A happy planet

By Megan Eldergirl-smiling

Someone once quoted to me “When I was in primary school, they told me to write down what I wanted to be when I grew up. I wrote down happy. They told me I didn’t understand the assignment. I told them they didn’t understand life.”

So what is it that makes us happy? And is it the same everywhere in the world?

Finding happiness
According to our parents money can’t buy happiness, love, friends etc. And do you know what? It really can’t. To me anyway, happiness is having my friends around me, a roof above my head and being content inside. To some, it might be knowing that you’ve studied enough to pass a test, played a great game of sport or simply have a moment to head to the beach and forget about study. For others it might be going on holiday, getting a new car, apartment or cell phone. In general people in the West tend to be more individualistic and being happy is often seen as a reflection of personal achievement or material wealth.

Global happinessrainbow-world
Around the world, happiness means different things to different people. In the more community based nations for example, China and South Korea, happiness and satisfaction is likely to come from fulfilling the expectations of family, self-discipline, cooperation and meeting social responsibilities. In some parts of the world, happiness is linked to religion. In Japan, the ancient Shinto religion is woven into the lives of all of the country’s citizens. A happy life is a gift given from the Gods above. For most Muslims true happiness is found in knowing their purpose in life and by following the commands of God. Happiness is an exclusive quality of the soul and therefore cannot be attained by material success - money, power, fame, etc.

In Bhutan, a country which is one of the most isolated and least developed countries in the world, the wealth of the country is measured in Gross National Happiness (GNH). GNH was designed to protect the resources of Bhutan so they wouldn’t be exploited by the pursuit for development and national wealth. Law states that not less than 65% of the land must be covered in trees, and because of this law, 72% of Bhutan is covered in forest. The laws of GNH state that the government must conserve and promote Bhutanese culture, including language, art and national dress, to ensure that these traditions are not lost. In contrast most countries use Gross Domestic Product (GDP) which measures economic output only. Put simply, GDP measures a country’s level of happiness (or wellbeing) on its wealth, while GNH measures a country’s wealth based on the level of happiness.meditation

No one, in any part of the world, is going to be happy all the time, in fact it would be kind of weird to be happy 24/7, but despite our differences happiness is an integral part of people’s lives all over the world. In general it seems to depend less on what you have materially and more on your social, mental and spiritual resources.

I definitely want to be happy when I grow up.


  • Laugh! You could even join a laughter club. The concept of laughter clubs was started in India about 10 years ago by Dr Kataria, who was doing research into the health benefits of laughter. He went to the local park gathering friends and family to come and laugh with him. It started with a few jokes with friends and has grown into a world wide phenomenon. There are now 5000 clubs all over the world, including a couple in NZ!
  • Talk to someone new. Talking to someone can bring unexpected surprises and you might make a new friend, or make a real difference in their life.
  • Join people around the world and celebrate World Laughter Day on 4 May.
  • Check out The Happy Planet Index which measures ecological efficiency alongside human well-being and happiness. Calculate your own happy planet index.


A blog of one woman who tested all the happiness tips, theories and experiments available for a year.
An interesting article about Gross National Happiness in Bhutan and the ideas and concepts behind it.
Check out the Gross International Happiness Project who want to take Bhutan’s idea to the rest of the world.
This website has a great summary of some important thoughts on happiness by some of the world’s great philosophers.

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