What is happiness? It might seem like a weird question but it is a question that has plagued mankind for centuries.
Perhaps, the entire human race has always tried to answer and work towards this question. This simple three-word question is a question that you might have asked yourself quite often, especially when you evaluate your life. However, this essential concept of ‘happiness’ has gone beyond all definition. We just have metrics of what happiness might seem like – being successful, having food, shelter, and clothes, or being mentally stable and at peace might be some of the metrics.
Based on the moderately quantifiable metrics, the United Nations often publishes the World Happiness Report. Most of the time, the Scandivanian Nations tend to linger near the top, and Denmark has often taken the place in the top 3. The survey had started back in 2012 and for 7 years, Denmark has remained in the top 3.
So, what does Denmark do that makes it such a ‘happy’ country? Well, we can’t really say anything for sure. Happiness, as elusive as that concept is, cannot really be measured on the basis of quantity. However, we can look at the cultural and socio-economic aspects of a country as well as the education system of the country. If we look into these factors, then you might find something different about Denmark – the eduction system. Since 1993, Denmark has an unusual course that they teach children – an empathy course.
All of us know how important empathy is for human beings. Empathy helps to create teams as we look after each other, breed kindness, and also, helps us understand one another more closely. It might also be called a happiness factor. If we consider all these, then it is clear that Denmark’s happiness ranks might be because of this empathy course.
When we are in our teens, our bodies and psychology go through some major changes. Bullying becomes a way in which we vent our forming anger while for others, they shut down their emotions. It has been seen that empathy helps in lowering the tendency of bullying and in turn, makes you more determined to pursue your goals. It is the makeup of a leader and an entrepreneur.
It’s generally believed that empathy is a talent, something that someone gets at birth. Hence, some people think of it as a superpower. But in reality, empathy can be learned – we learn it by mixing with others, sharing ideas and developing bonds. Young kids can learn empathy too – especially since they are at an impressionable age.
Hence, Denmark has chosen to start an empathy course. In it, students of ages 6-16 have to dedicate an hour each week to engage in Klassens tid – the empathy course. It is in the school curriculum and is thus, mandatory. The students are told to reveal their problems with the rest of the class. A student discusses their issues while the remaining students listen, places themselves in aggrieved’s position and try to solve it. The student can reveal personal or school-related issues. A teacher is present who would teach others how to listen with more attentiveness and empathy.
If no one has anything to discuss, the students just come together for hygge. It does not have a direct translation but it means to create an intentional closeness with one another and to relax in that closeness. It is a culture among the Danes.
Schools do not want to make one child compete with others – rather, they try to help them be better versions of themselves each day. By engaging the students with the empathy course and helping them practice it, Denmark is not only creating a school of empathetic students but also becoming one of the happiest nations in the world.