By Leonardo Huerta Mendoza (UNAM Gazette) Mexico City, September 24.- Many people are convinced that we live in a time when happiness is not only not the only goal in life, but an obligation, as if being happy were a way of working. Others give the impression of being immersed in the religion of happiness, in which the dogma is to look forward without looking back and have no time for sadness. A few years ago, some radio stations told us to join the optimists, that a smile is the key that opens any door, that positive thoughts prevent us from getting sick and that, when we are already sick, relief comes faster . However, despite what the gurus of happiness consider, this would not be a personal matter, but of our governments. In 2012, the United Nations Organization (UN), “in recognition of the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world” and because “happiness and well-being are universal goals”, declared on 20 March as the International Day of Happiness. Thus, starting in 2013, each year the UN publishes its World Happiness Report, an analysis of the state of happiness in each country, in collaboration with Gallup, Inc., the company that conducts surveys on happiness in the world. . In the ranking for 2019-2021, the best placed countries were Finland, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Luxembourg, Sweden, Norway, Israel and New Zealand. The 2022 results were very similar. Finland was considered the happiest nation in the world for the fifth time in a row. It was followed by Denmark, Iceland, Sweden, Switzerland, Israel, Ireland, the Netherlands, New Zealand and Costa Rica. In this list of the happiest countries, Mexico ranks 46th out of 146 respondents. The least happy was Afghanistan. According to Gallup, its surveys measure “the intangibles of life,” such as feelings and emotions, that economic indicators such as gross domestic product (GDP) do not measure. “In this case, what Gallup is doing is not psychological research, but a survey, and as a survey it is not representative of the feelings of cultures,” says Ricardo Trujillo, from the Faculty of Psychology at UNAM. For its part, the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD), to which the richest nations belong, since 2009 recommends to member countries that their statistical institutes measure the welfare indices of their societies in order to assess performance, guide decision-making and help in social policies related to public financing, resource distribution, market confidence and unemployment, among others. Although economists around the world consider the main indicator of a country’s development to be GDP, that is, the monetary value of its products and services for a year, the constitution of the Kingdom of Bhutan, enacted in 2008, left to consider GDP as the main indicator of its development and was replaced by gross national happiness (FNB) or Gross National Happiness (GNH). In 1972, shortly after his accession to the throne, Jigme Singye Wangchuck, father of the current king, stated that for his kingdom “gross national happiness is more important than gross domestic product”. This small kingdom (with less than 800,000 inhabitants) is located northeast of India, east of Nepal and south of China. What is happiness? Something permanent in our lives or a spontaneous experience? Daniel Kahneman, winner of the Nobel Prize in Economics in 2002, found in his research that many people do not seek happiness. Although we think we want to be happy, he says, many of us work in the opposite direction. For this psychologist and economist, satisfaction and happiness are different things. According to him, happiness is an experience that arises spontaneously and is ephemeral, while satisfaction is a long-term feeling, which is built over time from the achievements made to build the type of life that everyone admires. He explains that working toward one of the two goals could weaken our ability to experience the other. By measuring everyday happiness—experiences that make people feel good—Kahneman found that spending time with friends is highly effective. But those who focus on their long-term goals, which are very satisfying to them, don’t mind socializing as they are busy with their big projects. Regarding money, Kahneman considers that it has a very important influence on a satisfactory life and that it influences happiness when it is not there. Poverty creates suffering, but beyond a certain level of income that meets our basic needs, wealth does not increase happiness. If a person does not go hungry, if she has clothes that cover her, a place to live and other basic needs covered, then that person could be as happy as the richest person in the world. Also, unlike satisfaction, which is retrospective, happiness happens in real time. Happify In the 70s of the last century, the speakers of excellence and self-help emerged who talked about self-improvement and spreading the culture of excellence, but now Happify and other similar applications are the new motivators of self-help. Happify is an online platform where we will find happiness using science, a new fetish word for charlatans. With this application, “based on science that improves emotional health”, users can know their emotional state in real time and improve it with motivation and stress management and positive thoughts. “Discover your happiness score and improve it in two months” is the phrase that Happify users receive when connecting. These applications are the new stage of positive psychology, which emerged at the end of the last century and was promoted by the American psychologist Martin Seligman, who defines it as “the scientific study of what makes life worthwhile”. Some research indicates that the so-called positive psychology, behind which are very powerful companies, has introduced happiness in the academic, economic and political agendas of many countries. Happycracia In the Spanish edition of a book published a few years ago in France, Happycracia. How the science and industry of happiness control our lives, Edgar Cabanas (psychologist) and Eva Illouz (sociologist) reflect on the search for happiness and wonder if happiness is really the goal of human beings, since it is not universal, since it has cultural and political roots. The idea of happiness in ancient times has nothing to do with our current conception, which is a very simplistic idea, according to the authors of the book, who do not consider the search for happiness to be the main objective of the human being. According to Cabanas and Illouz, happiness has become an obsession, a poisoned gift at the service of the economic system. However, for others, the human being has the obligation and not the right to be happy. Jorge Bucay, an Argentine speaker, adds that the most important challenge in life is learning to live each moment. Michel Foucault, in his book Discipline and Punish, puts it very clearly. In the Middle Ages a population was controlled by punishment, now it is controlled by pleasure. “I’m going to give you the chance to have what you want, but to have these goods, this pleasant life, you have to behave well,” explains Ricardo Trujillo. “To control society, it no longer works to threaten hell if we behave badly, now it is offered the capitalist paradise.” In Discontent in Culture, Freud says that we are born into a world with desires, needs and satisfactions, and one form of satisfaction is to satisfy the drive; I’m hungry, so I eat, and my drive is satisfied, explains Trujillo. “To think that the pure satisfaction of the drives represents happiness is illusory”, says Freud, “because the moment we satisfy our drives we begin to get anxious because we no longer have a limit and we overflow; We are not designed to always be satisfied. “The worst terror that a person could have is not having desires, because human beings cannot lack desire,” says the researcher. And he adds: “Structurally, the human being is not happy, he needs to live with some lack, thanks to which he is allowed to desire things. But it is not a lack of objects, but an existential lack. We can have all the things in the world, but we will always need something.” “And how good it is, because thanks to that we can wish. It seems that what makes us human is not happiness, but precisely the opposite: existential lack makes us remain constantly dissatisfied, always desiring”, concluded the academic.
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