New Museum Teaches Us How To Be Happy

Anna Kroupina, Open Jaw

Happiness comes in many different shapes and sizes, but one constant is that we're all searching for it. Hoping to educate its visitors on this somewhat elusive concept, the world's first museum dedicated explicitly to happiness opened in July in Copenhagen. 

Created by independent think thank The Happiness Research Institute, Denmark's Happiness Museum gives visitors a tour of global happiness, showing how perceptions of it have changed throughout history, what it looks like in different regions, and why some countries report more of it than others.

Meik Wiking, CEO of the Happiness Research Institute, says the idea for the museum came after years of fielding requests from the public about visits to their drab office space.

"I think people imagine that the Institute is like a magical place -- a room full of puppies or ice cream -- but we are just eight people sitting in front of computers looking at data," he told CNN.

"So we thought, why don't we create a place where people can experience happiness from different perspectives and give them an exhibition where they can become a little bit wiser around some of the questions we try to solve?"

Along the way, there are questionnaires and interactive experiences that aim to give guests "aha" moments, as well as enhance the Institute's ongoing research.

For example, Wiking says trust toward fellow citizens and political institutions is a major factor in global happiness, which is why some visitors may come across a wallet filled with cash. Museum staff have periodically placed this wallet on the floor for more than a month now, and it's been returned to reception (with all items inside) every time.

The Nordic countries tend to report some of the highest levels of happiness on earth, and Denmark (despite its high taxes, cold weather and long periods of darkness) frequently lands near the top of surveys ranking the world's happiest nations.

So, what might the rest of the world learn from the Danes in these trying times?

"Trust is a factor in happiness," Danish psychologist Marie 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."

There's also the subtle art of not giving a toss that might play into it.

Helweg-Larsen says 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.

Anna Kroupina

Anna Kroupina Journalist

Anna is OJ's newest member and she joins the team as a writer/reporter. She co-writes the daily news and covers events. Although she's new to the industry, pursuing a career path in travel/tourism has been a goal since her first family road trip to the Florida Keys sparked a desire to discover the world and this exhilarating, fast-paced industry.

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