Monday, March 20, 2017

What Makes Happiness?

The list is out for the year, and Norway is officially ranked as the happiest country on Earth.  It edged out Denmark which has topped the list in recent years.  But, still the happiest countries are Norway, Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland, and Finland.  I've spent most of my life listening to people talk about how they want to spend their golden years on a beach on an island, or in the desert, or some other warm place.  Why is it that the happiest countries in the world are all countries that have a lot of cold weather?

I find it amazing that four out of the five countries on the list are in darkness for significant amounts of time during the year.  I wouldn't think that would make for a happy environment.  I also wouldn't want to spend a lot of time shoveling snow.  The taxes are also high in these countries, which means that they don't get to keep as high a percentage of the money that they earn as other countries around the world.  Many of these northern countries have some of the highest personal tax rates in the world.  People in these countries are no where near the longest life expectancies either.  Why are they so happy?  They don't have a capitalist government, they don't have an enormous amount of possessions.  What is there to be happy about?

Norway has what is called a Unitary Government.  It's where the government runs a lot of things that in a place like America, we have to take care of ourselves.  They take care of education, retirement, health care, and stuff like that.  In countries with that style of government, you never have to worry about getting sick, sending your kids to college, or getting old.  Is it worth the extra taxes?  I would probably think so.  This is also coupled with a maternity leave that can last for a year while your job is protected and up to three months of vacation time.  It sounds pretty good.  As a matter of fact, Finland is the most traveled country in the world.  They like to get out and they are happy at home.  It's the perfect combination.

Norway is happier than Denmark this year.  Denmark has been happiest for a long time.  I wonder, what is there to see in Norway?  Well, they are a very progressive country.  They have modern architecture, great sports, a highway that nothing much can match, beautiful scenery, amazing history, and fabulous sports for both summer and winter.  They have fjords, historical towns, and a ton of waterfalls.  It's the land of the Vikings and all the history that goes with it.  They have world class restaurants, music, theater and so much more.  You can visit this country by train, ferry, cruise, or car.  It's all up to you.  You don't need any special visas to go.

I've been reading about the ideals that make the Nordic people so happy.  I live in America and I know what makes me unhappy.  Most people here have the attitude that they want the government to stay out of their personal business.  What we have here is a government that costs a lot to run, has too many people in the works of it , but does not do enough to make sense of it all.  We work too much, don't take any time to spend with our friends and family or traveling, and we pay some pretty hefty taxes for a government that doesn't truly provide health care, retirement or time off.  The regulations for health care here just say that we have to have it.  The idea of Social Security was corrupted decades ago.  No one has ever said that we should be allowed to take our vacation, or that we are entitled to time off.  We work all the time in this country.  That's probably our problem.

The Unitarian Governments don't emphasize material possessions as much as Americans do either.  We all want the latest iPhone, huge TV's, the best car, the best house, the best of everything.  It takes up a lot of money.  It seems as though we would rather have all of this than time with our families and friends.  Time is important.  Apparently other people around the world have figured this out.

Americans work a lot of hours and we don't take our vacation time, what little we have.  We also don't leave the country much.  Americans have a low percentage of passport holders at %30 and only %40 of those actually leave the country.  We have a lot to do in our own country, but also we are a country of people who have an amazing tendency to go to the same place year after year.  We find that favorite spot and revisit it when we have a little time off.  We as a people don't leave the country for adventure.  Why?

When I was growing up, I thought that I could never afford to leave the country for vacation.  Only rich people got to go to Europe or Australia or China or whatever.  I also never had the time.  No one wants to go to Europe for the weekend.  I also kept hearing about all the bad things that were happening in other countries, so it seemed scary as well.  Passports in America cost a lot of money that a lot of us aren't willing to spend, even though we'd spend four times as much on a phone.  If more people investigated traveling abroad, would they do it?

The sad part is, I don't think so.  The people that I know won't try a new food.  Why on Earth would they try a new country?  Most of the people that I know would never travel to Norway because it's cold and dark.  I've been to Finland and Iceland and Switzerland.  People ask me all the time why.  My answer is because it's great.

I've been to Switzerland more than once, and I'm planning trips to Iceland and Norway in the next few years.  I've been to several countries, and I love the north.  The people are great, the tourist attractions are great.  The activities are great, the history is great.  I don't even care what time of year you are there, it's great.  So, given what I know about the governments and the fact that I never used to think about going to these countries, but once I did; all I wanted to do was go back; maybe they know how to live.  What is the secret to happiness?  Not worrying.  Not having to give up things to make it through your life.  Not having your taxes just fly out the window for naught.  Having time to spend traveling, on activities, or time with your family might just be more important than the latest gadget.  My suggestion is that you visit one of these countries, whether it be Norway or any of the top five countries for happiness.  You will get infected and be happy that you went.  It just might be the best time you ever have in your life.  You might just be surprised how much fun you have visiting a country where the people are happy.  Think about it, go and see for yourself and enjoy!!e.ZzZz.5060000000493.0.32566139558.expedia.expedia{google}&utm_medium={cpc}&device=c&fpprice=&gclid=CMu19u2I5tICFdaEswodPowMsA

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