Saturday, September 26, 2009

Lose Your Illusions




I recently read the Geography of Bliss by NPR journalist Eric Weiner, a fascinating travelogue highlighting some of the happiest and unhappiest cultures around the world (www.ericweinerbooks.com) , and A Brief History of Anxiety [Yours and Mine] by Patricia Pearson, a look at the rise of anxiety in the US and elsewhere (www.pearsonspost.com). Here are two key things I learned about being happy and healthy:

Embrace experimentation. According to Weiner, the people of Iceland are among the happiest in the world. The key reasons: It’s a homogenous society, so there’s little racial or ethnic conflict, and it’s a socialist country, so their basic needs are met (universal health care anyone?). Most tellingly, in Iceland, people are allowed to try things and actually fail at them. They don’t have to be huge successes to feel good about themselves. (Icelanders also drink a lot, Weiner says, and that helps to better accept failures and keep them warm during the cold, dark winters!)

Lose your illusion of being in control. Many people living in poor cultures are happier and less anxious than Americans because they don’t expect success. They actually expect life to be hard. Pearson writes…“The other day my Mexican-born psychiatrist offered me his opinion that what drives anxiety in the Western world is the coveted illusion that we can be in control. Latin Americans, he argued, are bracingly accustomed to injustice and to toil and have no ‘fantasy’ that fate is in their hands.” They just accept hurricanes and other misfortunes as an inevitable part of life, and work to have the pleasure and freedom of spending time with their friends and family. To a great extent, we here in American believe we can mold our lives down to the very last detail and when that doesn't happen, we get stressed-out and anxious.
Pearson argues that we should stop looking for reasons for why things happen to us and just accept the “cruel randomness of fate.”

Harsh words or sound advice? I fall in the latter camp (divorce will teach you that). How about you?

Next on my reading list: Snoop: What Your Stuff Says About You by psychologist Sam Gosling, PhD.

8 comments:

nicole said...

I also read & enjoyed Weiner's book. I'd recommend "Stumbling on Happiness" by Dan Gilbert, and "Happiness: the science behind your smile" by Daniel Nettle. What sounds like it's in the same vein, but disappointingly is anything but! is "Gross National Happiness" by Arthur Brooks, which turns out to be a thinly veiled promotion of catholic ideology.

Nancy Monson said...

Thanks, Nicole. I read Gilbert's book and thought it had some good things in it. I prefer Weiner's book though because it's such a fun read!

Thanks for posting.

Alisa Bowman said...

It took me a very long time to be okay with the fact that life is hard. I think if we raised our children with this belief--that life is filled with one challenge after another--they might have a shot at being happier than we've been. Nice reviews.

Nancy Monson said...

That is so true, Alisa! I often reflect back to how I thought about life as a child and I had no clue how hard it would be...

Susan Johnston said...

Both of these sounds like interesting books. I wouldn't have guessed that Iceland is one of the happiest countries in the world, but I've heard it's beautiful!

Anonymous said...

Whenever I open up safari or calendar in safari, after around 3 or 4 minutes and closes it and goes to the main page (with all the application icons). How can I stop my iphone from doing this? I want to actually use these applications without my iphone closing them. Thanks!



________________
[url=http://unlockiphone22.com]unlock iphone[/url]

Anonymous said...

Hey people, i might be getting a locked iphone from my friend soon, and i was wondering what the current status of the unlock is. Some websites i read that there are programs and other methods that are already out that will unlock the iphone. Other places, i hear that there is no current method of unlocking the iphone 3g. Can you please clarify this for me(directed more towards the people who have an iphone) Thanks!



________________
[url=http://unlockiphone22.com]unlock iphone[/url]

Anonymous said...

Finally i unlocked my iphone . i unlocked my iphone today and now i want use it on any gsm network worldwide , i have 3.1.2 firmware and my iphone was iphone 3g , it was really easy , i was on AT&T network and now i use tmobile , really nice
________________
[url=http://www.unlock-iphone.org]unlock iphone 3g[/url]