Saturday, April 25, 2015

167. On happiness

We all want to be happy. Yet, we are unhappy. The 2015 World Happiness Report, just released by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network, a global initiative under the UN, has made me more unhappy than I was. It has put India at the 117th place out of 158 nations. Last time, India's rank was 111. This means that we have managed to become more unhappy today than we were in 2013. It is even more depressing to know that India has fared much worse than countries like Pakistan, Bangladesh and Iraq. Apparently, these countries have faced much more turmoil than India in recent times. Yet, they have been able to beat the blues better than India. Two interesting general findings of the report are that women are happier than men and young people are happier than the old.

Criteria for ranking a nation in the Happiness Index included GDP per capita, life expectancy, social support and freedom to make life choices. While one can question the methodology, it is difficult to deny that we are an unhappy nation. You can see stress all around. Level of tolerance is going down. Pursuit of material things has reached a feverish pitch. Families no longer provide the sanctuaries they used to. Competition in every sphere is growing. Young kids are killing themselves or others at the drop of a hat. Media is full of negativity and is doing nothing to give hope to people.

It is sad that the country which produced great spiritual leaders who delved into the reasons of unhappiness and came up with simple formulas for happiness finds itself in such a state. Of all the prescriptions for happiness, what I find most effective is, " live in the present ". Our spiritual leaders rightly said that we should not be too elated about our gains in the past and too gloomy about our losses. Nor should we be too worried about the future. We should live in the present and make best use of every moment.

Everyone of us is aware of this formula, but nobody knows how to implement it in practice. Nobody makes an effort to know. We all are too busy to pay attention to such small details. Is it then a surprise that we are sliding on the World Happiness Index?