Saturday, February 9, 2008

On the search for happiness...

CNN recently posted an interesting article about a journalist's trip around the world in the search for happiness. Many of you wishing to streamline your life may be looking to ultimately find happiness in your journey or bring more happiness to your life. I plan on picking up Eric Weiner's book, "Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiest Places in the World," but in the meanwhile, see what CNN's review has to say. There are a number of key points I found fascinating in this article:
  1. Happiness is not necessarily related to money. That's probably nothing new to most of you. 2 of the places Eric Weiner found to be the happiest in the world included Bhutan, an almost pre-modern society in the Himalayas, and Iceland, a country with a lot of darkness and cold. Also interesting is Iceland and Bhutan's GDP (nominal), the benchmark often used to describe a country's production of goods: 95th and 159th, respectively. This is out of 180 countries (source).

  2. Happiness is not even related to a warm, pleasant climate. This was a personal shocker to me. One thing that I thought always separated US citizens on the east coast (Miami, NYC, Boston, etc.) from those on the west coast (Los Angeles, San Francisco, Portland, etc.) was that nicer weather on the west coast was a large reason why west coasters are usually more pleasant and relaxed. In a way, many would say they appear happier. Ironically, one of Mr. Weiner's observations was that the cold weather actually brings people together in Iceland, much as humans must have done long ago.

  3. Happiness often comes with content and satisfaction. As mentioned in the article regarding Qatar, having wealth does not equal being content. Content can often come in the form of having few material possessions to have to worry about maintaining. Content can even come in the form of seeing your tax dollars being used appropriately. It's just amazing that a country such as Qatar doesn't have the most happiness. Qatari's are even paid by the government, as opposed to being taxed, just for being a resident, and yet happiness does not come from such benefits.

  4. Happiness doesn't come from actively searching for happiness. Perhaps a bit of an irony, but countries and people that are happiest often do not seek it. Maybe it's because they just live a certain way and do not contemplate the happiness, as you may not seek what you already have. Alternatively, being active and socially interacting on a daily basis may bring you the happiness you seek, even though that is not your goal in mind at the time.

If anything, the take home message seems to be that having a simple, streamlined life where your time is freed up to spend with your loved ones may bring you the happiness for which many are searching. Check out the book next time you're at the book store... I know I will be.

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