Wednesday, 9 May 2012

The Hotspots of Happiness

There are a lot of theories going around about happiness.
Some say it comes from within you, others find it genetically linked, still others think it depends on the situation or country you grow up in. Maybe it is a bit of all three.

I've just finished reading Eric Weiner's The Geography of Bliss. (If you have time: Do read it. It is brilliant.)
Yes, you read that right, happiness has a geography.
According to Weiner anyway, and Ruut Veenhoven, who does his Happiness Studies right here in my little country: in Rotterdam. He has a happiness database of countries, selected so that the number one country is the  happiest, the last country the unhappiest.

A few things that struck me: the happiest countries in the world are not the ones you'd go on for a lazy, relaxed beach holiday, nor are they particularly warm. The top ten actually consists of a lot of Scandinavian countries. Long winters, cold nights.
Thai people say that thinking leads to unhappiness, so the less you think, the happier you become/are.
People in Qatar are not happy, though they have more money amongst than the more productive countries, simply because they have oil. ((aka: proven, money doesn't buy happiness.)) The Swiss prefer boredom and rules to any spontaneousity or chaos, they are happiest when they know what to expect.
Also, the United States only has a (rather measely) 23rd place in the list. Not unhappy, but definitely not one of the happier states. Apparently, being the economic super power isn't everything.
The Netherlands is the third country on the list though, so I'm not complaining.

New research I just stumbled upon last week found that teenagers here are actually happiest in the world, here in the Netherlands. And so are the women.

Also, according to (an good blog you should totally read if you're planning on visiting/moving to the Netherlands), Dutch people also work the least in the continent where the average working days are already not the highest in the world. An average of 30.2 hours per week, we work a whole day less than the 37.2 hours of Europeans, not to mention the gap between us and the hardworking North Americans, who work an average of 44-52 hours per week!
And if you ask any random Dutchie what they do in all this extra free time? Well, the answer is almost unanimous: they are enjoying themselves.
Most impressive about this? The Dutch do manage to top the list of productivity in the EU, so we're doing something right. :)

Another theory I was told about yesterday somehow spiked my interest. It is convinced that people are happiest when they are thinking about what they are doing. The extreme variant of living in the "now" and present, and forgetting about both future and past.
It says, for instance, that people are happiest when they are doing something they love, and concentrating on only that. But it also says that when people are doing something they dislike (ie. a chore, homework, etc) they are happier if they think of what they're doing, rather than if they think of something fun (like the clubbing last night, or a party tomorrow, or all the fun things you could be doing instead.)

And that's exactly Buddhism/Hindiusm for you. A lifestyle. A way of thinking "Carpe Diem, and we'll see what happens tomorrow when it comes."
Thing is, it needs to come from within you. With some, it comes naturally. They have either been brought up in that way, or they can't remember the past or plan the future very much. For others, unfortunately, it is more difficult. Some people cannot stop thinking about the future (all the things you have to get done when you get home), or the past (all the good and bad that's happened to you up till yesterday). Thing is, they have difficulty ever being truly happy, because they can't enjoy the moment when it's there, and usually end up morosely regretting it when it's over.

You can train yourself though, I'm sure of that. I'm neither brought up in the Carpe Diem way, nor am I naturally very optimistic. I have an inclination to get depressed easily, if anything. But I came to a realisation, somewhere along the way, that any negative feeling, ranging from worry to anger or downright resentment, is nothing more than a waste of time. And as soon as I really understood that, it was just a matter of time before a new me emerged, bubbly, cheerful, and full of self confidence.

Seeing as I only heard about that theory of "thinking in the now" yesterday, I haven't had the chance to try it out a lot.. I think ten things at one time, past, present and future, and am probably the most difficult person to teach how to meditate. I did smile to myself when I reprimanded myself on the bike yesterday when I was thinking of what I was going to do when I came home, instead of just thinking of biking, so it sorta works. ;)

Going back to Weiner's book about Bliss, though: The moment when you start thinking about your own happiness, or when you ask yourself whether you are happy or not, you cease to be happy (or in a lesser degree, become unhappier). Which leads me to think (ouch, there's that word again) that the Thai are right. So you should actually be forgetting about everything you just read (if you ever actually made it this far), and not think about how happy you are, or how you could become happier.
I'm not sure if telling (or forcing) yourself to enjoy the moment as it comes is going to work, but it might just become a habit if you train yourself to do just that.

See, this is what happens when it's almost your birthday.
You start thinking about life. And, surprise: I'm still happier than I've been in a long time :)
And I wish you all all the happiness you deserve~ -- because you got here, to the end (;

The Gypsy

1 comment:

  1. Happy birthdays are the best :3

    It helps if you gain an alternate perspective ,
    like imagine that everything is within your own
    perception or you wouldn't know anything of it
    and looking at all times as part of the great
    now in which everything is happening.

    Just relax. Aknowledge your thoughts
    and don't hinder them. Just choose what
    you like out of them and know you like
    that more. Things are getting better~ :3