Science Solitaire

[Science Solitaire] How about an International Happiness Exhibition?

Maria Isabel Garcia
[Science Solitaire] How about an International Happiness Exhibition?


The World Happiness Report could make us learn so much more and so deeply about what it takes to be happy humans, across cultures

What if all international beauty contests were not “contests” but “exhibitions” about “happiness” instead of “beauty”? Why?

First of all, there is no nation in the world who does not think “happiness” is essential to being human so it is truly “universal.” Second, “beauty” could be part of being happy but not a requirement. Third, “happiness” can have many “winners” without taking away from the “losers.”

Think about it. If we did have such a Universe/Earth/World Happiness exhibition, we do not have to wait for the “Q and A” portion to get to the deeper humanity of each representative because the entire exhibition would be about learning more about what it takes to be a happy country, aside from being “beautiful.”  Each representative could be any gender or age and would not just be focused on being “beautiful” but profoundly multi-dimensional in their expression of their humanity.

Where will we get the measures for “happiness” now? The World Happiness Report (WHR) – a study that started 10 years ago. This year’s results just came out. Out of the 146 countries studied, Finland came up on top again for the 5th year and the Philippines is 60th, up a notch from 2021. The final scores determine the rankings.

WHR’s “final score” of happiness could be explained by six elements: GDP per capita, social support, generosity, perceptions of corruption, freedom to make life choices, and healthy life expectancy.

So if indeed, there were an International Happiness Exhibition, the representative from Finland would come out to explain Finland’s # 1 ranking. That representative would show that evidence says their “happiness” could be explained in large part by their big GDP per capita which translates to individual benefit, their extensive show of social support, their healthy life expectancy, their freedom to make their own life choices, generosity and their very low level of perceptions of corruption.

When the Finns themselves reflected on their #1 Happiness ranking last year, an article in the Helsinki Times elaborated further on those main explanations by citing that the Finns thrive because nature, in their corner of the world, thrives. That is proof that you are really only okay if nature is okay. It also highlighted the fact that they are laid back, caring more about “cooperation” than “competition and that they have very low crime levels, and also have the #1 educational system in the world.

Our Philippine representative will elaborate that while we rank 60th, we are 3rd in the domain of “calmness.”  This is a relatively new indication of “happiness” in that it is not an excited state, yet it is a positive state.

The Philippine representative may most likely cite stories of “calm” considering the extreme natural and human-caused tragedies that Filipinos routinely experience.  We Filipinos are known for beating ourselves up for persisting with our “patience” when “outrage” would be the normal reaction. But perhaps, this finding will deepen the case that this attitude of ours, expressed as “calm,” despite the horrendous slings of sorrow and tragedies that collectively and regularly plague us, is proof that “resilience” helps maintain the ground for “happiness” to still endure.

What is notable about our “#60” ranking is that our happiness is LEAST explained by our perceptions of corruption. This means that our happiness endures DESPITE our perceptions of corruption from the institutions we should trust.

The Philippine representative could also further drill down on “social support” and “generosity” to include the buffet of feeds for soul, especially the contributions of the arts to our collective and individual happiness. That nails the case for the arts being “essential” in community and national development and not an optional “side dish” to it.

As a collective, the representatives of the International Happiness Exhibition would work hard together to show from their own country cases, the most highlighted finding of the 2022 World Happiness Report: that in every global region of our planet, donations, volunteering and helping strangers – all hallmarks of benevolent humanity- increased by 25%. It had to take a global pandemic to make us phenomenally kinder around the world.

The WHR could make us learn so much more and so deeply about what it takes to be happy humans, across cultures. If we had International Happiness Exhibitions, we need not compete as to whose beauty appeals highest to judges but learn deeply from each other as to how we can be happy or happier humans, despite and also even because of the accidents of our birth or the governments we are forced to live with.

Wouldn’t we all love to see our own pavilion, amidst that of other nations, of what makes Filipinos happy or sad? –

Maria Isabel Garcia is a science writer. She has written two books, “Science Solitaire” and “Twenty One Grams of Spirit and Seven Ounces of Desire.” You can reach her at

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