So, the thermometer’s sinking lower by the day, and the days are getting shorter by the minute. Granted, it’s not exactly a recipe for happiness. But there’s an alternative to grinning and bearing it. The United Nations has just released 2011’s Human Development Index, which ranks countries according to how happy they are. So if you’re feeling a little down in the mouth this winter, hop on a plane to one of these perky places…
Clinching the top spot is Norway. It’s a land of giants – mountains crest and fall like tidal waves, lakes colonise acres of countryside, and enormous valleys are prickled with pine forests and evergreen woods. The only exception to the norm of green scenery is the occasional port town, where bright fishing boats provide colour shocks in the water and harbour-side restaurants sell the catch of the day. With scenery like that, it’s no wonder the locals are so chipper.
It comes as no surprise that Australia ranks as the second-happiest country in the world. After all, the Auzzies have a lot to smile about. They can surf at sunrise, head to the beach after work, and fire up the BBQ for dinner. They’ve got a lot to be proud of, too. The Great Barrier Reef in Cairns is the world’s biggest, and Ayres Rock is one of the most famous World Heritage sites.
3. The Netherlands
The Netherlands is a regular on the happy list, and one theory behind it is the Dutch penchant for bike riding. Cycling releases endorphins – happy hormones – and takes road rage out of the equation. Even if you’re not a cyclist yourself, watching the riders in Amsterdam is guaranteed to make you smile. Each bike has its own personality – there are flirty pink numbers, mean Harley Davidson lookalikes and spiffy vintage versions with camel-coloured seats and white tyres.
4. United States
If you count every state, Americans have 50 reasons to be happy, every day. You’ve got Texas with its spaghetti western deserts. There’s Vermont with its Technicolor autumns. In California, you’ve got endless beaches and award-winning vineyards. Then there’s the big daddy of the lot – New York – with its bank-busting department stores and neck-breaking skyscrapers.
5. New Zealand
New Zealand puts the ‘great’ in the great outdoors and the average New Zealander takes advantage of this every day. Weekends, for example, might tick off glacier climbing, kayaking or mountaineering. Extreme sports are big business here, too. You can swing between canyons, skydive from 15,000 feet in the air, and in Auckland you can free-fall from the top of the Sky Tower.
Visited any of the destinations above? Found your own happy place? Tell us about it here.