Monday, March 21, 2016

Social research






Happy Monday! I hope you had a good weekend. Thank you for your sweet comments on my Friday Happies. I'm glad so many others would have snapped up the Talavera pottery planter as quickly as I did. It's beautiful! I can't wait to plant flowers in it, in just a few more weeks. I'm thinking about white flowers, maybe geraniums or begonias, something simple, crisp and clean-looking, to let the colors in the pottery really shine. It won't be long before I can bring out my Talavera birdbath, which I always keep in the backyard planter bed during the warmer months. The hummingbird feeders can come out soon too; April 1 is "opening day" for hummingbirds in my neck of the woods. Spring is really here now. Yes, it often felt spring-like for a long while already, but the passing of the equinox makes it feel so much more official.

We had a nice weekend, full of homey pursuits and schoolwork, but also a lovely afternoon with friends at their house in the mountains, complete with a campfire, kids and dogs running wild, and delicious food, including pulled-pork sandwiches and Muddy Buddies. I hadn't eaten that since about high school and it was hard to keep my hands out of the bowl, especially with pastel-colored M&M's added. Yesterday, after a morning of work in the yard, we did some painting for fun. The Bear painted a watercolor picture of my daffodils in their crochet-jacketed jar. I think it's the bee's knees and I love the way they look next to each other. My talented Bear.

Did you know that yesterday was World Happiness Day? Yes, it's a real thing. The celebration coincided with the release of the United Nations' World Happiness Report last week. This is a study conducted by the UN to better understand what makes a country's citizens happy, or not. There are several major criteria, including per-capita gross domestic product, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and the absence of corruption.

It turns out that Denmark is the happiest country on earth, while Burundi is the least happy. The United States ranks 13th, which actually surprised me; I might have guessed that we ranked less-happily than that, especially given the social climate in our current election year. But I'm certainly no economist or social scientist, and it's probably a very inaccurate way to assess the happiness of our country as a whole. There are a lot of great things about the US and I feel much better about my country when I turn off the talk-radio. My own life is mostly a very happy one; I have a lovely little family and many good friends, an excellent education, access to quality healthcare, everything I need materially and then some. I've never felt persecuted or oppressed. I think I'm very fortunate overall.

For me, one important take-away from the Happiness Report is this: money does not seem to buy happiness. It's true that poverty and poor infrastructure in a nation had a negative effect on its happiness score. But it seems to be the case that money matters up until a certain point, where basic needs are met, and then it becomes less important. Case in point: the US has a higher GDP than many of the countries in the top 10, but we have never ranked in the top 10 in the five years that the UN has done this study. We aren't happier because we're richer.

In addition, from my reading, it would seem to be a bad thing when a country focuses too much on just one area of national happiness, such as social support or GDP; a more balanced focus on all of the main areas usually means a happier nation. It's no wonder that many experts think the US needs to emulate countries that have better social support, as one example, and that economic growth should not come at the expense of social well-being.

You can read the World Happiness Report here. You have to download various parts, but it's a worthwhile read.

What country do you live in? Where does it rank in the happiness report? Do you agree with the UN's ranking of your country? What are the best things about your country? What improvements would you like to see?

29 comments:

  1. My son was telling me the rankings on the drive home from school yesterday. Kuwait is 41st. Corruption is a big problem. People put their heads in the sand about a lot of issues. Laws are either not enforced at all or effectively. I've been here 21 years and instead of getting better, it seems to be getting worse. In fact, they've worked so hard to be a more open society, and now I read in the newspaper that within 5 years, they want high schools and universities to be segregated between boys and girls. I'm so glad my son is graduating this year and will be leaving this country so I don't have to worry about that. I would never choose to have my boys segregated as I believe it creates a whole host of behavioral and social problems. Apparently there are new environmental laws and announcements on the radio station about how the environmental police are going to enforce these laws to protect the environment and yet every single day there is garbage flying all over the place, even with hundreds of street workers cleaning all morning long. How about we start with a litter law and enforce that before we starting talking about anything else. Lord knows this place could, and does, drive me crazy. Happiness is not attained or a product of our surroundings; it has to come from within. Because believe me, there's a whole lot happening here that I am none too happy about. :) Love your colorful crocheted jar cozy and the bright and cheery daffodils and Big B's painting. Have a great week.

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  2. Now that is going to take some reading, but quite the document. You certainly have a very talented husband, a great artist.

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  3. You do indeed have a talented bear, the painting is lovely. An interesting if long report which will be perused at length later. If you are lucky enough happiness comes from within but I do believe surroundings help with that too. Oh my isn't that Betty Crocker site something. I've bookmarked the page after reading the ingredient list for Muddy Buddies xx

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  4. Your husband's painting makes me happy! Ad so do daffodils. Such a happy flower.
    This isn't the first time that Denmark came in 1st in happiness. Money doesn't buy happiness, but a certain amount is needed for peace of mind -- and the latter is all I ask for. I'd like to travel more but I don't need a whole lot.

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  5. Denmark has ranked first before, and I have watched a something on what makes them the happiest place to live. It was an interesting watch. Canada ranks 6th. I think that is most likely pretty accurate, of course there is always room for improvement.

    The painting is gorgeous!

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  6. The happiness report is certainly an eye opener, and one to ponder on. Great painting by the way, greetings!

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  7. I love Big Bear's painting of your daffies. It's beautiful! :o)

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  8. Interesting question. I am from the UK and on the whole we are a pretty happy bunch.I like the way that now I am forty something I am happy in myself whether I have money or not and I have experienced both with no nasty side effects so I have been very lucky. I am generally a happy sort of person - that is what people always tell me and how I feel inside! Jo xx

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  9. Wow, Jennifer, what a great post! I absolutely agree that, once basic needs are met, money does not bring happiness. I was disappointed to see the UK's position at number 23 but not surprised. I'm happy, but I have health and (relative) wealth, I enjoyed the benefit of a stable, happy childhood, free education and have a life surrounded by family and friends, a job, a happy marriage, access to free healthcare. In short, I have security. But so many do not and I fear that my children won't enjoy the things I did (free education and free healthcare for example). I'm fearful for the future of the UK at the moment, but also mindful that it is a wonderful place to live in so many ways. Nowhere is perfect, not even Denmark!

    I read an excellent book last year called A Year Of Living Danishly, which you might enjoy. X

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  10. Wow, Jennifer, what a great post! I absolutely agree that, once basic needs are met, money does not bring happiness. I was disappointed to see the UK's position at number 23 but not surprised. I'm happy, but I have health and (relative) wealth, I enjoyed the benefit of a stable, happy childhood, free education and have a life surrounded by family and friends, a job, a happy marriage, access to free healthcare. In short, I have security. But so many do not and I fear that my children won't enjoy the things I did (free education and free healthcare for example). I'm fearful for the future of the UK at the moment, but also mindful that it is a wonderful place to live in so many ways. Nowhere is perfect, not even Denmark!

    I read an excellent book last year called A Year Of Living Danishly, which you might enjoy. X

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  11. Nice painting, he is talented. I'm surprised the the USA ranks that high, given what's going on in the campaign I thought everyone was miserable. I think it's easier for a smaller, less diverse country to be happier.

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  12. Nice painting....I'll have to invest some time to read it.....generally I'm happy and the people I know are happy...I teach in a very poor urban area and even though many of my families struggle, in general they are happy....but tend to be stressed...but will share whatever they have with others...

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  13. The Bear is very talented - I love it! I'm quite happy, and I agree that money does not buy happiness.

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  14. Yes, a very talented bear, and a great visual treat to see the painting by the real daffodils - the happiest flower. I'm looking forward to seeing your lovely birdbath again - I remember it! My country of Australia was 4th on the Happiness Report, which seemed just fine with me :) Oh, and I'd love to know what a Muddy Buddy is - and I'm trying to imagine it up in my head..

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  15. Interesting post Jennifer I was quite surprised to see that the Uk didn't even make it into the top 20. I'm off to read your posts which I have missed and the Happiness report, have a lovely day! xx

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  16. I love that painting! I am happy where I live, despite the low ranking of the UK, but then I live in a small rural community and would not be happy if I lived in a city!

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  17. The bear's painting is fabulous, he's very talented. I think there's lots of people who are unhappy with how the country's being run at the moment, but we're very lucky here in the UK, we have good healthcare, a benefit system and good, free education. It can't be all that bad, there's plenty of people who would rather live here than in their own countries.

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  18. What an interesting topic! How on earth can you measure happiness -- one man's happiness is not another man's happiness. Do we measure our happiness in how much we have? How successful our children are? Hmmm. Fabric makes me happy. If I measure happiness by the size of my stash, I'm delirious LOL!!!

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  19. measuring happiness seems like a pretty hard thing to do..... my mood changes as often as the weather.....

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  20. First of all, the painting is wonderful! As for the Happiness Report, I don't have time to check where Canada comes out at the moment (I"m headed in to spend the day with Rebekah and Ella, and that makes me happy!), but I can tell you one of the things I like the most about Canada is its social safety net, including the universal health care.

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  21. I love the painting and the vase your daffodils are in. I have recently written about happiness in relation to age, which was also interesting. Happiness is a difficult emotion define and measure I think but I am not a social scientist so don't really know how it is done. For me, happiness comes from within more than anything. I guess happiness can be experienced by all, poor and rich but if you have to worry about meeting yours and your family's basic needs (food, shelter, safety), happiness is probably a lot more ephemeral. I wonder if the study you mention interprets happiness as feeling content? So much to think about on my commute home. Have a lovely week. x

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  22. Your husband has a real artistic talent! Watercolor is so fun, he has the theory down of painting the lighter parts and filling in with the darker colors. The discussion of happiness is interesting. I kind of think the reason the USA isn't higher is that we have too much and start being critical of things that shouldn't matter. I also think individuals are either oriented to happiness or depression naturally. And.. I think who we are married to or spend a lot of time with can bring us down or up. I am really glad that I'm naturally a happy person. It helps! ((hugs)), Teresa :-)

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  23. Hi Jennifer! I somehow missed your last two posts. Silly blogger. Or silly me, I don't know which. :-). Anyway, I love the painting the Bear did. Is there no end to his talents? Interesting report. I don't know the answer. I'm usually quite happy...as long as I don't watch the news. This year in particular. My faith is what helps me with my happiness. Even when things aren't going as I would wish, I'm missing my children and grandchildren or my health isn't cooperating, I know that God loves me and all will be well in the end.
    Now, I need to see what those Muddy Buddies are all about! :-). Have a wonderful day Jennifer.
    Blessings,
    Betsy

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  24. Really great post Jennifer. I can't actually believe the US ranked that high, this political climate we are in causes a great deal of unhappiness everywhere. I agree with the money thing, we need enough to supply food, shelter, clothing and a few fun things like yarn, but after that is it what we rally need to be happy? I think socially we should have better healthcare for everyone, better transportation options, and better schooling, that would make us a much better country. Oh and I might add less social media constantly screaming at us.
    Hugs to you,
    Meredith

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  25. Once our basic needs are met, I think it's down to us to create our own 'happiness' which is complicated and changes from day to day, I'm sure! I aim for general contentment :-) Your blog always perks me up, Jennifer. Love those cheery daffs in real and painted form. Sam x

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  26. Very interesting post and like you, am actually surprised the US ranked that high, especially with all the political upheaval going on right now. As for money, I actually wouldn't want to be rich. As long as my basic needs are met - and same for my husband and child - and then a little extra for simple, fun things, then that's what makes me happy. I would think for some (like me), being rich would almost be a burden. I have no desire to dress fancy, drive the latest car or have a big, fancy house. The only thing I'd like to do if we had a lot of money would be to travel and also to help others. Great post - thanks for your thoughts.

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  27. Tammy mentioned World Happiness Day in one of her posts, but until reading her post I was not aware that happiness had a special day :) Believe it or not, in high school I won a poster contest with a poster that claimed, "Happiness is Whatever You Make It Be!" Thus, I was very curious about what criteria happiness was measured by in the UN study. Thanks for the links so that I can explore the report. From what I have read so far, I can see how the report's six criteria for measuring happiness have value. I find that Canada being more happy than the US and Mexico being less happy than the US to be especially interesting.

    While I am happy and grateful to live in the US, I am concerned that our freedoms are being exercised with looser constraints so that media, especially in advertising, entertainment and governmental leadership more frequently reflect attitudes that I find to be unkind and disrespectful and disgusting.

    The Bear's painting of the daffodils in your crochet decorated vase is lovely. xxxx

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  28. That poll is fascinating. I think the Scandinavian and Nordic Countries are on to something. They do have a watertight infrastructure and low income inequality. I am sure these things factor in to their happiness levels. I think that when people feel they have a franchise in their country they feel like they are valued and can exert more control over their choices. I love your water colour painting. Daffodils are such happy flowers :) I hope you had a peaceful Easter Weekend!

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  29. A very interesting post, Jennifer. I'm disappointed, but not surprised, to see the UK's relatively low ranking among developed countries. Life is far from easy for people at the bottom of the economic scale here and it shows.
    Compliments to the Bear on his lovely painting. I wish I could paint half as well.

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