Search This Blog

Sunday, January 13

Finding Bliss

A couple of book reports here and here on Eric Wiener's book, "The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World," indicate that this grumpy guy discovered that you don't have to live in a tropical paradise to be happy. In fact, in the top 10 happiest places in the world except for the Bahamas and Brunei, it's cold and dark for long periods each year. Wiener found that Iceland, Bhutan and Switzerland are happy places while Moldova is truly a miserable place. (The first chapter of the book is online at the NYTimes.)

While I was searching for happiness on the internets, I came across lots of information that could help me understand what I am supposed to be looking for and what doesn't contribute to happiness. It's really easy to find what doesn't make us happy even though it seems Americans particularly cling on to those things. Watching commercials on the tube makes people the least happy, having lots of clutter around is not conducive to happiness, a government that looks out for businesses before people doesn't put people in a happy place, having a boyfriend or girlfriend definitely isn't the solution for unhappiness (how about that divorce rate?), being beautiful or rich has nothing to do with it (just look at the celebrity news)... happiness really has a lot to do with community and lack of fear. (BBC News has a series of stories and videos on the subject of happiness as well as ABC News.)

You might want to poke around to see how they measure happy places on earth. It takes into account 3 separate factors: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life expectancy. What really makes the US plummet to 150th place on their charts and maps is our enormous carbon footprint, because we really aren't all that emotionally unhappy and our life expectancy isn't all that bad either. The happiest places on their charts may not have such high life expectancies, but they aren't damaging the planet either. It seems like a silly thing to incorporate into the happiness factor, but after watching the video the story of stuff (scroll down), it begins to make sense. Having too much stuff takes away from our overall happiness, so a country that is hell bent on consumption rather than social interactions can never make it to the top of the list no matter how lovely the climate is or how long you may live.

If we Americans want to be happier, should we invade move to other countries that rate high on the happiness index or can we work to change our country? Are you like me and believe that the Green movement that is gaining steam will make us happier overall? (It helps if you watched the story of stuff .)

Tomorrow, we'll discuss the myths of beauty, financial independence and finding the right significant other as the keys to happiness.

No comments: