Did you know that there is an international index that measures the “happiness” indicators of any country in the world?

Just a few years ago, the “Happy Planet Index” ranked Costa Rica as the N° 1 country on its list. And believe it or not, it is still considered as one of the happiest places on Earth. Based on a score compiled from the life expectancy, ecological footprint and wellbeing of individuals, the “Happy Planet Index” aims to show that what modern people from different nations think brings happiness often does not –and perhaps it is the most common place– mean the same for all of them.

But how do they measure the happiness indicators in a specific country?

Well, most indicators of national progress just measure the economy ambit, accounting for production and consumption. Although it is true that money can help alleviate basic needs, it cannot buy happiness. A good example of this is how sales of self-help “find-your-own-happiness” books are soaring in the United States of America (USA), a country that definitively ranks towards the bottom of the list on the Happy Planet Index. It is surprising, is it not?

Perhaps it is time to see what a country as Costa Rica, a developing country that is far poorer than the USA, can teach us about the pursuit of happiness.

Why are Costa Ricans so happy?

There are many reasons why ticos (that is how Costa Ricans refer to themselves) are happy. Here we try to highlight top-five reasons for the index:

  1. Costa Ricans have high life expectancy: an average of 78.5 years. This high life expectancy is undoubtedly thanks to the country’s excellent health care system, which offers high-quality care at an affordable rate. It is about 1/3 to 1/5 of the price of the same care service in the USA. Costa Rica invests in upgrading hospitals and training staff, and medical care is easy to find. What is the best lesson? Taking care of yourself is paramount to your overall happiness.
  2. Costa Ricans love and protect their environment. Environmental protection is almost imperceptible for most governments, but Costa Rica is truly a leader in ecological sustainability. In fact, it is the first developing country aiming to be carbon neutral by 2021. Costa Rica has a massive tree-planting program and is converting the land into forests, not the other way around. It is also a world leader when it comes to being green, and this sense of pride and protectiveness towards your home breeds warm and fuzzy feelings of joy and happiness.
  3. Costa Ricans enjoy a slower pace of life in a tropical paradise. If you are in a hurry, do not go to Costa Rica. Rushing is rude, and anyway; why would you want to rush through your experience of gorgeous beaches, lush mountains, and amazing wildlife? A slower pace of life offers less stress than what you will find in many places in the USA, and the warm and welcoming weather in Costa Rica causes smiles to break out for no reason at all. Climate has a bigger effect on your mood than many people would want to admit!
  4. Costa Ricans eat healthy and fresh foods with very few preservatives. A usual meal consists of fiber-rich beans and rice –better known as Gallo Pinto– served with an ample portion of fresh tropical fruits, vegetables or both. Costa Ricans eat a fraction of the amount of dairy, red meat, refined sugar and processed foods that Americans do, and they avoid the sour mood swings associated with these products.
  5. Costa Rica has no army. Central America as a whole is known for civil instability and military insurrection, but Costa Rica has a stable democracy and, therefore, abolished its army altogether in 1949. That is why that instead of spending a huge portion of its income on defense, as the USA does, the Costa Rican government prefers to pour the money into agriculture, education, and health care.

In short, high-life expectant, healthy, and well-educated people are more likely to be happy than those who are not!!

costa rica real estate