Victoria NeuroNotes

Into the Gray

World’s Happiest Countries — 5 Ways To Happiness


According to the Worlds Happiness Report, surveys from 156 nations put Denmark in the #1 spot (again) as the most happiest country on the planet.  The survey was published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The 2013 report was released this month, and according to the survey, northern Europeans are among the happiest people in the world.  Mexico outranked the U.S., coming in at 16, while the U.S. ranked 17.  Canada took 6th place.

The top three were:

1)  Denmark

2)  Norway

3)  Switzerland

According to the 2013 Peace Index, they are also ranked in the top 5 of the most peaceful countries in the world.  The U.S. was ranked 100 from a list of 162 countries. Canada was in 6th place.   Denmark came in 3rd, with Switzerland 2nd, and Iceland taking top spot.

So what contributes to their success?  I feel very fortunate that my best friend is from Denmark.  We’ve know each other for over 4 years now, and stay in contact on a daily basis, mostly via Skype.  *waves to Morti*  😀  Congratulations.

I’ve had the unique opportunity to get to know Denmark’s culture through the eyes of one who lives there, and I must say, I am smitten.   One of the biggest things they’ve got going for them is that they put the well-being of people first.

*Gasp*  What a concept.

A few months ago I got into a conversation with someone who said “Yeah, but they have little motivation for innovation”.  Huh?  Norway is considered one of the most innovative countries in the world, ranking 13th, and 2nd in productivity according to Bloomberg’s Global Innovation Index.  Denmark was ranked 9th in innovation and 3rd in Research concentration.

I read a blog not long ago from an American woman who moved to Denmark to finish her education.  She noted that she felt safe (as a woman) walking alone in Denmark, unlike the feeling she had while living in the U.S.    I live in a state that is ranked in the top 10 of the most violent states in the U.S.  It also happens to be one of the most religious states in America; and yes, there seems to be a correlation.  8 out of 10 states ranked the most violent also ranked as the most religious.  Keep in mind that I said religious, not spiritual.  The countries that rank as the most religious also tend to be the lest peaceful, although there are a few exceptions.


Nic Marks, the founder for the Center for Well-Being at the UK think tank New Economics Foundation, gathered evidence about what makes us happy, and now uses it to promote policies that put the well-being of people and the planet first.

A question was asked (globally) by social scientists, “What do you want?”

The top answer was happiness.  Health and love tied for 2nd place, and wealth came in 3rd.   What people want is happiness for themselves, for their families and communities.   In this 2010 TED Talks video (below) Nic shares the 5 ways to well-being:

wellbeingtitleThe first is to connect.  Yep.  We need each other.  Who knew?  (sarcasm)

The second is to be active.   Dance like no one is watching.  😀

Third is to take notice; having awareness.

The fourth is to keep learning, and continue throughout the whole life course.

And the fifth way to happiness/well-being is to give. Our generosity, our altruism, and our compassion are hardwired to the reward mechanism in our brain.  Check it out.

“Happiness is not something ready made. It comes from your own actions.” ~Dalai Lama

What are some of the things you do in your life to promote happiness and well being for yourself and others?

Images courtesy of:


Author: NeuroNotes

Victoria predominately blogs about religion, and the brain's role in religious type experiences.

21 thoughts on “World’s Happiest Countries — 5 Ways To Happiness

  1. I gotta say, I was surprised not to see Texas on the “most religious” list–having lived here for a decade, I’m pretty sure it belongs there. (This is not a compliment, by the way…) Definitely belongs on the other list, too, being the capital of capital punishment and all. (Also NOT a compliment…)

    As for the five things necessary to happiness, I’m pretty solid on 3 and 4, anxious about 1, working on 5, and pathetically behind on 2 (unless you count Dorito runs). Not sure how that racks up, all things considered.


  2. *Waves to Victoria*

    I remember coming across A meta-analysis of 11 regret ranking studies, not long ago while doing research. It revealed that the top six biggest regrets in life center on (in descending order) education, career, romance, parenting, the self, and leisure.

    I also came across another study that looked into regrets of people in different age groups. What I was searching for was regret of people who had come of age, on their death beds.
    A common theme I spotted in the studies was that with Diminishing opportunity came increased regrets. This is something I felt was a key factor, the more opportunities you have to shape your life, the less regrets you will have in the end. Denmark is a country that takes it very seriously to offer people equal opportunities in key areas like education. Your social heritage does not dictate if you can study to become a doctor, you always have the opportunity if you put in the work.

    I think that the more opportunities a society can offer a child, the more likely it will be that as the child grows, it will be with less regrets in the long run.


    • Morti — this. ^

      Your post took my mind to lots of other research I’ve read over the last several years, and you brought up some key points that I think gets ignored in our society. Education is not valued in my culture, which is why we are falling behind other developed countries. In fact, several things you value in your culture are devalued in ours, yet studies show over and over that this will ultimately be to our demise as a country if we don’t start taking the research seriously. You said:

      “Denmark is a country that takes it very seriously to offer people equal opportunities in key areas like education. Your social heritage does not dictate if you can study to become a doctor, you always have the opportunity if you put in the work.”

      As Martin Luther King once said: “I have a dream.”

      Yes, I, too, have a dream that someday our country will pay attention to the successful societal templates we have to model our own country by. It seems like the priority in our country is about producing ‘stuff’ and of course, the indoctrination of consumerism.

      In 1968, Robert Kennedy recognized this growing trend and at the end of an eloquent, insightful talk, he said:

      “The Gross National Product measures everything except that which makes life worthwhile.”

      What I find fascinating is the attitudes in your country. Interviews from social scientist found that people in Denmark and other Scandinavian countries don’t choose careers based on income or status.

      “They have this thing called ‘Jante-lov,’ which essentially says, ‘You’re no better then anybody else.’

      “A garbage man can live in a middle-class neighborhood and hold his head high.”

      I love that. I also love the fact that Denmark spends more on children and the elderly per capita, than any other nation in the world. Yes, you guys pay higher taxes, but at least you see your hard earned money being spent on its citizens.

      You’ve already seen this video before, but I thought I’d post it here for others to watch. I discovered it shortly before I met you, when I first learned back in 2008 (think it was) that Denmark housed some of the happiest people in the world. This video was produced by ABC’s 20/20, with some really cool (and amazing) information they learned about your culture the first time your country received the honor of the happiest place on the planet.

      Jeg elsker dig min ven. Tak fordi du kiggede forbi. 🙂


  3. Reblogged this on Nice Atheist and commented:
    Hello Everyone, I hope you all are doing really well……This is a great article that my friend Victoria took the time to write and gather statistics about peace and happiness throughout the United States and other countries as well. Thanks for reading!


  4. Hey Victoria,

    So, I am at the second worst place (least amount of peace), Tennessee and it’s also the sixth most religious state in the country. Of all the many places I’ve lived and visited throughout my life, I’d have to say that this information is pretty accurate. As a somewhat liberal atheist, I’m determined to make it work somehow.

    Thanks for taking the time to gather all the information.


    • Hey Charity,

      I have a love/hate relationship with the South, and have lived in several southern states. I’ve spent most of my life here, and it’s a beautiful place to live. But, it’s oppressed by lingering ideologies that were birthed during the Iron age. Ideologies that don’t produce the fruit of happiness. Ideologies that appear to produce increased gray matter volume in the right amygdala, the seat of fear and negative emotions. Psychologists, and now neuroscientists, know that fear in the organism leads to fight or flight behavior, activating the oldest parts of the brain. It seems rather evident where you and I live.


  5. Hey Victoria,

    I have to wonder if it also fuels apathy. I think the apathy comes from the whole “that’s the way we’ve always done it” attitude. I have to wonder if that’s also why people here are very territorial, like male animals. There’s this whole attitude towards outsiders (people who have been here two generations or less) of locals acting like they have seniority. I have dealt with this in south Georgia and a bit in Dallas, as well as Nashville, but nothing’s been like my small town of ten thousand people here in west Tennessee! They even act as though they have rights over your property because they’ve lived in the neighborhood longer than you. I have always believed in not trespassing or littering someone else’s property, so, this doesn’t make sense to me.

    On one hand, all of this makes me want to be more authentic in my non-belief around them if they’re not going to like me anyway. On the other hand, if I really do come out, they could make my life even worse. This rings more true with Mr. Amazing working for a huge network of religious hospitals. Both my boys go to a public school, however, I can’t get over the religiosity. My oldest is in the gifted program and next week it will have a meeting for all of the kids’ families at a different public school. However, the lady that runs it is super, duper Baptist and turns the meeting (I’ve been to their events before) into a Wednesday night Church service. There’s at least two, even three at times, prayers, a scripture or two and a poem or passage about God, Jesus or Holy Spirit. Our family decided we won’t go to that meeting next week because my oldest already has another commitment any way. It’s not as though we go out of our way to not deal with Christians, our music teacher is one and we like him. We just don’t care to walk into a secular environment that’s dominated by leadership’s religious notions.

    It’s a continual balance every time we go to games, practices, school, work and lessons. I know how much the Christians in Tennessee bitch about Muslims, I have to wonder if they’ve even considered what it’s like to be the odd person out themselves. I doubt if most of them ever had or ever will.


    • Ugh…your horror story about the public school system situation makes me sad, because it seems very hard to avoid the religiosity there.

      I wanted to share with you my thoughts regarding apathy. Fear might be a partial explanation, but fear can also be a great motivator. Of course it might motivate you to do irrational and incorrect actions (like vote for Republicans against your own self-interests lol), but in general fear usually calls you to action. Apathy is usually born out of a sense of hopelessness. It’s possible that extreme fear could make you feel that hopeless, but I would say that the biggest source of apathy is a lack of education that fosters curiosity and critical thinking skills. I’d say religion plays a big part of this, because very fundamental sects of religion that you find prevalent in the bible belt do not encourage questions or critical thinking. If you are convinced that God has a plan for you, why make one for yourself. If heaven is your reward for being faithful, what else do you need to do but be faithful, which doesn’t make you motivated to do much else but follow a prescribed set of rules handed to you by your pastor and community. Poor education will also limit your career opportunities which reduces ambition. I also think a lack of diversity fuels apathy as well. And this is often worse in small towns, because the diversity of opinion, culture, race, etc that you are exposed to is extremely limited. Those who are different usually leave, often leaving those who are more willing to conform behind. Many people in small towns have never even lived anywhere else, and growing in such a town makes you believe that this is normal. Exposure diversity encourages curiosity and exposes you to different points of view which enhances critical thinking.

      Liked by 1 person

      • My apologies in not responding sooner.

        I agree, Swarn. Lack of exposure unknowingly feeds ignorance. If you’ve only ever known those of a particular race, ethnicity or religion, you have a very limited world view.

        I’m also a firm believer that religion keeps us from evolving as well. On a personal level I feel so overwhelmed at times because I am so completely ignorant about science and the world around us. It was all about Jesus my first four decades of life. Everything else was secondary. I still feel like a recent high school graduate trying to figure out what I’m going to do when I grow up.

        Liked by 1 person

        • I’m disappointed Charity. You should have been next to your computer expecting that someone would respond to a comment you made 2 years ago! 🙂

          I am sorry for the time you lost. All I can offer is to help you answer any science questions you might have. Especially if they are related to meteorology, geology, oceanography or astronomy. 🙂 I’ll leave the brain up to Victoria. Anyway, it’s never too late to learn. 🙂


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  7. Funny, I did a quick post on this very subject too: “Time To Take A Hard Look America” —
    I LOVE the comic strip on “peaceful religions”! Friggin hilarious! Great post Victoria!

    Thank you for sharing the TED video too! Didn’t know about it — think I’ll use it in the future too. 😉


  8. “Funny, I did a quick post on this very subject too:”

    Thanks for the link — and as one of my dear blogger friends tells me sometimes — get off my wave length. 😀
    Great post, btw.


  9. Ack! This post was old. That Charity person I responded to may never read my response. lol

    Great post by the way. I used to subscribe to a great journal that focused on a different aspect of humanity each issue. One of those was on happiness and it began my interest in the subject. For a long time mental health focused on fixing problems rather than really investigate the positive aspects of well being. Research into happiness begun in Scandinavia and not surprisingly they are the ones leading the way in basing government on the pursuit of happiness over the pursuit of wealth. And I have also taken to this to heart in my own life, and as a result it has made me happier as a person. It just makes it hurt a little more when you live in a country that doesn’t seem to get it. How long will American exceptionalism keep us from recognizing that other countries have a lot to actually teach us?

    I had watched that TED talk before as well, and it is wonderful. And what your Danish said about ensuring equality (and quality) in education really is so important. This is what we have in Canada, and every country that leads the way in terms of happiness has it as well. Equality in education is not what we have in the U.S. and it shows. And since education now uses a business model it will not get better until we realize that education is not about profit.

    Liked by 1 person

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