I’d like to buy some happiness please

By Houston Paea

Google happiness’ and here’s what you’ll find. Hundreds and thousands of hits’, each and every one of them dedicated to either:
a) showing you the way to self-actualisation’ (fancy term for doing what feels right for you, or what makes you feel fulfilled’)
b) offering you tips’ and pointers’ showing you the way to true happiness’, or (and this is often the most common one)
c) ads for books, interviews and tickets to seminars that all offer you the chance to experience true happiness…at the cost of a small, but serviceable Honda.
happy in a field of flowers
It’s almost like they’re telling you, nay, commanding you to be happy, and that happiness is only attainable via The Secret’ RRP $31.99.

Since when was happiness not just a personal feeling, but a commercial product? Christmas, Easter… all of these days have been commercialised to the point that for most they have lost their cultural or spiritual value, but surely our core human feelings and emotions should be left untouched by the pervasive grasp of commercialism? Well, obviously not. Self-help books have their own section in the bookshop. It is estimated that self-help books generate roughly ’£80m a year in Britain alone. In US, where the market is more established, they are worth more than $600m! Globally the happiness industry is worth billions. You can study happiness at university, look for it at clubs, workshops and seminars, find it in books and magazines, go on happiness retreats and cruises. Every trip into town, just look around at the people shopping; they’re shopping for happiness’.

Has it always been this hard to find happy? If anything, the influx of happy’ products flooding the market has caused more distress, as people see them and realise that their lives aren’t as good as they could be; completely forgetting that they were fine up until they read that book or saw that TV ad. piggy-bankHow sad that our psychological well-being can be so strongly influenced by commercialisation and clever marketing to the point that we are willing to give up our hard earned cash in pursuit of a little bit of plastic happiness.

Who IS happy then? There are a lot of ways to measure happiness and there have been countless surveys and studies to try and work out who the happiest people are and which is the happiest country. They use all sorts of measures examining wealth, education, health care, life expectancy, resource use. The results tend to differ with various studies claiming Denmark, Vanuatu and Nigeria all the happiest country. (New Zealand usually makes it to the top 20!) What they do agree on is that you probably can’t find true happiness for $31.99 at your local book shop!

A 2003 study of more than 65 countries published in the UK’s New Scientist magazine found Nigeria has the world’s happiest people. The survey findings seemed to confirm the old saying that money cannot buy happiness, in fact it found that consumerism, or the desire for material goods, is actually a happiness suppressant.

Based on the results the survey proposes that the PATHS TO HAPPINESS’ are:

  • Genetic propensity to happiness
  • Marriage
  • Make friends and value them
  • Desire less
  • Do someone a good turn
  • Have faith (religious or not)
  • Stop comparing your looks with others
  • Earn more money
  • Grow old gracefully
  • Don’t worry if you’re not a genius

Want some more happiness in your life?


  • old-lady-smilingLaugh! You could evold lady smilingen 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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