In the small museum, in the center of Copenhagen, visitors will learn about the history of happiness, the politics of happiness, the anatomy of smiles and why Nordic countries are considered “happiness superpowers”.
Fernanda Melo Larsen, RFI correspondent in Copenhagen
In the last years, Denmark has been part of the best places in terms of well-being, happiness and quality of life according to the UN World Happiness Reports. The country is so concerned with happiness that there is even an Institute for the Research of Happiness (Department of Happiness Research). Curiosity to know the secret of happiness in this part of the world, led the Instituto da Felicidade to open this Tuesday (14th), the first museum in the world that focuses on creating a better structure for a good life.
Meik Wiking, who is behind the Museum of Happiness, explains one of the reasons for the creation of this space: “We had this great interest in our work, but we did not have a place where we could reveal our happiness. We sit eight people in an office at the computer, but people hear the words’ Department of Happiness Research ‘and then think,’ We sit with dogs and sofas, drink hot chocolate and fun (Danish word meaning warmth) all day ‘. That’s why we created a place where we can send people, if they want to be wiser about happiness, “he says.
What to expect from the Museum of Happiness
The 240 square meter museum has the capacity to receive 25 visitors at a time due to the regulations to combat Covid-19 in the country. The space is in the basement of a building in the historic center of the capital Copenhagen, and consists of interactive activities with experiments, mental experiments. Visitors will learn about the history of happiness, the politics of happiness, the anatomy of smiles and why Nordic countries are considered “superpowers of happiness”. Among other things, you can see ad videos from the 1950s and 1960s, where companies tried to define the concept of happiness.
The museum is also interactive and visitors will participate in small exercises involving light and chocolate, as well as thinking experiments. Among them is the question: would you take the red or blue pill in the Matrix, being placed in a machine that gives you the illusion that you are living a perfect life or prefer to live in the real world?
The exhibits also include artifacts of happiness donated by people from around the world who remember their happiest moments. In one, a French woman, for example, donated her daughter’s asthma inhaler, explaining that the girl no longer needed it after they moved to Denmark, where air pollution is less.
In another session, a Brazilian mother describes the happiness she felt when she received a drawing of when her son was small, in which he said “I love you in the shape of a heart.”
The element common to the exposed objects is that they can help make happiness more concrete – a concept that Meik Wiking himself describes as “happiness is simple”.
How happiness is measured
For the group of Danish friends Maria Have, Nikoline Poulsen and Christoffer Andersen, who visited the museum during the opening, the happiness for the Danes is being able to be close to those they love. “We believe that being here together, enjoying the moment, is a form of happiness because we are creating our memories for the future” says Maria Have.
But why Nordic countries are often at the top of the World Happiness Reports? How can happiness really be measured? The CEO of the Museu da Felicidade has an explanation for this: “we Danes often hear that we are among the happiest people in the world. Here, we want to enter, give nuances and convey what it really is ”, explains Meik Wiking.
Does smiling mean being happy or not?
The museum sets up a room to analyze the smile, and its nuances throughout history, and which countries consider smiling to be a sign of intelligence or not. According to the chart countries like Japan, India and Iran consider that the most smiling are less intelligent. In the yellow part of the graph Germany, Switzerland and Malaysia believe that people who smile more are happier.
This is just a representation of the state of happiness, thinks Meik Wiking, the creator of the Museum. Although the Danes are not people who laugh easily, they consider themselves happy. “People in South America, for example as in Brazil, are more smiling than the Danes and Europeans in general,” he acknowledges.
Happiness Ambassador Certificate
In addition to the exposed objects, the guests also enter the field, among other things, in the conversation rooms of the Museu da Felicidade, and receive a certificate of “ambassador of happiness”.
Meik Wiking hopes that the museum will be able to create debates and set thoughts among visitors in motion. He calculates that the target group will range from tourists and school groups who can learn about the special characteristics of the Danish social status, to international delegations who want to learn a little of the Danish’s good example as one of the happiest countries in the world.