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The 'Bona-fide' Happiness: the World's Quest for Veracity

The 'Bona-fide' Happiness: the World's Quest for Veracity

Unlocking pursuit of happiness: can we truly measure & define this elusive emotion? Exploring global happiness index & complexity of subjective well-being.

Dr. Viniti Vaidya
September, 23 2023
1564

The textual definition of the term 'Happiness' is referred to as 'a genuine feeling where you are unconditionally mentally and physically well, you are happy without any internal and external conditions, you feel yourself, and you are true to yourself.' One's level of positivity and happiness can change the surrounding world for the better. But how do we know the level? Can we evaluate this trait of nature? Let's explore and ponder if we can really measure the amount of happiness within a person or a society, or even a country!

We all may have different perceptions and ideologies about happiness. However, to understand the global scenario, the UN Sustainable Development Solutions Network devised a system to measure the collective happiness and well-being of the population across the globe. In 2012, the first World Happiness Index was released, which was in the news for a long time.

Every year, the happiness index report is published based on answers from respondents' assessments of their own lives, which is correlated with several living standards and social criteria. Although the primary purpose of the UN was to use the data to assist and improve public policies, there is a great hue and cry about the statistical methodologies and evaluation systems applied to such a happiness quotient.

The 2023 World Happiness Index stated that countries like Finland, Denmark, Switzerland, and Iceland are leading in the happiness ranking, whereas India obtained the 126th rank. This came as a shock for most of the Indian population and was a much-debated topic then, as war-struck Ukraine was ranked 92nd, economically troubled countries like Sri Lanka and Pakistan have been ranked 112th and 108th respectively.

In April 2023, SBI Research ECOWRAP published an article that analysed how the method for evaluating the happiness index is nothing more than a statistical fallacy. SBI stated that 'while happiness is a subjective thing to define, measuring happiness across the world through the same lens could only mean every country and its people feel happy the same way and in the same proportion, which is highly unlikely as evolution has given a distinct aura to distinct geographies.'

SBI ECOWRAP proposed an alternative model for measuring happiness and stated that India ranks 48th using the revised Happiness Index parameters considering all facets of life. For precise evaluation, it is important that the index applies the right indicators for happiness. The ECOWRAP report also indicated that there are country-specific parameters in each domain of social sciences and development, thus, considering these factors becomes indispensable for a happiness index. Further, as per their parameters, it was highlighted that the factor of "social relationships" is closely related to a higher level of happiness and that "mental happiness" is absolutely crucial for long-term happiness.

It is indeed a challenge when we venture to index or validate something that is so diverse and subjective! In this world of variance, we know that ten different statistical methods would give us ten different results and thus ten different values of happiness. Thus, is it truly worth our time to measure and scrutinize this feeling of happiness?! Or just experience it as it flows! We shall not grant the country-level index to affect our individual state of mind.

On a personal level, we shall comprehend that one is responsible for his own state of mind, and happiness is merely a product of a healthy state of mind. As rightly said by Gautam Buddha: "If one speaks or acts with a pure mind, happiness follows like a shadow." In a deeper sense of understanding that which is true and pure cannot be measured, and anything which is measurable may not be the truth, as stated by Gurudev Sri Sri Ravi Shankar.

For instance, how can one precisely measure the amount of love a mother has for her child! No matter what the World Happiness Index states and defines, certain aspects of our lives are immeasurable, undefinable yet true. Considering mental happiness on a progressive note, even if we cannot accurately measure it, we can certainly apply certain proven techniques for maintaining a positive state of mind. For instance, next time you feel low, spare five minutes of your time genuinely remembering the things you are grateful for in life; spend quality time with your friends and family members; practice social work and helping others in need.

Being happy is a basic need for mankind's survival; however, looking for it and chasing it at the individual level would not yield anything fruitful. It would be like the unfathomable sky measuring its space with a 12-inch ruler!

 

Authors:

Dr. Viniti Vaidya, Ms. Kshitija Talwekar & Dr. Manjusha Dake

Dr. D. Y. Patil Biotechnology and Bioinformatics Institute,

Dr. D. Y. Patil Vidyapeeth, Pune.

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