Can you tell the difference between a genuine smile and a forced one? What is the true definition of happiness, and if you could choose to live in an artificial, Matrix-like world where only pleasant experiences happen, would you? These are the philosophical questions put to guests who visit the newly-opened Happiness Museum in Copenhagen, an institute that truly goes into depth on what makes us feel good.

Located in the basement of a late 18th-century building on Admiralgade in Old Town, the Happiness Museum is led by Meik Wiking, author of the three international bestsellers The Little Book of Lykke, The Little Book of Hygge and The Art of Making Memories.

Curated by the Happiness Research Institute; an independent body focusing on well-being and quality of life, the museum demonstrates how happiness is involved in every area of our lives, with eight rooms that examine the subject from different perspectives. According to the museum, the project was created with the goal of literally bringing happiness to life, and reminding visitors what it is that gives value to them and makes them feel good. “Our hope is guests will leave a little wiser, a little happier and a little more motivated to make the world a better place,” Meik Wiking said.

Trust experiment - somebody lost their wallet
The museum includes a map showing where lost wallets were returned around the world © The Happiness Museum

It’s interactive, and visitors can get involved in trials with light therapy and thought experiments. A wallet containing cash has also been left in the middle of the floor of the exhibition. Here you can read about the studies where researchers have "lost" wallets on streets around the world and look at how many of the wallets were returned. There’s also a geography of happiness section that explores the role of built environments on happiness levels, as well as showing a world map with the World Happiness Report 2020’s happiness ranking of 153 countries.

Mona Lisa smile
A visitor examines Mona Lisa's smile © The Happiness Museum

"The UN has put happiness on the agenda with the World Happiness Report, where Denmark is repeatedly ranked as one of the countries in the world that is best for creating well-being, happiness and quality of life. Therefore, we think that Denmark is an obvious home for a museum that focuses on how we create a better framework for good lives" Meik Wiking said.

Other sections include the science of happiness, the history of happiness and what lies in store for the future. There’s even a section dedicated to smiling, where guests can study which side of Mona Lisa’s face is actually performing the gesture. The museum has a personal angle, with a display of objects donated by people from all over the world which remind them of happy moments in their lives.  

More information on the Happiness Museum is available at the official website.

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