“The World’s Happiness Report”

My parents always told me that success is measured by happiness. I do believe this is true and a good value to live by. No matter what you do in life it’s almost impossible to be successful if you’re unhappy. Happiness is something I am striving to find more of and as I have gotten older, I have come to the realization that life is hard and people focus on the negative more than the positive. I recently learned in my Intimate Relationships class this semester that it take 5 positives to outweigh 1 negative in a relationship or any aspect of life.

IMG_2051

My mom, dad and I when I was a senior in high school (2012)

I was interested in finding out which countries in the world were the happiest (and saddest) and why. So I did some research. I was lucky to find some really up-to-date statistics posted on April 23, 2015 on a website called MindBodyGreen.com. The post is by Emi Boscamp, an associate editor at MindBodyGreen.com who graduated from Cornell.

The study was done by a group of international and national economists, neuroscientists and statisticians. They call their study “The World Happiness Report” and this is their third time performing the study. Based on their research, as a team, they came to the conclusion that the Swiss are the world’s happiest people. They based their data and rankings off of what they call “four main factors”. According to MindBodyGreen.com, these factors are “Sustained positive emotion, Recovery from Negative Emotion, Pro-Social behavior and generosity, and Mind wandering, mindfulness and ‘affective stickiness’ or emotion captured attention.”

This time around the research team was able to change their study by breaking down their data based on gender, age and region and they found “surprisingly big differences between these demographics” than ever before.

A happy Switz couple. Fiat 500 Geburtstagsfeier - "Happy People" in Switzerland http://www.askjeff.com/en/work/29.html#sub63

A happy Swiss couple. Fiat 500 Geburtstagsfeier – “Happy People” in Switzerland http://www.askjeff.com/en/work/29.html#sub63

 

So…… according to MindBodyGreen.com here is the 2015 list of the top 20 happiest countries in the world:

1. Switzerland     2. Iceland    3. Denmark   4. Norway    5. Canada   6. Finland

7. Netherlands   8. Sweden   9. New Zealand   10. Australia    11. Israel   12. Costa Rica

13. Austria   14.Mexico   15. United States   16. Brazil   17. Luxembourg   18. Ireland

19. Belgium  20. United Arab Emirates

 

Unfortunately, MindBodyGreen.com did not include WHY these countries were ranked the happiest in the world, so I looked at previous years of the world’s happiest countries on Forbes.com because their website gave a more detailed evaluation.

I chose three countries from the top 20 list of the “World’s Happiest Countries” to explain why they were ranked.

According to Forbes.com… I chose…

Switzerland because it is ranked #1 on the list.  This is due to their country being “number 1 in governance, 2nd in health and economy and sticking with the Franc rather than going Euro has helped make Switzerland a bastion of stability in shaky Europe right now.”

Norway because my great, great grandfather, Gustav Vigeland has his own park in Oslo, Norway, full of his sculptures. He was also the designer of the Nobel Peace Prize medal. Additionally, my Mormor (grandmother) immigrated to the U.S. from Norway as well. Norway is ranked #4 on the list because according to Forbes.com “with a per capita GDP of $54,000 Norway is among the richest in the world and ranks first in social capital and second in safety and security”.

A photo of Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway.  Slawonir http://www.panoramio.com/photo/80107330

A photo of Vigeland Park in Oslo, Norway.
Slawonir
http://www.panoramio.com/photo/80107330

The United States because it is my home country. According to Forbes.com it makes the top 20 list of happiness because it is “an excellent place to start a business, the U.S. also ranks no. 1 in health, a function of high immunizations, clean water and the highest levels of gov’t spending on healthcare”.

Happy Americans. "Crowd Holding American Flags" http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/royalty-free/42-20942474/crowd-holding-american-flags

Happy Americans.
“Crowd Holding American Flags”
http://www.corbisimages.com/stock-photo/royalty-free/42-20942474/crowd-holding-american-flags

Maybe one day I will be fortunate enough to travel to all of these countries so I can experience happiness of all different cultures and forms.

Although I’m choosing not to blog about the top 20 saddest countries in the world, because I do not want to dwell on the negative… I have included the list below in case anyone is interested.

1. Togo   2. Burundi   3.Syria   4.Benin   5.Rwanda   6.Afghanistan   7.Burkina Faso

8.Ivory Coast  9.Guinea   10.Chad   11. Central African Republic   12.Madagascar

13. Tanzania   14.Cambodia  15.Niger 16.Gabon   17.Senegal   18.Uganda

19.Comoros   20.Congo (Brazzaville)

The Children of a South African Village

I traveled to the beautiful country of South Africa about 6 and a half years ago. Since the moment I departed the country to come back to America I have never been able to stop thinking of the time I spent there. The things and places I have seen will never escape my memory and I hope to be fortunate enough to take my family there one day, like my parents took me.

The differences between South Africa and America are endless. Cape Town and Cape of Good Hope were two of the most breathtaking places I have ever seen, however the poverty I witnessed will forever haunt me. Waking up before the sun for two weeks, I saw lions, elephants, giraffes, zebras, crocodiles, hippopotamuses, and monkeys etc. in their natural habitat. This was something my mind couldn’t even fathom, until day after day these animals kept reappearing right before my eyes. It was a weird concept to me, that the animals I grew up only seeing in movies like The Lion King actually existed and roamed free in South Africa. Of course I knew these animals ACTUALLY existed, but in the U.S. it’s not like we are accustomed to seeing elephants casually stroll down the streets of our neighborhoods.

However, the memory that sticks with me most, is of the children I spent time with in South Africa. I was a freshman in high school and currently teaching my first year of ski school at Waterville Valley Ski Resort in the White Mountains of New Hampshire. Even at the young age of 14, I was clearly able to decipher the behavioral differences of children in the United States verses the children of a small South African village.

These children were babies, three or four years old, tops, coincidentally, the same age as the kids I was teaching how to ski in N.H. I was astonished to find that even though these two groups of children were the same age, they acted so differently. The South African children were so well-behaved and civilized, like tiny adults.

I remember being mind-blown by how they served themselves their own food at lunch-time and cleared their own plates from the table immediately, taking them to the sink to hand-wash and dry their bowls and plates. At the ski school I worked for in America, the children were served their food, made giant messes and somebody was always uncooperative during meals.

The children in the village did not have many toys, certainly nothing that lit-up or made sounds. I noticed  the less toys they had, the more they took care of what they did have, and the more joy their toys brought to them. I reflected back to how it was at the ski school. The American children had more toys than they could possibly play with in a day, they were rough with the toys, threw them around the playroom and fought over them constantly.  I can’t even begin to tell you how many “sharing” conversations I had, or how many times kids dumped giant boxes of figurines over just for the fun of making a mess.

The conditions of the South African village day-care were very poor. The outside where they played was a pit of rocky sand and I remember finding nails and dangerous objects within the sand. Nevertheless, the children were so happy and played as if they had the world’s largest jungle gym at their feet. I have never seen children be so gracious, kind and happy and I remember thinking that despite their living conditions they were truly the lucky ones to wear the smiles on their faces that they did each day.

At the end of the day I am an American and I love the the children of my country. However, when I saw babies that napped and played in card board boxes in South Africa that seemed genuinely happier, had less complaints, and rarely cried when they had almost nothing, I felt a greater appreciation for everything I had been given in my life. Those children will forever touch my heart.

 

Healthy Italian Ricotta Dessert

I am in a constant battle between satisfying my sweet tooth and maintaining a healthy diet to remain “in-shape”. It’s a struggle many people face on a daily basis because desserts are just so delicious, but having a healthy, toned body is both mentally and physically satisfying.

It seems to be about that time of year where people furiously exercise their bodies in the gym and cut down on beer and ordering pizza at 2 AM, because spring break is right around the corner… This is definitely hard for most of us to do, but the warped pressure society puts on men to be buff and women to be tiny is tremendous, so we do it.

Italy is a country I have been dreaming of traveling to at some point in my life. I am hoping to get the opportunity to study abroad there in the near future. Between the presentation of the food, the flavors and most of the ingredients being made from scratch, Italian food is unbelievable.  I’m lucky to get such an amazing taste of it in the North End of Downtown Boston. Here lies a “Little Italy” with the most incredible food and DESSERTS. Mike’s Pastry and Modern Pastry are two of the most famous Italian pastry stores in the nation. They make the most amazing cannolis and other desserts using ricotta cheese. The recipe I made satisfies the taste and texture of many traditional Italian sweets.

This dessert is truly one of my favorite healthy Italian recipes, but there’s one more reason why I love it SO much… its simplicity. The ingredients are minimal and the preparation time is short. As college students we don’t have too much time to make elaborate meals in the kitchen, so this Italian Ricotta Dessert becomes even more appealing because you can whip it up in 2 seconds!

So let’s get started!

Ingredients: Tub of low fat or fat free Ricotta Cheese, unsweetened cocoa powder, Stevia drops, Vanilla extract, and dark chocolate chips.

First, put the Ricotta (1  3/4 cup per tub) into a mixing bowl and add 4 teaspoons of cocoa powder.


Next, add one teaspoon of Vanilla extract.

After, squeeze three squirts of the Stevia drops into the bowl.

Finally, add as many dark chocolate chips as you’d like.

Mix together until all the ingredients are blended into a mousse-like texture.

Cover, and refrigerate for 15 minutes.

And just like that you’re done and have a guilt-free Italian dessert to satisfy your sweet-tooth.

Nutrition Facts:

Servings per container: 3.5

One serving = 1/2 cup.

Calories: 130

Total Carbohydrate: 14g

Sugars: 7g

Total Fat: 2.25g