Happy Happy, Joy Joy

It just so happens that there are areas of the world that are way happier than we are. And it’s not just the people you expect, either.

According to the book Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zone Way, people in poor, rural Mexico who live on the edge of a desert are SIGNIFICANTLY happier than most Americans. Like, almost 60% of the population consider themselves “very happy”, which is 24% more than Americans. That is a lot of happy there, people.

Denmark is also rocking the Happy.

Now Denmark, I can understand. They have a reasonably trustworthy and serviceable government, great medical care with some of the lowest infant and maternal mortality on the planet, and they actually have a social safety net for the poor (which in turn means a low crime rate), and as a cherry on top of the happy sundae they have a 37 hour work week enabling them to spend more time with their family and enjoying their hobbies. Shit, I am surprised Danes don’t go “nanny-nanny-boo-boo” at all the other countries who are less awesome. I would, because I am kind of a jerk.

But what about people in the poor and crime-ridden countries with rotten governments who are still collectively super happy? What are they doing differently from Americans (in general) that means that they are so much happier with life, on the whole?

Turns out there are some commonalities.

Happy people, in general, have enough money to cover basic necessities like food and shelter, even if “luxury goods” are unaffordable. They live in communities where personal socialization is still frequent. Not on Facebook, mind you, but one human being looking at another human being while they talk and laugh and share. They watch less TV and as a result spend more time interacting with their kids and/or family. They also have short commutes to work. The longer you commute, the worse you feel about your life. You will be happier as a garbage man who walks to his job than you would be as a billionaire who spends an hour in a limo crossing Manhattan to get to his very important work of breaking the economy and robbing people of their pensions.

Speaking of important work, helping others will also make you feel significantly happier. Who knew? You know, other than every major religion ever. Money, once you cross the threshold of “enough to survive”, does not increase happiness. However, be forewarned that living where your neighbors are more affluent will make you want more money, so be sure to live among others who share your economic status. Unsurprisingly, people in good marriages are much happier, but you’ll be much happier if you are single than in a bad marriage, although single women are typically happier than single men. Finally, happy people live where they can see art (in any form, like decorated houses or whatnot) and have music be a part of their lives. It is never too late to learn to play an instrument or just sing with the family, y’all.

There are also certain conditions/situations that can be “swapped out”, for lack of a better word, and still facilitate happiness. For example, if you can’t live in a stable democracy with excellent social welfare programs, you can be highly religious. People involved in religious activities/communities are happier; but remember that if you aren’t highly religious you can still help others, which will give you a similiar happiness effect. If you are not religious and live under a totalitarian regime, you can still be happy as long as you feel safe and believe the government is trying to look after your interests, like in Singapore.

Happiness is crucial to the human animal. Without it we frequently wither and die, both as an individual and as a community and as a nation-state. Thus, you shouldn’t ever try to claw your way to the top; you should hug your way to the middle. You’ll be a happier and better person for it. In spite of the rumor to the contrary, nice guys do finish first in all the ways that truly matter.

I hope all of you have or find happiness, too.

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