The Culture of Happiness

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My blog has been read in 50 countries around the world and that makes me very happy!  But, it also gets me thinking about how the concept of happiness translates across cultures.  Do my musings about happiness translate to all of you?

We are a multi-cultural household.  My husband is from Australia and I am from the US.  Much of our ideas about happiness overlap, but we have seen some divergence along the way.  So, I have seen that culture does play a role.  That being said, I have learned that it is each individual that ultimately defines their own happiness no matter what their culture outlines for them.

I do think a smile translates into any language.

In some cultures, it is frowned on to flaunt your wealth and good fortune while in others it is perfectly acceptable to declare your worth.  Does that impact happiness?  Can you achieve more or less happiness on your own, or does it make a difference if others know your happiness status?  Is what you broadcast to the world as your level of happiness your actual level, or do you put on a brave face while feeling quite different inside?  What is acceptable in one household or one extended family within the same culture varies, so happiness means so many different things to so many different people.  What means the most is to figure out what it means to you.

Many cultures define their level of happiness by the level of interconnectedness among people within that culture.  There is an interesting book about the link between culture and happiness called “The Geography of Bliss,” by Eric Weiner that explains this idea quite clearly.  For example, the people of Maldova do not have a strong feeling of trust within their people and are known to be some of the least happy people in the world.  Compared to other, happier countries such as Italy that encourage more deep rooted personal connections within their culture, it’s hard not to blame this lack of connectedness for their lack of happiness.

Sad to think that the US may be leaning more and more in that direction.  So many of us spend long hours at work and in our cars and end up having less and less time to connect with loved ones.  Will we end up being a less and less connected culture and therefore a less and less happy one?  Has it already started to happen?  Eric Weiner believes that the US “is not as happy as it is wealthy”.

We each have to take our happiness in our own hands and fight aggressively against that end.  Just as we each must fight for our own health and well being, we must also fight for our own happiness.  Long gone are the days of just being handed these rights as we sit back and enjoy them while our kids play outside until the street lights come on and we all come inside for a family dinner.

So, no matter which generation you were born in, what culture you come from, or what your mindset is right now, you still have the power to decide how you define your own, personal happiness.  Do you want to define you happiness by your personal achievement, your interpersonal connectedness, or the number of zeros in your bank account?  It’s not for anyone to judge but you, but do consider the outcome of each before you make your decision.

“The desire to reach for the stars is ambitious. The desire to reach hearts is wise.” -Maya Angelou

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