Sunday, August 24, 2008

Freedom = happiness

Earlier, I posted a slideshow of the world's happiest countries, as listed by the World Values Survey conducted at the University of Leicester in the UK.

Businessweek has another article on the survey.

It's Not Just About Money

Generally, a rising global sense of freedom in the last quarter-century has eclipsed the contribution of pure economic development to happiness, he says. This is especially evident in developed countries with stable economies, where the freedom of choice gained through wealth has made people happier—not necessarily the wealth itself.

What's more, "there are diminishing returns to economic progress," Inglehart says. In poorer countries, happiness can be linked to solidarity among tight-knit communities, religious conviction, and patriotism, which probably explains the happiness of some relatively poor Latin American countries, he says.

Social tolerance is another important factor in how happy a country rates itself. Over the last quarter-century, growing gender equality and acceptance of minorities and homosexuals has played a major role in those European countries found to be the most content. No. 7-ranked Switzerland, for instance, has elected two women as head of state in the last 10 years, while No. 4-ranked Iceland has recently passed laws guaranteeing virtually all the same rights to gay couples that married couples enjoy. "The less threatened people feel, the more tolerant they are," says Inglehart. Tolerance simply has a rippling effect that makes people happier.
Gratitude Improves Attitude

While Inglehart does not profess to know the true secrets of happiness, he says that this most recent study has made the picture a bit clearer. In his opinion, benevolence and expressions of gratitude appear to be subtle but powerful ways to bring happiness into one's life and to extend it. Religion and solidarity in the community play a big role in this, he says, but any positive belief system can help. "Latin America seems to understand this," he says.

"In the old days I would have told you to work hard and save your money," says Inglehart. "It's different today. I just haven't nailed it down yet."

This offers a whole lot of important lessons for many people.

No comments: