Nations don't perceive well-being the same

According to the United Nations, Finland is the happiest people in the world. But, for the World Happiness Report to compare self-reports of happiness, they assume that the world defines happiness in the same way.

Research on how people across the globe perceive happiness shows significant differences among nations. Understanding the diversity can help you understand yourself - how you differ, what you might do about it, or making peace with it.

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Different Cultures Define Happiness Differently

theatlantic.com

At first glance, there seem to be commonalities in the ways people experience happiness. A 2016 study found that the most common definition of happiness is "an inner harmony, feeling or attitude."

But inner harmony can mean different things in different places. For example, the Danes describe inner harmony in terms of hygge, which is like a comfortable friendliness. Americans usually define inner harmony in the context of work, where their skills meet their passions.

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Forty-nine percent of Americans mentions family relationships in their definition of happiness. In comparison, only 22 percent of Portuguese, 18 percent of Mexican, and 10 percent of Argentines consider their families in their definition of happiness.

Western cultures define happiness as a high arousal state such as excitement and a sense of personal achievement, but Asia described happiness as experiencing a low arousal state such as calmness.

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We can generally distinguish between two ways of viewing happiness: The inner or outer focus on happiness and the relation or task focus.

  1. Happiness arises from good relationships with people you love. It combines the outer and relation foci.
  2. Happiness comes from a higher consciousness. It combines the inner and relation foci.
  3. Happiness is from doing what you love. This blends outer and task foci.
  4. Happiness comes from feeling good combines the inner and task foci.

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