1. Carlos, 29. United States. I grew up in poverty. For me, happiness was (and I don’t want to admit this, but still sometimes is) a roof over my head and food on the table. Nobody expected me to amount to much, and so amounting to anything past being a drug dealer or teenage absent father was success. I went to school, and I work as an accountant now. My debt prevents me from living the kind of life somebody with a degree and annual salary should. I face the same struggles my parents did, even though I did what I was ‘supposed’ to do to avoid them. This shaped what I believe happiness to be. Right now, it’s being in the moment and being grateful for what you do have, and not constantly wanting more.
2. Min, 30. China. Happiness for us is very much about, well, fitting in. You want to appease other people. Making other people happy is your happiness. I theorize it kind of stems from ancient Eastern religions and the idea that we are all one (make your neighbor happy, you will be happy.)
3. Kayla, 23. United States. The American Dream is all about individuality. It’s about succeeding past others. Unlike what Min said, you don’t want to fit in. You want to do exceptionally well for yourself. It’s about making your own luck.
4. Keij, 25. Switzerland. I was born there and lived there until age 7. The thing that really stands out for me is that for the Swiss, you don’t ever want to flaunt your success or wealth. It’s just not what you do. You don’t want to make people envious of you. You don’t want your happiness to turn into another person’s anger. I want to say we consider each other far more, and we don’t take so much stock in ego. It works, too. The Swiss are among the happiest people in the world. I’m not making that up. There was a report. [Producer’s note: you can check it out here.]
5. Tomas, 22. Greece. Happiness is finishing school, getting a stable job, and then getting to retire and be free of work, stress or health-related-ills. Working in youth is okay, it makes way to explore and think in the older years. You pay your dues. You’re happy to do so. I am studying abroad right now (I’m in the U.S. for a few months) and the thing that shocks me most is how ungrateful people are about work. They consider it a chore, rather than a blessing.
6. Jorge, 33. Costa Rica. My country’s way of thinking/motto is “Pura Vida.” It’s an expression to say “hi, what’s up” to someone, but it’s also the way we view life. We go by the Pura Vida lifestyle because happiness to us is just enjoying life and spending time with family and not putting too much emphasis on things like wealth and possessions.
7. Isah, 21. Philippines. For me, happiness is when I got up after being drowned by life’s circumstances. I’m learning how to ride the waves. Keep learning, I told myself. It requires drowning from time to time and it’s okay, that’s what life is all about. But remember to share this light to the people you meet everyday. In my culture, people are family oriented so when there’s a family reunion, I can say that happiness is in the air.
8. Micah, 31. Canada. I’m a student in the field of positive psychology. That is, I am in school for psychology and am doing research with my professor on happiness. My take on it can be summed up with a few points that science has gathered: Kindness is it’s own reward. Mindfulness is brain training for happiness. Reframing negative thoughts boosts resilience. Actively pursuing happiness is a choice. Happiness is a choice.
9. Natasha, 20. Malaysia. (Yes the one that is infamous for the plane crashes, unfortunately). Happiness for me is contentment in doing everything in moderation. It is in being delighted over an amazing sunset. It is in recognizing that life is too short for you to be either too upset or too excited when things go wrong or when it goes your way. Happiness is finding joy in giving. And it is in existing in such a way that you make it slightly easier for everyone you meet along the way. Kindness grows. They grow into happiness.
10. Amr, 30. Egypt. When it comes to Middle Eastern perspective, you have to be in check with God on happiness… I may see it differently, as feedback from God, but I definitely believe happiness is seeking this kind of feedback for yourself. I personally feel happy and content when I think I was useful to someone else, and was able to give something to someone without anything in return… be it a small help, a sincere advise or even just sharing my soul through a smile.
11. Lara, 20. Germany. To me happiness means being content. It is living a moment fully, taking everything in, without comparing. It is a stage of doing, saying or experiencing something wholeheartedly. It is not the absence of anger, fear or anguish but the awareness that everything is worth it even if it’s just for this very moment. Genuine happiness comes in a whisper but sometimes turns your world around. Happiness is a heart filled to the brim. In Germany happiness is often mistaken for joy or excitement, both of whom are limited and more superficial. There is often one specific reason for happiness. A person, a vacation, a letter, new shoes. People struggle to find happiness in the ordinary.
12. Krystle, 23. Philippines. I lived in the Philippines for a huge chunk of my life and I know that in our culture there is consistency in the belief that happiness is a choice. With hurricanes (search Filipinos having fun in the rain), volcano eruptions, or even with the lack of financial resources to find food and shelter for the general public, people seem to find humor in life. A lot of famous jokes are unfortunate events turned into something playful and positive.
13. Myroslava, 28. Ukraine. Unfortunately, our country is facing some real big problems these days, Ukrainians have to fight for their right to live in an independent country. A year ago they couldn’t even have thought about war in Ukraine. But now it all has changed. And the way people look at life and happiness has drastically changed as well. For example, if you meet a stranger on a street and ask him/her what that person wishes for, he/she will probably tell you PEACE. Ukrainians (from little kids to old people) have learned to value peace and they do their best to end this stupid war and live happily in peace again. It seems to me that for us peace means happiness and that’s all we dream about right now.
14. Kija, 34. Iraq. Happy is survival. For me and for my country.
15. Josh, 20. United States. Happiness is transcending the human condition. I am fortunate enough to live in a country where my basic needs are taken care of. There are two ways people take this: they get greedy and want more and more of the essentials (food, clothing, shelter) in grandiose and just completely unnecessary ways, or they realize that because those things are taken care of, they are free to find something more important. I hope to be the latter.
16. Abhishek, 30. India. Happiness is what I see in the eyes of a cow when she takes a chapati (bread) from my hand, or the stray dog who follows my mother in return of a kind pat and food. Happiness seeps from peace and satisfaction. Hindu mythology draws upon moksha (salvation) as the root for all that encompasses peace. Moksha leads to ananda (happiness) and ultimately mukti (liberation).
17. Janina, 16. Philippines. For us here, happiness is laughter with great company through the toughest of times. Laughing is our go-to stress reliever. It’s sharing heaps of food and conversations with family and/or friends. It’s watching tv shows and daily soap operas, may it be local or international. Happiness is taking 30 minutes to say hello and later another 30 minutes to say goodbye to people at a party. It’s being a part of one big family and where Christmas is really the best time of the year. It’s knowing that street food isn’t quite sanitary but it’s cheap and tastes so damn good. Happiness is new babies, pleasant security guards and employees, red envelopes filled with birthday money, Coca-Cola and roadtrips to the beach.