report on happiness sounds a little ridiculous but when one country (Finland) ranks “happiest” five years running, you sit up and wonder what you’re missing with Laplander life. Consider the variables in the happiness report calculation:

  1. Healthy life expectancy
  2. GDP (goods and services) per capita
  3. Social support in times of trouble
  4. Low corruption
  5. High social trust
  6. Generosity to the community
  7. Freedom to make key life decisions
Cold = contentment?

Maybe you assume Finland’s proximity to Ukraine (and Russia) puts it in a nonpareil position to earn high marks for say, “social support” and “generosity to the community”.  But this year’s rankings were determined before Russia’s invasion.  Finland was already socially supportive and generous (and apparently “happy”).  So, does Finland come to mind when you consider the list above?  It doesn’t for me, but I will say this. The Finns enjoy day-to-day living. On a Baltic Sea cruise a few years ago we spent several hours in the capitol city of Helsinki, where we had the chance to observe the locals.  What were they doing? Sunning themselves in the parks on an unusually warm day. Shopping in open-air markets.  Children walking home from school unattended.  Peace and quiet wherever you looked.  Happiness.

Eight of the ten “happiest” are on this map

Let’s visit some of the other happier-than-America countries.  There must be something good in Baltic Sea water because Norway, Sweden, and Denmark also make the top ten.  Iceland skates in at #3, which almost makes for a clean (and happy) sweep of the Nordic countries.  Switzerland (#4) and New Zealand (#10) are also “happiest”, and I can think of several reasons to spend time in both places.

As the song goes, “don’t worry, be happy”, but I confess I’m a little concerned about happiness here in America.  We need to step up our feel-good game from more than just Disney theme parks.  Maybe post those seven criteria on our refrigerators as regular reminders. Or, spend more time in saunas like the Finns do.  Otherwise, it may be time to pick up and move further north.  After all, happiness beckons.

Some content sourced from the CNN Travel article, “The World’s Happiest Countries for 2022, and Wikipedia, “the free encyclopedia”.

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Lego Grand Piano – Update #16

(Read about how this project got started in Let’s Make Music!)

Every piano keyboard demands a cover to keep it clean. Bag #16 – of 21 bags of pieces – was entirely dedicated to the protection of the keys.  As the photos show, the keyboard cover hinges gracefully up and down, blending seamlessly with the rest of the black piano frame.

A word about leftover pieces (another 3 this week).  I need to be more thankful they’re “leftover” and not “missing”.  I swear I was shorted an important piece this time around (and maybe I really did swear).  But as usual, there it was in plain view in my pile of pieces.  I’m grateful to the human or the machine making sure every last piece was included in my Lego Grand Piano box.

Running Build Time: 12.0 hours.  Musical accompaniment: Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture. Leftover pieces: 3

Conductor’s Note: Peter (or Pyotr, if you prefer) Tchaikovsky’s 1812 Overture was an interesting choice for this week’s build, because I completed the keyboard cover before 8:30am.  If you know the Overture, you know it’s fortíssimo, like an alarm clock firing on all cylinders.  It’s a blast better meant for an Independence Day fireworks celebration (and some orchestras add a real cannon for the finale). The Overture is also brisk; a mere sixteen minutes from start to finish.  I wasn’t that quick with the keyboard cover build, but I did wrap it up in less than a half-hour.

Happy Days Aren’t Here Again

Last week included a holiday and you probably didn’t know it. On March 20th the world celebrated “International Day of Happiness” for the fifth consecutive year. The United Nations adopted a resolution in 2012 to establish the holiday, seeking “a more holistic approach to development” and recognizing “the pursuit of happiness is a fundamental human goal”.  Ladies and gentlemen, the UN is trying to bring more joy to the world.

 

 

 

 

I’ll admit, the first time I read about a holiday for happy I had to wonder what really goes on behind closed doors.  Maybe the UN reps spend their days on Facebook liking/loving posts like the rest of us.  Maybe they’re happy and they know it and clapping their hands.  Maybe they ask each other “aren’t you glad you use Dial and don’t you wish everyone did?” Then 0ne day someone decided a celebration of all that happiness was in order.

On the other hand, maybe the UN’s daily agenda is so depressing someone insisted 1 out of every 365 days should be set aside just to feel better. A don’t-worry-be-happy moment.

 

 

 

To go together with March 20th, the UN also publishes the “World Happiness Report” (WHR), an annual measure of happy in each of 155 countries.  The recipe: the combined measures of income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust (trust defined as absence of corruption in business and government).  The WHR then crunches the numbers and tells you how close you are to the happiest place on earth.

Again I had to ask myself – is the UN for real?  I mean, I’m usually as merry as the day is long, and I assumed the same was true of my fellow Americans.  “Not so fast”, says the WHR.

The 2017 top ten: 1) Norway, 2) Denmark, 3) Iceland, 4) Switzerland, 5) Finland, 6) Netherlands, 7) Canada, 8) New Zealand, 9) Australia, 10) Sweden.

Look at that list again.  See any patterns?  Five of the ten are the Nordic countries.  Another two are in close proximity.  Another two are side-by-side way down in the Southern Hemisphere.  And finally you have Canada (which feels like a party-crasher).  But the ingredients don’t lie – everything’s coming up roses in all ten.   The Nords, the Swiss, the Dutch, the Canucks, the Kiwis, and the Aussies are walking on sunshine.

If the happiness formula is to believed, Norway has it all figured out.  Consider the following excerpt from the WHR Executive Summary (p. 1): Norway moves to the top of the ranking despite weaker oil prices.  It is sometimes said that Norway achieves and maintains its high happiness not because of its oil wealth, but in spite of it.  By choosing to produce its oil slowly, and investing the proceeds for the future rather than spending them in the present, Norway has insulated itself from the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies.  To do this successfully requires high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity, and good governance, all factors that help to keep Norway and other top countries where they are in the happiness rankings.

And how about the Americans?  We come in at #14.  That’s happy-happy-joy-joy compared to most others, but consider this: we’ve never hit the top ten and we’ve been dropping since the first year the WHR was published.  The U.S. gets high marks for income and life expectancy but falls short in the other four categories.  To add an exclamation point: this year’s WHR includes a chapter by Jeffrey D. Sachs titled “Restoring American Happiness”.  As Sachs puts it:

The predominant political discourse in the United States is aimed at raising economic growth, with the goal of restoring the American Dream and the happiness that is supposed to accompany it. But the data show conclusively that this is the wrong approach. The United States can and should raise happiness by addressing America’s multi-faceted social crisis— rising inequality, corruption, isolation, and distrust—rather than focusing exclusively or even mainly on economic growth, especially since the concrete proposals along these lines would exacerbate rather than ameliorate the deepening social crisis. (WHR, p. 179)

Take note, Washington D.C.

The World Happiness Report is a 5MB, 188 pg. report available here, if you want all the details on where everything’s coming up roses (or not so much).  For me, the message was clear enough from the top ten.  If Americans want to live happily ever after, we need to study our neighbors to the north (as do our counterparts in Europe) or delve deeper into life “down under”.  Extreme temperatures be damned, all of these people are as happy as clams (at high water) and whistling while they work.

Cheer up, Yanks; it’s not the end of the world (as perhaps it is in #155 Central African Republic).  At least the U.S. claims a spot in the top ten percent of the WHR.  That’s happy landings on my runway.