Happiness

Source: “What Makes us Happy?” by Joshua Wolf Shenk in The Atlantic, June 2009, p. 48

The bookstore shelves are lined with titles that have an almost messianic tone, as in Happier: Learn the Secrets to Daily Joy and Lasting Fulfillment.  But what does it mean, really, to be happier?  For 30 years Denmark has topped international happiness surveys.  But Danes are hardly a sanguine bunch.  Ask an American how it’s going, and you will usually hear “Really good.”  Ask a Dane and you will hear “Det Kunne Vaere Vaerre (It could be worse).”   “Danes have consistently low (and indubitably realistic) expectations for the year to come,” a team of Danish scholars concluded.  “year after year they are pleasantly surprised to find that not everything is getting more rotten in the state of Denmark.”

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