March 20 is recognized and celebrated around the world as the International Day of Happiness. From a profile of “the happiest man in the world” to a Brit’s account of mindfulness-obsessed Americans, here are seven reads about happiness.
1. “The Happiness Index.” (Gretchen Legler, Orion Magazine, January 2014)
“Can a country that claims in its brand-new constitution that happiness is more important than money survive, let alone thrive, in a global economy that measures everything by the dollar?” Legler considers the tiny, landlocked Kingdom of Bhutan as a model for change for the rest of the world.
2. “The World’s Happiest Man Wishes You Wouldn’t Call Him That.” (Michael Paterniti, GQ, October 2016)
“When you meet a monk on his mountaintop, it’s like taking a drug called Tonsured Tangerine Euphoria or Rainbow Saffron Dreams. When you see the world through his eyes, everything turns lovely colors, and you suddenly find yourself un-encrusted—free of your baggage—suddenly loving everyone and everything. It’s a self-manufactured rave in your head.” Paterniti travels to Nepal to meet Matthieu Ricard—named the “Happiest Man in the World”—to learn the keys of ultimate happiness.
3. “America Is Obsessed with Happiness—and It’s Making Us Miserable.” (Ruth Whippman, Vox, December 2016)
“It seems as though happiness in America has become the overachiever’s ultimate trophy. A modern trump card, it outranks professional achievement and social success, family, friendship, and even love.” After living and spending time in California, Whippman—the British author of America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks—concludes that Americans are fixated with happiness and mindfulness.
4. “The Real Roots of Midlife Crisis” (Jonathan Rauch, The Atlantic, December 2014)
“The peak of emotional life may not occur until well into the seventh decade.” For many, happiness is U-shaped: while middle age may be a low point, it’s up from there.
5. “The Internet Is Killing Happiness. Can We Stop It?” (Christine Speer Lejeune, Philadelphia Magazine, January 2017)
“That’s one thing nobody warned us about before life (and commerce and car rides and sex and food) went digital, before we were all so thoroughly disrupted: Knowing everything all the time isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. Actually, no—someone did tell us that. It was God, in the Garden of Eden. But, well, we bit the apple anyway, que sera sera, and here we are.” Can humans find happiness in today’s hyper-connected world?
6. “Tim Ferriss: If You’re Not Happy With What You Have, You Might Never Be Happy.” (Aaron Gell, Entrepreneur, January 2017)
“I press him. Isn’t it possible, I ask, to basically optimize yourself so compulsively you forget to actually live your life? ‘Sure, and I’ve been there,’ he says.” Bestselling author Tim Ferriss speaks on self-improvement, searching for something better, and knowing when to stop.
7. “The Secret to Happiness? Stop Trying To Be Happy.” (Cathy Gulli, Maclean’s, March 2016)
“Meanwhile, the best bits of daily life get documented and upsold on social media—preferably with photographic evidence of productivity and ‘happiness.’ People are, in effect, looking outside of themselves for confirmation that life has meaning, in the same way people may look to work for purpose.” Today, there is a disconnect between the way people live and what they want—and always a feeling that we’re coming up short.