A friend just sent me this link to an NPR (National Public Radio)interview with the author of a new book called, The Geography of Bliss. In this book, Eric Weiner seeks out places in the world where people are reportedly the happiest -- and looks for the reasons why. I was intrigued, especially after a recent Italian survey that revealed an 80% "happiness rate", despite a rather negative take on the economy, personal safety and politics (see this post).
One particularly happy country was Switzerland: things work well, the trains run on time, the streets are clean. But more importantly, they vote seven or eight times a year in public referendum, and they have a say in what happens in their life. He says that they also make an effort to hide their extraordinary wealth, so as not to provoke envy in others -- a great enemy of happiness.
On the other side of the world, he met a man in Bhutan who told him that, "you need to set aside a few minutes a day to think about death" in order to live a happy life. (On this note, I would suggest my book clubs recent selection, Everyman by Philip Roth)
What did he finally learn at the end of his travels in search of happiness? That, when all is said and done, happiness isn't personal, but relational. Exactly what our Italian survey discovered! Despite all the problems, woes, lack of faith in the system or the future, 80% of those interviewed said that they led basically happy lives....with close ties to their family and friends.