The Secret of Happiness, According to the United Nations

Swedish beauty Ingrid Bergman succinctly described the secret of happiness as "good health and a bad memory."

But that's a tad bit too short for the United Nations Conference on Happiness (yes, that's for real), so it commissioned a 155-page report by Columbia University's Earth Institute.

Fast Company happily summarized it for us:

- Richer people are happier than poorer people on average, but wealth is only one factor in overall happiness. The same goes for countries, where factors like personal freedom, lack of corruption, and social support are more important.

- Unemployment obviously reduces happiness, but not because of what you may think. It’s not the loss of income, but the loss of things like self-esteem and workplace social life that lead to a drop in happiness. High unemployment rates can trigger unhappiness even in the employed, who suddenly become fearful of losing their jobs. According to the study, even low-quality jobs yield more satisfaction than being unemployed.

- Higher living standards correspond with increased happiness in some countries, but not all. In the U.S., for example, happiness levels have remained stagnant while living standards have risen over the past 50 years or so.

- Married people across the world (studies have been done in the U.S., EU countries, Switzerland, Latin America, Russia, Eastern Europe, and Asia) claim that they’re happier than single counterparts. A stable family life also contributes to happiness.

Read more over at Co.Exist | The full report [PDF] | Image: Have a Great Day!

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"Money can't buy happiness" is often heard (usually by those with money). No, it can't. But it can buy food and shelter and medicine and long-term economic security. If, after you have all that, your life is still empty, it's all on you.
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Happiness has little to do with survival when examining developed countries. Perhaps for a minority of the population, like the homeless, happiness is a warm meal and a soft bed.

But people are rarely satisfied with just having the needs for survival. Most of us want to believe we are important.

Happiness in this traditional (egoic) sense requires that an individual be able to think of themselves as a success in the sociocultural ethos. One study suggested the average American believed they would be content with $2.5M. For ease, let's say that the average person would not be happy unless they were a multimillionaire.

But this would not be the case if the standard of living weren't so high. As the standard of living goes up in a region, so does the standard of happiness. The two never seem to meet each other.

But there are those people who are called "hypo-egoic" who simply do not think about their own worth in terms of socioeconomic success. They evaluate themselves more or less on what they are, where they've been and how far they've come. Their evaluations are directly related to their own performances and do not depend on the images of success displayed by the media and sought after by most members of the society.

Most people, when they fail at some task, withdraw from that task saying "I'm no good at it" or something to that effect. They are self-conscious about failure, whereas the hypo-egoic individual sees failure as a learning opportunity. They see failure as merely an obstacle to be overcome. They recognize that they must learn and develop skills before they can be master of something.

The most characteristic thing about hypo-egoic people is that they almost never evaluation themselves according to the status quo. They are devoid of self-conscious thoughts. These people are also more vividly aware of their experiences because their experiences are not clouded by imagining all the potential hits to their self-esteem.
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