Today is International Day of Happiness. Are you happy? If you are, what is making you happy? If not, what is making you unhappy? Besides being ambivalent, happy is how everyone should mostly be. Sadly, due to the demands of this world, emotions such as anger and sadness are increasingly becoming a default way for many people due to unfulfilled promises and expectations.
Today marks the tenth anniversary since March 20 was proclaimed the International Day of Happiness to recognise the relevance of happiness and well-being as universal goals and aspirations in the lives of human beings around the world.
Happiness, in the context of mental or emotional states, is positive or pleasant emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy. Other forms include life satisfaction, well-being, subjective well-being, flourishing and good spirit.
There are several indicators which shows that society at large is happy. These include psychological wellbeing, health, education, time use, cultural diversity and resilience, good governance, community vitality, work and good compensation, achievement, ecological diversity, living standards and contentment.
For happiness to occur, there has to be a conducive environment where basics human needs are met and where expectations, ambitions, aspiration and potential can be realised with limited challenges. It is an environment that allows people to realise their dreams and to define who they are with limited impediments. Freedom and ability to explore one’s potential also leads to happiness.
Since 2013, March 20 has been celebrated as the International Day of Happiness to recognise the importance of happiness in the lives of people around the world. Happiness is a fundamental human goal which is why the international community recognises this goal and calls for a more inclusive, equitable and balanced approach to economic growth that promotes sustainable development, poverty eradication, happiness and the well-being of all peoples.
Contexts that allow happiness vary largely because of present or historical conditions. At independence, it is possible that Zimbabweans were among the happiest societies not because they had achieved all the indicators of happiness, but because they had overturned colonial rule. In 2022, Zimbabwe ranked third from bottom among the unhappy countries in the world. This was largely because of the protracted and unresolved political crises that have disrupted the normal functioning of the society since the late 1990s. For a country that had emerged as the second strongest economy in Africa in 1980 with a society beaming with hope, coping the gradual economic and political plunge of the late 1990s and up until today has been hard for most Zimbabweans to adjust. They still hold on to that non-existed hope of the early 1980s.
Even that group of people who have ‘made it’ via orthodox or unorthodox means, it is not easy to be happy alone when you are surrounded by many poor faces and beggars, while the ability to enjoy life is impeded by poor and rapidly dilapidating infrastructure and systems. Building or owning a beautiful house where water and power supply is erratic will not lead to happiness when one can afford solar energy and boreholes. One cannot be happy alone. You need to be part of a happy society to be happy. The high walls and security fences we see around expensive houses is not sign of happiness, but fear.
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It is possible to achieve happiness in Africa. Mauritius was ranked the happiest country in Africa, according to the World Happiness Report for 2022. This island nation scored 6,07 points on a scale of 0 to 10 and ranked 52nd among 146 countries globally. They have a stable economy that has propped most of its development indicators. The perception of corruption in Mauritius is much lower compared to other countries and the population believes that the leadership is doing what it is expected to do.
The gross domestic product per capita is one of the main reasons for the high ranking on the happiness index. Since independence in 1968, Mauritius has undergone a remarkable economic transformation from a low-income, agriculturally-based economy to a diversified, upper-middle-income economy with growing industrial, financial, and tourist sectors. They did so without blaming Western nations. They took a stand and responsibility for their country.
As a result, Mauritius has achieved steady growth over the last several decades, resulting in more equitable income distribution, increased life expectancy, lowered infant mortality, and a much-improved infrastructure. The economy was built around the sugar industry, tourism, textiles and apparel, and financial services and has expanded into fish processing, information and communications technology, and hospitality and property development.
The government’s economic development strategy centred on creating vertical and horizontal clusters of development in these sectors. Mauritius continues to rank as one of the most business-friendly environments on the continent which continues to attract investors and to breed economic stability.