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Lykke: The road to happiness

Updated: Sep 21, 2021

A lot of discussion has ensued in the past several years regarding mental health, depression and happiness. My interest in the pursuit of happiness comes from scoring 97% melancholy back in high school when I took one of the old time personality tests. Being melancholic was supposed to mean emotional rollercoasters and extreme introversion.

While I do believe that overthinking and an exclusive pursuit of happiness can cause that sunny state of mind to be elusive, the occasional reminder of what it really means to be happy and how to find it is a worthy topic of study. The following books (no fiction selection this time) helped me put matters into perspective.

Nonfiction: With a connection to the last blog centered on travel, The Geography of Bliss: One Grump’s Search for the Happiest Places in the World by former foreign correspondent Eric Weiner and self-described “Eeyore”, takes the reader on a tour of all of the reputedly happiest places in the world. Starting with the Netherlands and moving on to places like Bhutan, Thailand and Iceland, Weiner spent about two weeks in each location trying to figure out the reasons for their “blissful” state. Interestingly enough, no two countries seemed to have the same criteria for happiness, neither did they define it in the same way. Probably for me, the two most interesting chapters were about the most unhappy places, Moldova and Qatar. Qatar is an example of the fact that money cannot buy you happiness, but instead extreme wealth has severe consequences. Moldova, on the other hand, has deeper, more serious lessons. Sadly, Weiner sums it up at the end of the chapter with this comment: “The seeds of Moldovan unhappiness are planted in their culture. A culture that belittles the value of trust and friendship. A culture that rewards mean-spiritedness and deceit. A culture that carves out no space for unrequited kindness . . .” (218).

Probably the most practical and down-to-earth discussion I have found about happiness comes from the book, The Little Book of Lykke: Secrets of the World’s Happiest People by Meik Wiking. Wiking is the CEO of the Happiness Research Institute located in Copenhagen, Denmark, also a place reputed to be very happy. If you had told me that such an institution actually existed before I had found this book by randomly browsing the shelves at my local library, I would have thought you were pulling my leg. Right at the outset, Wiking gives definitions for two types of happiness. There is the emotional high, which cannot be sustained no matter what you do because it is subject to circumstances beyond our control, and there is the overall feeling of satisfaction in your life’s trajectory regardless of “bumps” along the way. According to Wiking, there are six essential ingredients to this second kind of happiness: togetherness, money (but not too much), health, freedom, trust and kindness. When looking back at Bliss’s chapter on Moldova, it is interesting to note that none of the six criteria for happiness were present.

Children’s Book: Just like in the last blog, I couldn’t resist including two books in this section. Both books remind the reader that it is often the simple, common, overlooked, everyday things that bring us the most happiness. The first is entitled Layla’s Happiness written by Mariahadessa Ekere Tallie and illustrated by Ashleigh Corrin. Set in Queens, New York, Layla wears a yellow dress and lists all of the things throughout her neighborhood, such as her garden and friend, Juan, and within her family, like her dad’s childhood stories and her mom’s poetry, that make her happy. Similarly, My Heart Fills with Happiness, a board book for the youngest of readers by Canadian author, Monique Gray, with illustrations by Julie Flett, also lists the things that bring happiness for a young Native American girl.. Both books end with a similar question directed to the reader: “What fills your heart with happiness?”

Of special note to the adults reading My Heart Fills with Happiness is the dedication, which is to former students of the Indian Residential School, who did not have the chance to experience a lot of happiness.

Tea: Yellow is the color I associate with happiness the most. Just like the sun, it is a bright, warm color. Some of my favorite flavors, lemon, pineapple and especially mango, are yellow, too. Therefore the tea of choice this time is a lovely herbal blend from the Spice and Tea Exchange, Mango Tango. It consists of a blend of mango, pineapple, orange and strawberry pieces among other natural ingredients. Brewing up to a beautiful golden color that can border on an orange hue, depending on how long you let it steep, this tisane is like drinking a cupful of sunshine. It is delicious warm or iced, with or without sugar.


Artwork credited to Aurora Draws - contact for more details

All photographs by the author

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