Friday, August 01, 2008

Guest Post Friday: Happiness Kellie Nix.

Welcome back to Guest Post Friday.

Today Kellie Nix reviews Eric Weiner's fascinating book The Geography of Bliss.

Happiness is... by Kellie Nix

Happiness is technically defined as "feeling or showing pleasure or contentment". However, happiness as a general feeling is difficult to define. Eric Weiner (Pronounced 'Whiner', ironically enough) explores the meaning of being happy in his book, The Geography of Bliss. If you haven't read this book yet, I highly recommend it. Not only does the book lead you to think deeply about how happiness is perceived, he writes with a dry humor that makes it enjoyable, rather than a bland scientific book. Weiner is also a correspondent for NPR.

After reading this book, I took my own time to ponder what being happy is to me. Is it finding love? Is it having a harmonious family? Or perhaps discovering your true passion or career choice? Since I am young in the ways of the world still, I have a feeling my own 'happiness' quotient wasn't these. Besides, young children grinning and running around on the playground are happy, aren't they? Or at least until their next tantrum, but those are short-lived enough. Could you say that the saying rings true- that "Ignorance is bliss"? For those kids on the playground, it may as well.

I've personally found that besides everyone having their own interpretation on happiness, that these interpretations change frequently and exist in different layers. Perhaps somebody has a high paying job for a large corporation. Their defination of happiness might be the stable financial situation that gives their family a nice house and the things they desire without worrying about money. But if that person were to lose his or her job and see life from a different perspective of the lower-class or middle-class, that idea of what makes them happy might change. Sure, money and that old stable job would make them happy. But would they have a newfound appreciation for the non-inanimate objects such as the people they love around them? Aside from the cliche story of jobloss and new appreciation is the magnitude of what might make a person happy. There is something to be said for the little joys in life, for stopping to smelll the roses. I love different scents- perfumes, flowers, you name it. Every time I stop and smell something calming like a candle I'm in a better mood almost immediately. My friend keeps lavender in a jar for when times get stressful for her. Perhaps those little moments like writing a thank you/love note, seeing a baby smile, whatever, are the key to being happy. Noticing the little details and neglecting to let the pitfalls slow you down.

Now back to Eric Weiner's book. He documents his travels to different countries and what happiness generally is to the citizens. The happiest places weren't places that have high rates of wealth (such as the US) or land, but more unlikely countries. India, Bhutan, Switzerland, and Iceland were among the more happier places of the world on the Gross National Happiness scales. As I recall this from the book, materialism comes to mind. Are we too materialistic as a society to see the deeper meaning in what we have in life? Do we work too hard to have a comfortable life to let ourselves have peace? In India, the rich and poor live side by side, and yet each is both happy, if the poorer aren't more so.

Maybe happiness is just that- being upbeat and cheerful when you can and the result will follow. In my psych class in high school, I read a section in the textbook that said in a study, participants who chewed their pencils in class (using the muscles around the mouth also used to smile) had better moods than those who didn't. Optimists would say that just attempting to be in a good mood and letting petty stuff roll off your back is the way to peace of mind. Reflecting on this, I have my doubts. I agree that loosening up and not letting little stuff get to you is a good way to go about, but being "fake happy" can't be a cure-all. Especially when you are definately sad or mad, or what have you. I can't count the times I've heard someone say that letting themselves have a good long cry after something bad has happened (when they haven't or don't usually cry) turned them around to begin the healing from grief. Perhaps letting yourself experience the emotions you have in an appropriate way and then dealing with whatever stressor(s) you have is the key to being happy.

On a final note, I am still searching for my own defination of happiness. In the book Mr. Weiner also mentions that it is a typical idea in the US to try and find happiness in life, whereas elsewhere in the world, people just let themselves be happy. They don't think about and wonder if they are or aren't, they let the chips fall where they may. Maybe that's why the US has a lower "happiness quotient" than other countries, because we focus on it instead of letting ourselves be. In true American fashion, I would love to hear other takes on this idea.


Don't forget - if you have something to say about writing, you can send it through to Guest Post Friday.

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Erin Melanie said...

I think the key to happiness is appreciation, and balance in fulfillment. In terms of appreciation, I think it's like you said. Smelling something is a good example, because it's a pure appreciation of the senses. In other regards, maybe it's taking a moment to think about all the amazing attributes of your partner, best friend, sibling or parent. Remembering that you have such a wealth in the intangible and priceless aspects of life is so important, and really makes me happy, anyways.

In regards to balance of fulfillment, I think it means taking pride in your success (eg. high paying job for a big corporation) but knowing that if you lost that job tomorrow, you would still be the same person, with the same values and character, and that is what brought you wealth in the long run.

Super interesting post!

Anonymous said...

I feel that trying to be happy does help with actually being happy.
I also feel that being happy is why we are here, that's what the meaning of life is.

Very good post.

JBERG said...

Love the post!

the Kellster said...

Thanks for all your comments!

Lai said...

nice blog


great post kellie...eric's book definitely makes you think about what 'happiness is...'

thanks for sharing.



DesertMama said...

Sounds like a great read!


It is...easy to read, entertaining, and informative...what more could you ask for.

Prêt à Voyager said...

This has been on my "to read" list. Thanks for the reminder!


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