The UN sponsored a global survey between 2010 and 2012 and ranked the happiness levels of people in 156 countries. They just released their findings. The criteria they used, as would be expected, were wealth, health, freedom to make life choices, having someone to count on in times of trouble, freedom from corruption, and the generosity of fellow citizens. The leading countries were Denmark, Norway, Switzerland, Netherlands and Sweden. US came in 17th place.
As we commemorate the Triumph of the Cross and the Sorrowful Mother I'd have to agree that these were great criteria. Let me explain:
Wealth: If we've discovered wealth in our life (not necessarily financial surplus) and live "extravagantly," trusting we have everything we need due to the Father's care for us, we can be happy in any situation...Styrofoam cross or real....
Health: Health care is a billion dollar industry and a constant battleground in the news for how to pay for it. Those who spend as much energy on a wholistic approach to health: body, mind, spirit, and soul have the key to discernment for how to live through every situation, including sickness and, ultimately for us all, even our passage to eternity--perhaps the healthiest moment for us all as we pass through the door of this life into the embrace of the Lord.
Freedom to make life choices: Ah! When I am free from myself I tend to make life choices that are gracious, giving, and joyful. Thus Jesus and Mary could both walk to Calvary with an inner joy amidst the sorrow and shame of the situation.
Community belonging because of having someone to count on: It's a paradox that we discover the generosity of others when we are generous ourselves, when we give not to receive, but because giving is who we are and makes us truly happy.
Freedom from corruption: I suppose the UN survey prompted most persons taking the survey to think of political corruption, but as a Christian I rejoice that I have been freed from the corruption of sin and death by the mercy of God poured out to me in Jesus' life, death, and resurrection. The more I pray and immerse myself in the presence of God through reflection, reading, worship, and service, the more I am filled with grace, moved by the powerful action of the Spirit, and transformed into Christ for others.
by Sr. Kathryn James Hermes, FSP
Some great guides to prayer you might find helpful: