Happiness is a universal human aspiration, but what makes people happy can vary across cultures, contexts and time. In this article, we will cover some of the factors that influence happiness in different parts of the world. We will also look at how happiness has changed over the decades. And how India’s basic teachings on happiness can offer valuable insights to the rest of the world.

Happiness Index (HI)

One of the tools for measuring happiness is the World Happiness Report (WHR). WHR ranks countries based on several factors such as real GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity and perceptions of corruption. WHR also uses global survey data to report how people evaluate their own lives in more than 150 countries worldwide.

According to the World Happiness Report 2022, Finland is the happiest country in the world for the sixth year in a row, followed by Denmark, Switzerland, Iceland and Norway. The top 10 countries are all from Europe, except for New Zealand and Canada. Afghanistan is the unhappiest country, followed by Lebanon, Zimbabwe, Yemen and Syria. The report also reveals that the pandemic brought not only pain and suffering but also an increase in social support and benevolence.

HI – India:

India ranks 136th among 146 countries in the WHR 2022, with an average life evaluation of 3.819. This is a slight improvement from its rank of 139th among 149 countries in 2021. But far below its rank of 117th among 158 countries in 2015. India’s rank has deteriorated over the years. That indicates India’s economic growth has not translated into higher well-being for its people.

HI – Europe:

Europe ranks highest among the regions in the WHR 2022, with an average life evaluation of 6.596. The report attributes this to the high levels of social trust, social support and generosity in European countries. Europe also has some of the highest scores for healthy life expectancy and freedom to make life choices.

HI – US:

The US ranks 19th among 146 countries in the WHR 2022, with an average life evaluation of 6.951. This is a significant improvement from its rank of 28th among 149 countries in 2021.Highest rank since 2017. The report suggests that this is due to the successful vaccination campaign against COVID-19, which reduced deaths and infections and boosted economic recovery. The US also has one of the highest scores for real GDP per capita and generosity.

WHR also tracks how happiness has changed over time for different countries and regions. The report uses data from the Gallup World Poll, which asks people to rate their current life satisfaction on a scale from 0 to 10, where 0 means worst possible life and 10 means best possible life.

The report shows that happiness has increased globally from an average of 5.326 in 2005-2009 to an average of 5.466 in 2018-2020. However, this increase is not evenly distributed across regions and countries. Some regions have experienced a decline in happiness, such as Sub-Saharan Africa, Latin America and the Caribbean, and South Asia.

India has seen one of the largest drops in happiness over time, from an average of 5.348 in 2005-2009 to an average of 3.819 in 2018-2020. This is a decrease of more than one and a half points on a scale from 0 to 10, which is equivalent to losing more than eight years of healthy life expectancy or more than half of one’s social support.

Europe has seen a slight increase in happiness over time, from an average of 6.494 in 2005-2009 to an average of 6.596 in 2018-2020. This is an increase of about one-tenth of a point on a scale from 0 to 10, which is equivalent to gaining about half a year of healthy life expectancy or about one-tenth of one’s social support.

The US has seen a slight decrease in happiness over time, from an average of 7.181 in 2005-2009 to an average of 6.951 in 2018-2020. This is a decrease of about two-tenths of a point on a scale from 0 to 10, which is equivalent to losing about one year of healthy life expectancy or about one-fifth of one’s social support.

Happiness Teachings

What can we learn from these trends? Why are some countries happier than others? And what can India offer to the world in terms of happiness teachings?

One possible answer is that happiness depends not only on material conditions but also on psychological and spiritual factors. India has a rich and diverse tradition of philosophical and religious teachings that emphasize the importance of inner peace, harmony and balance for happiness. Some of these teachings include:

  • The concept of dharma, which means the moral and ethical duty of each individual according to their role in society and their stage in life. Dharma helps people to align their actions with their values and goals, and to contribute to the common good.
  • The concept of karma, which means the law of cause and effect that governs the consequences of one’s actions. Karma helps people to take responsibility for their choices and to learn from their mistakes, and to cultivate compassion and generosity.
  • The concept of moksha, which means the liberation from the cycle of birth and death that is caused by ignorance and attachment. Moksha helps people to detach from worldly desires and fears, and to realize their true nature as part of the universal spirit.
  • The concept of yoga, which means the union of body, mind and soul through various practices such as meditation, breathing, posture and ethics. Yoga helps people to calm their minds, relax their bodies and connect with their souls, and achieve a state of bliss and harmony.

These teachings suggest that happiness is not something that can be achieved by external factors, but something that can be cultivated by internal factors. Happiness is not a destination, but a journey. Happiness is not a possession, but a practice.

Happiness Now

How can we apply these teachings to our modern lives? How can we be happy now?

One way is to adopt a holistic approach to happiness, which considers not only our personal well-being but also our social well-being and our environmental well-being. This means that we should care not only about ourselves but also about others and the planet.

Some of the actions that we can take to enhance our holistic happiness are:

  • Be grateful for what we have, rather than complain about what we lack. Gratitude helps us to appreciate the positive aspects of our lives, and to cope with the negative aspects.
  • Be kind to yourself and others, rather than judge or criticize. Kindness helps us to build positive relationships, and to reduce stress and conflict.
  • Be mindful of the present moment, rather than dwell on the past or worry about the future. Mindfulness helps us to focus on what matters, and to enjoy the simple pleasures of life.
  • Be curious about the world, rather than bored or indifferent. Curiosity helps us to learn new things, and to expand our horizons.
  • Be creative in our pursuits, rather than conform or stagnate. Creativity helps us to express ourselves, and to find meaning and purpose in our lives.

Happiness Actions

These actions are not only good for our happiness but also good for our health, our productivity and our society. They can help us to cope with the challenges and opportunities that we face in this rapidly changing world.

To apply these actions to our life, we can start by setting some simple and realistic goals that are aligned with our values and interests.
For example:

  • We can practice gratitude by writing down three things that we are thankful for every day.
  • We can practice kindness by doing one random act of kindness for someone else every day.
  • We can practice mindfulness by meditating for 10 minutes every day.
  • We can practice curiosity by reading a book or watching a documentary on a topic that we are interested in every week.
  • We can practice creativity by pursuing a hobby or a project that we are passionate about every month.

These goals are not meant to be rigid or stressful, but flexible and enjoyable. We can adjust them according to our preferences and circumstances. The important thing is to make them a habit so that they become part of our daily routine. By doing so, we can gradually improve our happiness level, and experience more joy and satisfaction in our life.


Happiness has changed over the decades. Happiness is a complex and multifaceted phenomenon that depends on various factors such as culture, context and time. Also, happiness is not something that can be achieved by external factors alone.

India’s basic teachings on happiness are still invaluable to the rest of the world.

Hope this article inspires you to reflect on your own happiness and to take action to enhance your holistic happiness.
Wish you all the best in your pursuit of happiness!


[1] World Happiness Report 2022 | The World Happiness Report
[2] World Happiness Report 2022: How Has India Ranked In World Happiness Report Over The Years
[3] The World Happiness Report 2023: India ranked 126 – adda247
[4] World Happiness Index 2023: Check Countries and ranks list here!