How can India be happier?
And what can we learn from Finland, the happiest country in the world
The recent report released by the World Happiness Index ranked India at the 139th position. It is the happiness of the people in a country that determines the ranking system.
The total number of countries surveyed was 149. Last year, the same report ranked India at the 144th position — out of 156 countries — which is a similar ranking compared to this year.
On the other hand, Finland ranked as the happiest country for the second consecutive year. This ranking proves that Finland is doing something for ensuring people's happiness, and the other countries need to learn from it.
To better understand life in Finland, we looked into life in Finland. As sighted by a report in nbcnews.com, the country has extensive welfare benefits, low levels of corruption, a well-functioning democracy, and an instilled sense of freedom and independence. These reasons account as one of the significant contributors to the happiness of the country. Additional reasons sighted for the happiness index are a progressive taxation system, effective wealth distribution. Along with that, the healthcare system tops all world-class policies.
Are you confused?
Simply put, Finnish people pay higher taxes but see more results in both quality and quantity. The tax benefits are visible in free health care, free child care and good quality infrastructure. There is no squandering of money in privatisation or unknown projects.
Also, according to the taxation system, the rich pay more taxes than the poor.
Even the legal provisions ensure that the wealthy find themselves penalised according to their status.
Finland also has extensive provisions for working parents. That helps them to focus and maintain a balance between work and life. Additional, stellar public schools help aid the education gaps in society.
To understand this better, we've compared the population and Gross Domestic Product (GDP) ratio of India and Finland.
India's total population stands at 136.64 crores, and the GDP is 2.87 lakh crores. In contrast, Finland's population is only 55.2 lakh, and the GDP stands at 26,929.63 crores.
The average contribution per person to GDP in India and Finland stands at 1,980.108 and 45,778.41, respectively. The data shows that, although largely populated, India's contribution per head is significantly lower than that of Finland.
Now comparing basic parameters such as healthcare, India's contribution to healthcare stands at 1.26 per cent of GDP. However, Finland's contribution to healthcare stands at 9.2 per cent. So, while the country is demanding more aid towards the Gross Domestic Product (GDP), they're also aiming at providing better services to the people.
But India, as a country, has a long way to go to attain such standards. Development happens over time, and before we can get there, there are some things that we need to achieve. (On a personal level)
The Sisu philosophy: The Finnish art of strength and courage
According to the Finnish people, Sisu is the spirit that keeps them going.
Considered remarkably close to their hearts, Sisu explains their national character.
In Finnish, the word 'Sisu' translates to strength and perseverance in a task that could seem unachievable, challenging or hopeless.
The integrity that people withness in the face of adversity. This spirit helps Finnish people push their boundaries and take challenges head-on.
Author Joanna Nylund of Sisu: The Finnish Art of Courage describes it as, "What you call on when you're struggling to reach your goal, that's when Sisu comes in."
Come to think of it, we Indians have already achieved this level of resilience. So what is it that we lack daily — to achieve a happier life?
The Bridge Chronicle spoke to Dr Rahul Khemani, a psychiatrist, to understand lifestyle changes that could lead to a happier life. To understand that, we need to build an understanding of what is happiness? Happiness is a state of being happy and content. It is an emotion you feel when you like and enjoy what you are doing. But it is also essential to understand that you cannot be happy all the time.
Dr Khemani explains, "Nowadays, happiness has become a trend, since people have begun talking about mental health. But it is not compulsory to be happy at all times. You can experience sadness, happiness, anxiety, anger or jealousy. And it is important to experience them all."
"What one should realise is that happiness becomes important when it is connected with contentment. If people are content with whatever they have, they can be happy."
Happiness is subjective
Happiness differs from person-to-person and relates to an individual's personality type — Type A and Type B. Type A people may be motivated and goal-oriented. They may have things stuck in their mind, things that they have to achieve; this may affect a person's happiness.
Dr Khemani says, "The way you think affects what makes you feel happy. But it is not always bad. Because happiness is an emotion, the parameters for it differ according to every individual."
As mentioned above, type-A personalities go out to achieve what they want. However, when that doesn't happen, it makes them sad. Hence, it depends on what you think and what you wish to achieve. It is how your brain translates things.
Happiness and productivity
Happiness is linked closely to productivity. Its the medium of my joy. "Since I am a doctor, maybe the fact that makes me happy." If there is no happiness and a sense of 'platonic sadness' in our life, we will not be motivated to do things.
"People need to recognise what makes them happy. If its the job, is it the money? Or in a relationship, the intimacy, the support? If something makes me happy, I would be motivated to do it," says the doctor.
"If your job cannot pay for your necessities, and you do not find joy in doing it. It will leave you sad." But that is also important. "If you don't understand sadness, you will not understand what happiness is," adds the doctor.
Lifestyle changes that could make you happy
There are a few lifestyle changes that can make you happy.
1. Exercise: Exercise is not just for the body but also for the mind. Exercise releases chemicals in the body (serotonin) that helps boost energy. But if you are depressed, then exercise alone won't help.
Instead, go on walks, preferably with a companion. You could also try mediation or yoga.
2. Diet: Food is also an excellent supplement of serotonin and can help your body enhancing mood and feeling good. Additionally, milk and dairy products are also a good idea to boost the production of the chemical. Dairy products are a good source of dopamine, a chemical responsible for concentration and energy.
Skipping food can have a negative body, as much as eating fried food. It makes you feel lethargic, and it is best to avoid it.
3. Sleep: Sleep is the time when your body and your mind heals. It is always a good idea to get enough sleep. Your bedroom environment also affects how healthy your sleep is. Keep your bedroom dark, cool and calm to ensure a good sleep. Also, it is vital to train your mind to use the bed for sleep and intimacy; this helps wade off lethargy.
Apart from that, the doctor suggests tricks to ensure your body and mind feel happy.
Smile a lot: Smiling in our brain is linked to happiness. So when you do smile, your brain restructures itself to feel happy.
Social connect: Ensure that you maintain your social connect and interact with your friends and colleagues.
Mindfulness: Mindfulness is being focused on what you are doing. You should be able to immerse yourself in what you do to be able to enjoy it. We do this with our work, but we should also do it with every other activity that we perform.
Seek help: When you feel sad or do not know how to feel better again. Be it temporarily or long-term, it is crucial to seek help. Look for a therapist, a counsellor or a psychiatrist. Sometimes, talking to a professional can help with some big problems that otherwise feel impossible to fix.
It is possible to achieve happiness if you fight your stress in the right possible way. Many people distract themselves by immersing themselves in work, but that's not the right way to deal with problems. Acceptance and solution finding goes a long way, rather than just distraction.