Thursday, January 10, 2008

Are You Happy?


This little smiley face is my personal trademark. Whenever I write letters or sign cards to family or friends, unless it's a sad letter, you'll find this little happy face. If it's a super special letter, you may even get the smiley face twins. Drawing this little face makes me happy. I don't know why.

According to a new book called The Geography of Bliss, if you live in Switzerland, you're probably way more happy than if you live in Moldova. I haven't read the book yet, but recently I listened to the author, Eric Weiner, being interviewed by Diane Rehm on NPR. It was a really interesting interview and I'd like to read the book.

A New York Times book review says
"Weiner is best in lowly Moldova, one of several post-Soviet nations dumped at the bottom of the happiness heap. Without an “abiding faith or culture on which to rely,” Moldovans, Weiner writes, harbor a superstition that is “free-floating, anchored to nothing but the cloud of pessimism that hovers over this sad land.” Hopping aboard a crowded bus, he observes, “Every face is frozen in an expression that is simultaneously vacant” and vaguely teed off — “an expression I came to identify as the Moldovan Scowl.”"

During the radio interview, author Eric Weiner says that he went to ten countries hoping to find happiness and discovered why some places are happier than others. Some things seemed fairly obvious. Long commutes, over half an hour, make you unhappy. And then one of my favorite findings - chocolate really does make you happy! These are two of the reasons that Switzerland ranks high on the happiness list. Yes, there is an actual list! Apparently in Switzerland the trains run on time. There is an absence of misery. They eat a lot of chocolate. And while the Swiss are a very wealthy, in their country they do not provoke envy in others.

I found that quite interesting, because here in the United States, there is a constant comparison to others and even to ourselves. It seems that people are always thinking about how someone else has more money or weighs less. Even how we ourselves may have had more last year. There is the constant striving, which never seems to end. Over the holidays, every other newspaper article seemed to be about whether Americans were spending more or less than this time last year. Can't we ever just be content with what is now and have it not matter if it's more or less than a time in the past or future? And ironically we Americans are constantly pursuing happiness and then putting it just outside of our own reach. Next year's resolution.

Now I also focused on the chocolate part and found this study that mentions it too. If the T really wants to make Boston commuters happy, maybe they should give us chocolate when the trains are running late and sitting in the tunnels for no apparent reason. I know it's a dream, but it makes me happy. I think I'll bring my own chocolate.

One of the things that I found most interesting was learning that there is an actual World Database of Happiness. It's in the Netherlands, which I think may have a lot of chocolate too. It's also kind of strange seeing the list of happiest countries and then seeing sad Moldova on the bottom of the list. I'm not quite sure who sponsors this website. It appears to be a private entity and not actually Moldova, but someone is embracing the rank as unhappiest and making it work for them. Making lemonade with lemons I guess.

*Updated* And know what else makes me happy? When people link to my posts and create whole new conversations! Check out this post by Mes Deux Cents!

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13 comments:

Asha said...

Great post! I like to think that I am happy 90% of the time and I like this sign :) too!
Chocolate I am not very fond of though, doesn't contribute to my happiness.
I heard that they found Slum kids of Bombay are the happiest kids of all! I do believe that, I love the way those kids smile (from the soul), considering how they live, in utter poverty! Happy day to you Anali!:)

Suldog said...

One thing I've always been blessed with is the ability to not be jealous about anyone else's possessions or money or whatever. Whenever someone else has something more than me, I just count my own blessings and I'm content.

I also eat lots of chocolate. Maybe there's a connection.

The Thinking Black Man said...

Hmmm, maybe I need to eat more chocolate. I'm usually fairly happy about things, but if chocolate is hiding some special smiley proteins, then I should partake!!!

I think I'm going to see if this interview is online. I'd love to read it.

As I reflect on "happiness" I find that the things and people that are closest to me bring me the most happiness and as my contact grows further from things and people and places I draw less happiness from them. Okay, well now I've REALLY got some deep stuff to think about on my commute home tonight. : )

Great post Anali. And HAPPY HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!!!!!!

Susan from Food Blogga said...

I think you're a happy and kind-hearted person, anyway, so it comes naturally.

Margie said...

Hi Anali
Happy New Year!
Great post here!
I love your happy face!

Chocloate I love, and I think for the most part I'm a happy person!

I'll have to come back later and check out the links on this post.

Have a nice weekend!

Margie:):):)

Nance said...

What a terrific post! Very thought-provoking. Thanks for lots to ponder and ruminate over.

Anonymous said...

Hi Anali,

It's your Flickr friend "chrisbest" here...I'm enjoying your blog immensely. Many thanks...especially for the biscuits. :-)

I heard Vanuatu was the happiest place in the world......but not much chocolate there.

Best wishes,

Chris

Zen Chef said...

This is very interesting and it confirms one thing...
It's all about chocolate. It always has been!
:-)

Anali said...

asha - One of the things that I've read too is that there are many people in countries that are poor, who are generally very happy. Not that we don't want to eradicate poverty. That is still always the goal. But when people have a sense of community, belonging, and appreciation for what they do have, then that can be a huge bump up the happiness scale.

suldog - That is huge to have the gift of not comparing oneself to others. I'm still working on it myself, but I do have the chocolate thing down! ; )

the thinking black man - It's so good to see you back here! Happy New Year! I just found this information below.

"Chocolate contains a natural 'love drug'. Tryptophan is a chemical that the brain uses to make a neurotransmitter called serotonin. High levels of serotonin can produce feelings of elation, even ecstasy - hence the name of the designer drug that also works by increasing serotonin levels."

http://www.bbc.co.uk/science/hottopics/chocolate/addictive2.shtml

There are actual chemical things that chocolate is doing to our brains! Love it! ; )

Anali said...

susan - Thank you! I certainly try! : D

margie - Happy New Year! Glad to see you back! I thought you abandoned blogging. Have a great weekend too!

nance - I'm glad you liked it! That makes me happy! ; )

Anali said...

chris - Welcome! Nice to see you here! I guess there may be a few different lists of the happiest places. Wouldn't that be cool to visit them all? : )

zen chef - Chocolate is definitely one of the best treats in life. And ironically enough, I just emailed you my Ode to Vanilla! Gotta spread the love! : )

So Simple said...

Hi Anali

Lovely to read your interesting blog. My niece was doing her PHD on happiness in Old people many years ago unfortunately her life took a turn for the worse and she never competed it…pity…she has been pretty miserable since poor thing…Anyway I agree about chocolate, nothing is more enjoyable like that fat melting in your mouth.

Happiness is a state of mind and you’re correct, you don’t have to be rich, but good food, good wine and great friends and family helps one to be a happy and contented person.

We’re currently on holiday on the boat and that is a pretty happy place to be
Have just been catching up on your blog a lot of the bays here have bad reception for the phone…your biscuits sound excellent… I made some that I found on the internet and they were great as well. I fund them on allrecipes.com and I did a post on 17th October…try them they are great

Anali said...

so simple - Thank you Gilli! That's so sad and ironic about your nice. Hopefully things will turn around for her. Holiday on a boat sounds pretty happy to me too! Happy New Year! : )

 
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