Before I write about our grand conclusions or where to go with my research, I thought that I would take a brief digression into happiness. When I was in Ecuador I wrote about the things I that made me happy there. The Pursuit of Happiness, Ecuadorian style included: banana milkshakes, bus rides that are long but actually feel short, speaking Spanish, bathrooms with toilet paper, being so dirty that you forget clean, conversations with strangers about politics, dangling my feet off a canoe, well maintained parks, only using the internet once a day, the rainforest, fried eggs and the list goes for two pages.
A few weeks ago I finished reading a great book lent to me by a a great friend, The Geography of Bliss, by Eric Weiner. Weiner, a former foreign correspondent, visits ten countries in order to observe what does and does not make people happy. His travels take him from Switzerland, where orderliness is happiness, to Bhutan where happiness is a domestic policy, to Moldova where unhappiness is rampant. Weiner's observations tend to be a bit general because of the brevity of his visits, but he raises important points about the real impact of culture on all of our lives. He very aptly states that "Culture is the sea we swim in- so pervasive, so all-consuming that we fail to notice its existence until we step out of it."
Thinking about culture and happiness, I am trying to decide what it is that makes people in this country happy. Do the things we want make us as happy as we think? According to mainstream American culture, food, shopping, professional sports, resort vacations and good reality television make us happy. Is this true? Do these things really make us happy? The list I made on a park bench in Ecuador does not look anything like this, and I have a feeling that there are many others out there whose lists would correlate. So here is a challenge, start taking note of the things that make you happy, however silly and insignificant they sound. Coffee in the morning, running at night, or calling a friend. Anything.
Thank you for indulging me in this detour. I am going to make blueberry pie, which I want and will coincidentally make me happy (I think).