“I believe that the very purpose of our life is to seek happiness. That is clear. Whether one believes in religion or not, whether one believes in this religion or that religion, we all are seeking something better in life. So, I think, the very motion of our life is towards happiness.”
(Tenzin Gyatso, the 14th Dalai Lama in his book "The Art of Happiness")
Nigel, a good friend of mine, calls himself "Chief Happiness Officer" (CHO). He runs the "Vienna Happiness Project" and if you check out the website you will find small square-shaped abstract paintings by artist Petronilla Hohenwarter titled "moments of happiness". In my opinion Nigel would be the perfect candidate for the position of a "European Commissioner for Happiness", were the European Commission ever to create such a Directorate General.
"Why on earth would the EU need a DG on Happiness?" you might ask yourself. I tell you why: because among the top 40 countries in the "Happy Planet Index" for 2012 not a single one of today's 27 EU Member States shows up. According to that index the gladdest people lived in Costa Rica, Vietnam and Colombia. The top Western European nation in the Happy Planet Index was Norway in 29th place, which is not a Member of the EU.
The EU country with the most joyous people is in 41st place, namely the United Kingdom, coincidentally the country where Happiness-Commissioner-to-be Nigel comes from. Maybe president Obama should also think about appointing a "Happiness Secretary of State" because the United States of America (of course not an EU member) is ranked 105.
Don't Laugh And Stare At This Photo For 1 Hour In Public
Could it be that happiness has little to do with wealth? Could it be that the "upper 10,000" Austrians do not feel as positive and blissful on the inside as I do? Should I actually pity the twenty-somethings driving around in their Porsches in the 1st district of Vienna rather than envy them for having been born into a rich family?
I guess I should neither pity nor envy them, right?
Eat The Rich
I assume you will agree that below a certain level of material wealth it is impossible for anyone to be truly content, simple because of the daily struggle to afford food, healthcare, proper housing and a decent education for their children.
Sometimes Money Can Light Up Your Life #1
But where is that certain point at which more money does not automatically mean more joy in life? Angus Deaton and Daniel Kahneman of Princeton University found that the quality of everyday experiences does not improve beyond 75,000 USD a year. Admittedly I find it somehow relieving that high income does not necessarily bring happiness. Call me naive or idealistic but I really think that it would not be fair if such a direct correlation existed.
Seeing Red In The Mall
What is it then that brings us this desirable positive state of mind? In the "World Book Of Happiness", Leo Bormans asked 100 leading experts on the topic from all over the world about their views. Essentially these can be boiled down to "12 secrets". It' s been two years since I read this book and the three things I still remember and consider relevant for myself are these:
- Enjoy the things you already have and be thankful for having them.
- Make sure you have a decent social network of friends and relatives (and regularly stay in touch with them!).
- Help others.
The Day The Window Was Cleaned And The Opportunity Clearly Visible
I have a notebook in which for years I've been writing down my "revelations", i.e. conclusions or observations that I consider important for my own well-being and advancement in life. Possibly unsurprisingly a considerable amount of these notes deal with my own happiness. Let me share three of them:
- "I only truly enjoy things that I consider inspiring. Every day I will engage in at least one inspiring thing". Remark: today one of these inspiring activities was writing this blog post!
- The feeling I get when I have the impression that I am contributing to something beautiful, significant and relevant is "joy". Remark: here' s to IndyACT, an organisation which I co-founded in Austria.
- I am happy when I have the deep feeling that my life is taking a positive turn, that it is moving ahead in the right direction. Remark: these days I feel that very strongly, and this blog and my photographic project in general definitely also have something to do with it.
Warren Just Kept On Laughing
Apparently the highest ranking politicians in the European Union have also taken note of the aforementioned "happiness deficit" in the EU, because in late 2011 the then Chairman of the European Council, Herman Van Rompuy sent out a copy of the "World Book of Happiness" to all world leaders! Do you still consider the idea of a "European Commissioner for Happiness" far-fetched?
Nigel, get your job application ready :-)
I am also very pleased to inform you that this blog has its very first follower - it is "Pink Carlienne", a young lady from the Philippines, a "photography hobbyist on the loose" who also has her own blog called "Point and Shoot".