• Jingshu Helen Yao

Seeking Happiness: A Peek at Museums About Happiness Around the World

Who doesn't want to be happy? For many years, psychologists have studied the causes behind human emotions. Writers and artists create works that attempt to make people happy. Sociologists research the impact that happiness has on both personal and societal wellbeing. Museums dedicate themselves to the most intriguing parts of human history, and happiness is no exception.


In the midst of a pandemic, words such as anxiety and depression seem to dominate what we discuss nowadays. While mental health and the wellbeing of people becomes more critical than ever, the Happiness Research Institution in Denmark opened the Happiness Museum. The museum is located in Copenhagen's pastel-perfect historic center. While the small space of exhibitions and activities only took up 240 square meters, they attempted to show the visitors answers to some big questions. How have the standards of happiness changed throughout history? How does the concept of happiness vary across countries and cultures? Which type of society makes people happier, and what can the policymakers do to improve the wellbeing of people?


The Happiness Museum. Source.


Meik Wiking spoke of the mission of the Happiness Museum in an interview with CNN. One of the Happiness Research Institution’s studies centred on why people’s happiness in Nordic countries usually ranks highly compared to the rest of the globe. According to the data from the United Nations' annual World Happiness Report, Finland and Denmark are at the top of the happiest countries around the world, even though both countries have relatively cold weather, longer night times, and high taxes. Danish psychologist Marie Helweg-Larsen believes that trust is a critical reason, as well as the casual attitude Danish people have in their lives. The Happiness Research Institution presents their research results through the museum exhibition in the hope that those who visit the museum will leave a bit happier and wiser.


The Museum of Happiness. Source.


Though most media claim that the Happiness Museum is the first of its kind in the world, in my research I also came across the Museum of Happiness that opened in London, UK, in 2017. While the Denmark institution mainly took a social science approach to discuss the topic of happiness, the museum in London seems to be more science-based. Aside from free exhibitions and fun activities on the psychology of happiness, London's Museum of Happiness also provides training and workshops on how to become a happiness facilitator, online videos for individual wellbeing, and resources for organizations on building a positive working environment. With a longer record of operation and development, London's Museum of Happiness not only provides knowledge on happiness but also gives guidance on how to put the knowledge to use.


The Happy Place. Source.


Both museums in Copenhagen and London focus on educating their audience about happiness, in contrast to the main goal of pop-up exhibition “Happy Place” who intends to let audiences have fun. The exhibition features “the world’s largest indoor Confetti Dome, six-foot-tall X’s and O’s surrounded by red lips, the famed Rubber Ducky Bathtub, the wildly popular Cookie Room scented with the aroma of freshly baked chocolate chip cookies, an Upside Down room that defies gravity, and Super Bloom, a room filled with 40,000 golden handmade flowers.”


Happy Place first started in Los Angeles and soon made its way to other big cities in the United States. The Harbourfront Centre in Toronto also hosted the exhibition between November 2018 and January 2019. Recently, Happy Place opened in Sydney, Australia.


No matter in which country these museums and exhibitions are found, what form and approach they take, it’s comforting to think about institutions that are devoted to improving the mental well-being of the world, especially during this special time.