The Happiness Research Institute has opened The Happiness Museum in Copenhagen, Denmark, the world’s first museum dedicated explicitly to the geography, politics, history and future of happiness.
The Happiness Museum: a small museum about the big things in life
At The Happiness Museum you will understand why Denmark is often called the happiest country on earth, what hygge has got to do with it, and how you can measure something as subjective as happiness. The Happiness Museum has been created by The Happiness Research Institute, a think tank focusing on well-being, happiness and quality of life.
The museum consists of interactive activities with experiments including mental exercises
Denmark is one of the best places in the world when it comes to well-being, happiness and quality of life, according to the UN World Happiness Reports.
Meik Wiking, author of The Little Book of Hygge, and CEO of The Happiness Research Institute, told Web24 News: “We had this great interest in our work, but we did not have a place where we could reveal our happiness.
“We sit eight people in an office at the computer, but people hear the words ‘Department of Happiness Research’ and then think we sit with dogs and sofas, drink hot chocolate and fun (Danish word meaning warmth) all day.
“That’s why we created a place where we can send people, if they want to be wiser about happiness,” added Wiking.
The 240 sq meter museum has the capacity to receive 25 visitors at a time due to the regulations to combat Covid-19 in the country. The space is in the basement of a building in the historic center of the capital Copenhagen, and consists of interactive activities with experiments, mental experiments.
Visitors learn about the history of happiness, the politics of happiness, the anatomy of smiles and why Nordic countries are considered “superpowers of happiness”. Among other things, you can see ad videos from the 1950s and 1960s, where companies tried to define the concept of happiness.
The museum is also interactive and visitors will participate in small exercises involving light and chocolate, as well as thinking experiments. Among them is the question: would you take the red or blue pill in the Matrix, being placed in a machine that gives you the illusion that you are living a perfect life or prefer to live in the real world?
The exhibits also include artifacts of happiness donated by people from around the world who remember their happiest moments. In one, a French woman, for example, donated her daughter’s asthma inhaler, explaining that the girl no longer needed it after they moved to Denmark, where air pollution is less.
In another session, a Brazilian mother describes the happiness she felt when she received a drawing of when her son was small, in which he said “I love you in the shape of a heart.”
The element common to the exposed objects is that they can help make happiness more concrete – a concept that Meik Wiking himself describes as “happiness is simple”.
What can the rest of the world learn from the Happiness museum?
One of the other main focal points of the museum is why Nordic countries tend to report some of the highest levels of happiness on earth, reported CNN Edition.
Denmark, for example, frequently lands near the top of surveys ranking the world’s happiest nations, including the United Nations’ annual World Happiness Report. In its 2020 list, Denmark comes in at No. 2 just behind neighboring Finland, while Copenhagen ranks as the fifth happiest city in the world, behind Helsinki, Aarhus (also in Denmark), Wellington and Zurich.
Danish psychologist Marie Helweg-Larsen, a professor at Dickinson College in Pennsylvania, told CNN that "it boggles peoples’ minds how you can, just by thinking thoughtfully and strategically about the role of government in life, create happy people."
Plus, the countries that report the highest levels of happiness tend to contain many elements that, at least on the surface, would seem to hinder it.
"I think foreigners find the Nordic countries to be kind of a conundrum," Helweg-Larsen explains. "They seem to do things that others have decided couldn’t possibly be associated with happiness, like pay high taxes, live with cold weather and experience long periods of darkness."
So, what might the rest of the world learn from the Danes in these trying times?
"Trust is a factor in happiness," Helweg-Larsen says. "We could all do more to talk to people who are not like us and see how we can establish more trust in our own communities."
She also thinks the Danish concepts of pyt (an "oh well" attitude for accepting a problem and resetting) and hygge (the pursuit of intentional intimacy within interactions and environments) are great for relieving stress.
Wiking says that, if his studies at the Happiness Research Institute have shown him anything, it’s that humans are incredibly resilient.
"When we follow people over time, we can see that they are remarkable at overcoming the challenges that happen to them," he says. "Of course, it’s necessary to be optimistic in my profession, but I think we can overcome these times as well."
As the Happiness Museum tries to share with its guests, happiness is a feeling that evolves and takes some nurturing both from society and from within. Work at it enough, and you’ll be better equipped to find the silver linings in these stormy days.
The World Happiness Report 2020
The World Happiness Report, which is published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network, is a landmark survey of the state of global happiness that ranks 156 countries by how happy their citizens perceive themselves to be. The World Happiness Report 2020 for the first time ranks cities around the world by their subjective well-being and digs more deeply into how the social, urban and natural environments combine to affect our happiness. Click to read the full report.
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