February 1, 2013

Are You Happy?

The Director of the camp where I worked in the summer of 1945, was a tall handsome Swede who had the unusual habit of greeting people with the question, "Are you happy?" Because of his Swedish accent, his question always came out in a sing song cadence, "Are you hop PEE?"

The question, "Are you happy?" is now a subject for serious study even for scholars seeking a Phd. Hundreds of research papers on happiness are written each year, and if you Google the question, you will get 837 million responses! 

In 2008, Eric Weiner wrote a book titled The Geography of Bliss, One Man's Search for the Happiest Place in the World.  His journey began in Holland where he met Dr. Rutt Veenhoven, Professor of Happiness Studies. Turns out Veenhoven wasn’t happy.  

In his search for the happiest place on earth Weiner explored Switzerland, Qatar, Iceland, Moldova, Thailand, Great Britain, India and America.He also visited Bhutan which, incidentally, calls itself The Happiest Place in the World.  

In the final chapter of his book, Weiner wrote: “Our happiness is completely and utterly intertwined with other people: family and friends and neighbors...  Happiness is not a noun. It’s a conjunction.”

Shawn Achor, author of The Happiness Advantage and a leading expert on positive psychology, suggests that 10% of our happiness depends on environment and 90% depends on our optimism, our social support and our ability to see stress as a challenge instead of a threat. http://goodthinkinc.com/speakers/shawn-achor/

Both Weiner and Achor suggest our degree of happiness depends on our interaction and support by and for others. Sounds like something Jesus said 2,000 years ago when he instructed us to “love our neighbor as ourselves.”