Who knew there was an International Day of Happiness? Not me, but the United Nations declared March 20th to be just that 10 years ago. Its World Happiness Report is released on or around that date each year.
Especially over the past two years, happiness – or a lack thereof – has been much on my mind, and I am sure on the minds of many others. I had a scan through the most recent report earlier this week, thinking I would find many references to connections between the pandemic and diminishing levels of happiness. The report does not find such a correlation, but it is chock a block full of interesting information and definitely worth a look.
Noting that happiness is an individual and not a societal or national experience, the UN researchers look at individual people’s assessments of their own lives, focused on six categories: GDP, social supports, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity and corruption.
On the basis of that analysis, for the fifth year in a row, Finland ranks first in the world for happiness. According to the Helsinki Times:
”Being born in Finland is like winning the jackpot.”
The newspaper credits the country’s natural beauty, people’s engagement with outside activity, a laid-back and relaxed way of life, low crime rates, a high standard of living and an excellent education system for making the people who live there so happy.
We’re not all happy
I also took a look at the rankings of a few other countries. Afghanistan has the lowest happiness ranking, falling just below Lebanon and Zimbabwe. New Zealand, a place many of us fantasize about living, ranks 10th. Mexico which, before the pandemic and the country’s political situation put an end to my annual winters there, used to be my happy place, ranks 46th.
Canada ranks 15th, just one place ahead of the U.S., which sounds okay until you learn that we have been steadily declining from a 2010 high position of 5th. Canadian researchers say that over those 12 years, fewer people in this country think their life satisfaction is improving, despite the number of self-help and self-care strategies now available to help people increase their happiness.
The report notes that over the past 10 years, enjoyment and laughter are declining while worry and sadness are increasing.
The pandemic has not increased people’s unhappiness, but it has exposed differences in happiness between people based on their gender and their economic status.
Some good news
Along with the COVID pandemic, 2021 brought a global “pandemic of benevolence,” according to the happiness report. Levels of benevolence, defined to include donations, volunteering and kindness to strangers, increased “remarkably:” by 25% from pre-pandemic levels:
“If sustainable, this outpouring of kindness provides grounds for hope and optimism in a world needing more of both.”
I found this part of the report reassuring, especially because I don’t think I have been the best I can be for the past two years. I have sunk into pretty gloomy moods on a regular basis because of the changes imposed on my life, privileged as it is, by the pandemic. I suspect, if asked, those closest to me would say that my benevolence towards them has decreased markedly.
What’s not to be happy about when it comes to mayonnaise? I love it in all of its forms: on a sandwich; mixed with hard cooked egg yolks along with green onion, fresh dill, smoked paprika and salt and pepper to make devilled eggs; coating the outside of the bread for a grilled cheese sandwich that oozes crunchiness and flavour, and, let’s be honest, straight from the spoon into my mouth.
I grew up eating boiled salad dressing, made using my Nova Scotia grandmother’s recipe (mustard powder, sugar, flour, egg yolks and vinegar) and Kraft Miracle Whip, passed off by my mother to us unsuspecting kids as mayonnaise. Years later, when I started to make mayonnaise myself, I realized just how much I had been missing.
Now, I routinely make two kinds of mayo: one a very garlicky version, which I use in potato salads, mixed with pesto in summer orzo salads, as a base for dips and to add to other salad dressings; the other a more classic, thick mayonnaise. Here are recipes for both.
For about 3 cups of garlicky mayonnaise, combine 2 – 3 cloves garlic, 1 tsp. dry mustard, 2 eggs at room temperature, 6 Tbsp. lemon juice and salt and pepper to taste in blender or food processor and blend to combine. Keep the machine running and add 1½ cups olive oil in a slow stream, blending until it is well mixed in and the mayonnaise is creamy. Store in a jar with a tight fitting lid in the refrigerator for up to a month.
For about 2 cups of classic mayonnaise, mix together 1 egg at room temperature, 1 tsp. dry mustard, 1 tsp. salt and 3 Tbsp. lemon juice or vinegar in blender or food processor until well combined. Slowly pour in 1¼ cups vegetable or olive oil, mixing until the mayonnaise is thick. Store as above.
As long as you don’t try to make mayonnaise when the weather is humid – which will leave you grouchily surveying a runny, un-emulsified mess – you will have a delicious condiment that will make everyone around you feeling happy (and maybe even benevolent).