Wednesday, April 16, 2014

The Happiest Countries

Happiness might be overrated, but apparently it is one of the few things I value in life. To live a content life is a part of my daily prayers that I say every day. Maybe that's why I found reading about it fascinating. 

During my days in college, I always found bliss in reading journals about happiness. I love to find its correlation with faith, family, career, and anything else. After I graduated, I became too lazy to read scientific papers, so I started to read a lot of self-help books and psychology-today article about happiness. It became one of my guilty pleasure, because I realized how shallow it is yet it still feels fascinating. I no longer fancy fiction books. I'd rather read the self-help one instead. I read a lot of books about happiness, from the scientific-based one to the very shallow one - the one written with quotes and supposedly inspirational stories to inspire the readers. 

Then I found a book about happiness that's written in a different way. The author,  Eric Weiner, is a journalist who loves reading self-help books and is inquisitive about the concept of happiness. He wants to know what do happy people do, and what makes a country happy. He visited Ruut Veenhoven, a researcher specialized in subjective well-being, the fancy name for happiness. Veenhoven's method is quite arguable, I think, because he measures happiness by only asking "how happy you are?" to each participants.

"You can have a disease and not know it. But you can't be happy and not know it. By definition, if you are happy, you know it." - Ruut Veenhoven (on why he measures happiness that way)
Weiner then traveled to a lot of countries based on a list he got from Veenhoven: Switzerland, Qatar, Bhutan, Iceland, United Kingdom, India, and a lot more. He depicted each places in detailed descriptions, and embellished his story with his own witty, blunt thoughts. I can really feel what's different in each country, and what makes each of them special.

This is not a qualitative research about happy places in the world. This is just a story of a journalist who likes to travel and feels skeptical about felicity. He visited a few countries and interviewed a few locals. It only explains a couple of people who live in the country - not the whole country - so what he wrote probably is not entirely happen in each people living in the particular country. But still, it's compelling.

Every country has its own story, its own culture, and its own definition of bliss. And Weiner successfully made me feel blissful just by reading a book about bliss. I read books about happiness quite often, but I suppose this is the first book that made me feel actually happy.

"Maybe happiness is this: not feeling that you should be elsewhere, doing something else, being someone else."
- Eric Weiner

Post a Comment


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...