As I've written here before, I do a lot of reading and thinking about happiness as a general subject. What makes us happy? And how can I be happier? These are questions that aren't necessarily top of mind every day, but they pop up on a regular basis. I read about happiness, I write about happiness. It's like a hobby. (As an aside: I am actually very happy overall. But reading about it makes me feel productive. And that makes me happy, too.)
Apparently I'm not alone. According to this Newsweek article, 8 out of 10 Americans think about their happiness at least once a week. Also according to the article, which is really a semi-review of The Geography of Bliss by Eric Weiner, it's that dedication to the search for happiness that might actually keep Americans from achieving a higher level of the stuff than they have right now.
Weiner, a former NPR correspondent who spent his fair share of time in very unhappy, war-torn locations, wanted to better understand what makes some cultures more prone to happiness than others. America is the 23rd happiest country, according to surveys that simply ask those in the country how happy they are. What Weiner wanted to know was, what's so special about the top 22?
So he visited all of them, as well as Moldova - consistently the least happiest country.
And he found out that...well...I haven't read the book. But according to the reviews I've read, he had a hard time narrowing down his findings. There were no easy political or economic or social factors that determined happiness. Countries with lots of equality and inequality, with strict politics or permissive laws, with diversity or homogeneity. They're all happy.
I wonder if it doesn't have something to do with homogeneity of attitude. People will be happiest if they live somewhere they feel like they fit - at least that's what I'd posit. For some people, that might be a place where everybody has the same color skin or makes the same amount of money; for others, it could be the opposite.
But I'm digressing, because I'd hoped to make this about food. I'm struggling with that, though, because I'd also posit that happiness is easier in countries with amazing food. But that doesn't necessarily seem to be the case. Yes, Thailand is mentioned as one of the places on the list, and by all accounts, the food's amazing. But so is Iceland. And I've seen the No Reservations where Tony has to choke down Icelandic food. It looks bad.
It's possible that I'm just going to have to get it together and read the book, then report back.
Until then, I will try to keep my happiness-searching to a minimum. And maybe then I'll be happier? We'll see.