On many mornings, Ted and I would sit on our screened-in back porch, sipping coffee and reading to each other from The Geography of Bliss—a great book written by Eric Weiner, a foreign correspondent for NPR.
What makes people happy? Is it truly an inside job? Do some places support happiness better than others?
We didn’t read from this book every day but whenever we had some downtime, one or the other of us would pick the book up on our way out to the porch. Sometimes he’d read, sometimes I’d read.
We read about the author’s travels and thoughts. He’d traveled to India, where he found happiness and misery living side by side. Bhutan, where the king made Gross National Happiness a national priority. Switzerland, where residents believe envy is the great enemy of happiness. During his tenure at NPR he visited over 30 countries.
The book ends with the author talking to a bartender whose name is? Wait for it…Happy. The bartender related that his father was so happy when his son was born that he named him Happy. When asked the secret to being Happy, the bartender said, “Just keep on smiling. Even when you’re sad. Keep on smiling.” Pretty simple, huh? Simple but not always easy. It reminds me of something I learned in my mindfulness meditation study. “When you’re hungry, eat. When you’re tired, sleep.” A simple reminder to us that we are many times so unaware of what our body needs that we just keep barreling on, not noticing something that is so very simple.
He ends with this quote: “Money matters, but less than we think and not in the way that we think. Family is important. So are friends. Envy is toxic. So is excessive thinking. Beaches are optional. Trust is not. Neither is gratitude.” I like that.