Is being Happy at Christmas time an American thing?

December 8, 2019

I have pretty mixed feelings about the holidays.  I’ve gotten pretty good at giving presents (usually baked goods) and other items to a select people, but I’m single and I HATE the feeling that you HAVE to be happy this time of year.  It’s like if you’re not happy, goodbye.  Maybe that’s not true, but I just read a fascinating book that came out 10 years ago called The Geography of Bliss about a NPR writer who goes to 10 different countries to find out if they are as happy (or unhappy in one- Moldova) as he thinks.

I actually found the chapter on Moldova the funniest, and believe it or not, it made me happy reading about people who just muddle through life to the best of their abilities, even if their country doesn’t have their best interests at heart.  I also enjoyed the chapter on Iceland, because it seemed like that small country was a storybook land that valued people and I can see why tourism has taken off their in the last 10 years or so.  It just seemed like the opposite of Moldova, where Iceland did have its residents’ best interests at heart.

Anyway, when I think about being happy in America, it just seems like a fake happy sometimes, especially if you consider retail and shopping.  That’s probably not reality, but it seems like if you can be happy during the holidays, you can make it through the rest of the year.

But also in the Geography of Bliss book, the writer talks about four Asian countries: Qatar, Bhutan, Thailand, and India.  Now I kind of want to go to India someday, but comparing India to the other countries, Bhutan seemed the most ideal in terms of happiness quota.  Its been ranked the happiest country consistently because they don’t value money and material possessions it seems (they didn’t have a national currency until the 1970s).  Also, comparing the Asian countries to the Western countries he profiles like Switzerland, Netherlands, Great Britain, Iceland, and USA, the Asian countries like Qatar and Thailand seemed more fake happy (at least to me) than the Western ones.  Maybe we Westerners are more genuinely happy than we think.

But he also notes that happiness isn’t everything.  Just because you’re happy, doesn’t mean you’re content (he gives an example of a very happy man released from prison, who was so euphoric, he essentially dies of happiness- ugh).  Now I tend to suffer from depression sometimes, but I think by keeping busy, ie volunteering, reading, cooking, being around friends, does wonders and I think I am more unhappy than depressed when I am sad (which is why the unhappy Moldovans were so funny!)  So whatever mood you’re in this holiday season, try to be good to yourself, and if you feel up to it, read “The Geography of Bliss” by Eric Weiner, because it just will help you get over those holiday blues!!


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