916 Trying to find happiness?



What makes us happy? The quick answer is  ...  good relationships, health, a great job and financial independence. Some will say a new pair of shoes or a new dress, others will be happy when they get that new car. I have an essay  HAPPINESS video in my book with three definitions of the term  en.light.en.ment  for a title.

Now there is a study - from Latin America - that points to a measure of happiness that most of us know about, at least subconsciously: High happiness is explained by the abundance of family warmth and other supportive social relationships frequently sidelined in favour of an emphasis on income and material success.


Trying to find happiness? 

The Latin Americans have the secret

By Jessica Irvine, SMH


If you want to know where the happiest people in the world live - the ones who experience the greatest thrills of daily enjoyment and elation - we must look to Latin America.


The United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network released a study, the World Happiness Report.


It looks at the seemingly mysterious phenomenon of why Latin Americans report the highest levels of “positive affect”.


In contrast to life satisfaction, measures of human “affect” - either positive or negative - measure the frequency with which people experience different human sensations, emotions or sentiments.


According to the study, Latin Americans top the chart for the frequency with which they experience positive affect, namely the extent to which people experience: “smile or laugh”, “learnt something”, “treated with respect”, “experienced enjoyment” and “felt well-rested”.


The land-locked and swamp-ridden central South American nation of Paraguay emerges as the world capital of positive emotion, followed by Panama, Costa Rica, Venezuela and El Salvador. You have to get to No. 9 in the list before you hit a non Latin American country - Canada, followed by the Philippines.


It’s important to note that Latin Americans aren’t happy all the time. They also report above average levels of negative affect: including experiencing worry, sadness, anger, stress and depression.


The crime, corruption and inequality that are rife in Latin America take their toll. It’s just that the locals seem to have found ways to also experience high levels of daily happiness, despite their economic circumstances.


Indeed, they experience levels of “positive affect” far above what would be predicted by their life circumstances as measured on traditional measures, like income.


So, what is it? What is the secret ingredient to explain the Latin American happiness miracle?


While there are 650 million people in Latin America, there is a common Latin American culture that is unique in the world, born of a clash of cultures: that of the Spanish and Portuguese conquerors and local indigenous cultures which valued, predominantly, a “coexistence with - rather than dominance of - nature”.


This leads to a society that has a slower pace of life and that is not so focused on transforming and mastering nature and in generating economic growth as it is in living and enjoying life within the existing conditions. In addition, the extended-family values of the conquerors blended with the communitarian values of indigenous groups - where relatives tended to live together and to be in close contact.


Latin Americans are more likely to be in close contact with family and friends.


High happiness in Latin America is neither an anomaly nor an oddity. It is explained by the abundance of family warmth and other supportive social relationships frequently sidelined in favour of an emphasis on income measures in the development discourse.


So, as many (Westeners) prepare to return to work after the long weekend, to secure the income needed to secure deeper “life satisfaction”, we should pause and savour the simpler and more direct pleasures of life: spending time with family and friends.