Somehow, the book "The Geography of Bliss" ended up in my looming stack of books to read this year. And I'm not sorry that it did because it is really, really good.
How can you not love a book that tells the adventures of "one grump's search for the happiest places in the world?" In fact, after my last two reads, both of which centered on life in Afghanistan during the Taliban reign, I was certainly ready for something more uplifting.
In the first chapter, the grump - or the writer - finds himself in the Netherlands which he describes as being pretty dreary, on the surface. Despite the uninspiring landscape, the author explains that it's the "freedom" of the culture in the Netherlands that really makes people happy there. Freedom, according to the author, is legal access to "soft" drugs and prostitution.
You can see why this book is a little addictive, no pun intended.
Along with rampant drugs and easy sex, one can also find The World Database of Happiness, or the WDH in the Netherlands. The author, who set up camp for several weeks at the WDH, had access to all of humanity's accumulated knowledge of happiness. I wondered, when reading about this place, if the smiley face sticker was born at the WDH.
(It wasn't; I checked. Although the US isn't as happy as the Netherlands, we created the happy sticker. Go figure.)
The research findings on happiness from the WDH are interesting; both expected and surprising; some are completely counter-intuitive.
Here are some of the points, and my thoughts:
Extroverts are happier than introverts.
Does having an active Facebook life count as being extroverted?
Optimists are happier than pessimists.
Really? I never would have guessed.
Married people are happier than singles.
Sometimes. But not always. I'm happier now.
Republicans are happier than Democrats.
People who attend religious services are happier than those who do not.
There are a lot of happy people at my church. I wonder if I'd be happier if I went more often?
People with college degrees are happier than those without.
Finally, that damn BA is paying off.
People with advanced degrees are less happy than those with just a BA.
Thanks, USC for saving me from years of debt. I didn't want your damn MA degree, anyway.
People with an active sex life are happier than those without.
Do ya think?
Women and men are equally happy.
Really? Men seem happier perhaps because...
Women have a wider emotional range.
Wider? That's a kind way to put it.
Having an affair will make you happy but will not compensate for the massive loss of happiness that you will incur when your spouse finds out and leaves you.
No personal experience on this one. But good to know, nonetheless!
People are least happy when they're commuting to work.
After commuting for endless hours in the Bay Area with Xanax in my glove compartment, I can attest to this.
Busy people are happier than those with little to do.
So true. What's the saying about an idle mind?
Carbs are the cornerstone to happiness.
OK, I made this one up but if you're wondering, click here: http://luscious-ness.blogspot.com/ and see how "Atkin's Lite" is going. Can happiness really be found in a chicken breast, a head of lettuce or a daily protein shake?
As for "The Geography of Bliss," I'm captivated with the destinations and the author's quest. It's a page-turner and quite enlightening, as well.
Sadly, it also makes me want to move. Switzerland, anyone?