Photo by Laust Lauridsen (Public Domain)
During the pandemic, the world has needed a reason to be happy. That is why the Happiness Research Institute, based in Copenhagen, Denmark, opened the world’s first happiness museum on the 14th of July last year. In a time when museums are struggling due to a lack of visitor numbers or not even being able to open at all because of restrictions, it seems unusual that a new museum would be opening anywhere in the world. However, the CEO of the Institute, Meik Wiking talked to BBC Newsround acknowledging this, and said: “We thought there might not be a lot of guests these days, but the world does need a little bit more happiness.”. This is true when there is much uncertainty about when things will get back to ‘normal’ and many people’s mental health has been affected.
The Happiness Research Institute is “an independent think tank exploring why some societies are happier than others”. The institute measures happiness more systematically than before, by combining qualitative and quantitative methods, and measuring more subjective factors like life satisfaction and emotion. This method produces more realistic results compared to putting the focus largely on factors like GDP. Which, according to them, is “increasingly recognized as an insufficient measure of the quality of life […] we have gotten richer – but not happier.”
The institute’s aim and reason for opening this museum are “that guests will leave a little wiser, a little happier, and a little more motivated to make the world a better place. We all seem to be looking for happiness – but perhaps we are looking in the wrong places. We have gotten richer as societies but often failed to become happier. Therefore, the Happiness Research Institute decided to create a museum where we can bring happiness to life.”
The museum has eight rooms dedicated to different theories on the nature of happiness. These theories are ‘The Geography of Happiness’, ‘The Politics of Happiness’, ‘The Happiness Lab’, ‘The Anatomy of Smile’, ‘The History of Happiness’, ‘Nordic Happiness’, and ‘The Future of Happiness’. There is also an exhibit that displays 18 objects donated by members of the public, which bring joy to their owners. This included “a badminton racket, an inhaler, and a set of “comfort seeds” sprouted from a decade-old tomato seed found stuck to the shirt of donor Katie Diez’s late father.”
This museum is a welcome addition to the Copenhagen landscape in the world’s 2nd happiest country, according to the UN’s World Happiness Report for 2020, with first place going to Finland. The museum is currently closed due to Covid restrictions, although it will reopen on the 28th of February. Unfortunately, looking at the Government’s new ‘road map’ (which outlines the Covid strategy for the next few months), it is unlikely that any of us will be able to visit it anytime soon.