What does happiness mean to you? Surprisingly, the definition of happiness depends upon where you live in the world. Not all cultures refer to happiness in the same way. Even asking “how happy are you” is difficult to ask in many languages. In English the word “happy” can refer to a deep sense of peace and satisfaction with one’s life or it can refer to a fleeting feeling that one experiences when something good happens. 

Happiness can differ from generation to generation in the same culture. For instance, in the United States, older Americans equate happiness with peaceful, positive emotions while younger Americans associate it with excitement, according to Prevention. 

Although the definition of happiness is unique, the quest for happiness is universal. It goes beyond age, beliefs and country of origin. Here are some of the different ways that people around the world define happiness and ways that you can apply their definitions of happiness to your own life. 

#1 Costa Rica 

In Costa Rica, residents use the word “Pura Vida” to describe happiness. This literally translates to “pure life” and means to live simply. In Costa Rica, pura vida is used as a greeting. The phrase represents a way of life for Costa Ricans. In Costa Rica, happiness means to enjoy life and spend it with family and friends. 

There isn’t a lot of emphasis on things like possessions or wealth. Those things are just not as important as enjoying the simple things in life. Costa Rica is considered to be one of the happiest countries in the world. This is no surprise considering their definition of what it means to be happy. 

#2 Norway 

Norway is the happiest country on Earth, according to the World Happiness Report.  So, what does happiness mean in Norway? Norwegian Ambassador Else Berit Eikeland says that the definition of happiness for residents of Norway revolves around feeling safe and taken care of. She says that Norway’s policies regarding social welfare and inclusiveness help residents feel safer and worry less, which is why the country is so happy as a whole. 

#3 Malaysia 

Malaysian resident Natasha says that being happy means to do everything in moderation and being delighted in small things—like an amazing sunset. Malaysians also find happiness in appreciating every day and they find joy by giving to others. 

#4 Ukraine 

In Ukraine, a brutal war has raged on for the last several years. Residents that live in towns like Avdiivka and Marinka, where the combat is the strongest, have to contend with conflict every single day. Machine guns and sniper rifles bark from early morning to evening. What it means to be happy in the Ukraine has changed since the start of the war. 

Now, for residents of Ukraine, happiness means peace. For Ukrainians, to be happy requires that they attain peace first. Research data seems to support Ukrainians belief that, for them, the definition of happiness is peace. Since the war started, the percent of Ukrainians that say they feel satisfied with their current life is only 17 percent. This has dropped from 27 percent before the war. 

#5 India

In India, the definition of happiness is related to peace and satisfaction. Happiness is feeling satisfied with the small, simple things in life. So, being satisfied —even when things or circumstances change—equals true happiness. In India, when someone is fulfilled with less, they are truly happy. 

#6 Germany 

To Germans, happiness means being content and grateful for what you have. It involves living in the moment and taking everything in. When someone is content with the things that they have. they are happy. Many Germans also link stress with happiness. They define happiness as having no or stress. 

#7 Philippines 

In the Philippines, getting up after being knocked down by life’s circumstances, is what happiness means. People in the Philippines believe that happiness is a choice. Many people in the philippines struggle with lack of shelter, food and other resources. However, most believe that they can be happy by choice in spite of the problems that they face. 

#8 China 

In China, being happy means living a meaningful life. Happiness also centers on pleasing others. The definition of happiness is being satisfied with making others happy. Being positively regarded by others is the way to happiness in Chinese culture. his stems from the idea that people are all interdependent. So, when others are happy, you will be happy too. 

Are you ready to define happiness in your life?

It is evident that every culture has its own view on the definition of happiness. How can you apply these definitions of happiness to your own life? Here are some things that you can borrow from other cultures to help increase your own happiness levels.

  • Every day, think about the simple things that give you pleasure. In Costa Rica, Malaysia, India and other countries around the world, the definition of happiness centers on appreciating the simple things in life. To appreciate life’s simple pleasures is to be happy. As Brazilian poet Paulo Coelho says in The Alchemist  “it’s the simple things in life that are the most extraordinary.”
  • Help someone out – In China, doing things for others is part of what it means to be happy. Studies have actually found that doing good deeds for others triggers an area of the brain that is responsible for feeling good. Other research has found that people who volunteer are more calm and relaxed than people that don’t volunteer.
  • In many cultures, a person must be relaxed and at peace to be truly happy. Do things that can help you feel relaxed, such as yoga, meditation or exercise.
  • Be grateful for what you have – Most people in the United States focus on what they don’t have—such as the newest iPhone or other electronics. The problem is that this will surely cause you to feel unhappy with the things that you currently have. In other countries, such as India and Germany being happy involves being thankful for what you have rather than focusing on what you don’t have. It takes practice to learn to be grateful. You could try a gratitude journal to help you practice gratitude on a daily basis. 

Try some of the above ideas for applying international definitions of happiness and joy to life immediately. You will surely experience increased levels of gratitude once you do.