Don’t Worry… Be Happy

“The Constitution only guarantees the American people the right to pursue happiness. You have to catch it yourself.” ~Benjamin Franklin

After last week’s ranting, I figured that it would be appropriate to do an entry on happiness. Yesterday, my co-workers and I attended a social, where we watched an awesome, inspirational documentary, called “The Happy Movie”. It’s one of those topics that everyone searches high and low for, when it’s simply placed right under our noses. Media teaches us that happiness is something that only certain people achieve; the beautiful, the rich, and the famous. However, people of the exact opposite have seemed to have more fulfilling lives. The start of the movie shows a man from India, who wakes early every morning to carry passengers on a rickshaw. He does this physically strenuous job in the beating sun, for hours, while wearing flip-flops .. He comes home to an open-air shack, covered by tarp, with wooden beds and dusty floors (Shadyac, 2002).. While many may not label this as the ideal life, this man was tested to be as happy as the average American. This man had a job, shelter, and a family to come home to. As long as basic needs are met, people are generally happy.

In 2010, studies have shown that the U.S.  was twice as wealthy as we were 50 years ago, but people were still not any happier (Shadyac, 2002). Once basic needs are met, the ranges of happiness between incomes of $5,000 to $50,000 are dramatic. However, happiness from $50,000 to $50 million were not as noticeable. Most of our happiness (50%) is actually genetic. While surprisingly, circumstances like income and social status, ONLY account for 10% of ones happiness. You can control the other 40%. These are done through intentional actions, such as exercise, developing close relationships, and helping others (Shadyac, 2002).  These steps can actually release just as much dopamine (or pleasure sensors) into your brain, as a cocaine high. Don’t use these neurons, and you lose them. This is possibly why you hear of happier people living longer.

In industrial Japan, people are literally working themselves to death.  As families disconnect, and priorities are geared towards money and development, this lethal exhaustion causes “Karoshi” (Shadyac, 2002). However, In Okinawa, Japan, these islanders are said to have the world’s longest living population (Shadyac, 2002). They hold on to traditions and are very connected in their social lives and between generations. This is another factor that promotes long life and happiness.

I personally believe that another intentional action is having a positive attitude, being optimistic, and associating with encouraging crowds. This seems to have a more favorable affect on your future, than money.  This is one area in my life that’s currently being tested. I once watched a movie called “The Secret”, that teaches the Law of Attraction (Byrne, 2006). Its basis was that you achieve what you believe. This movie takes a scientific approach. However, I prefer a more religious view of the theory. Have you ever driven down the rode and passed a police officer, when suddenly you start to get paranoid that you did something wrong? Next thing you know, you’re pulled over for speeding or car tags. While many may label this as a coincidence, “The Secret” would say that basically you gave off the vibe and attracted the following action.

The happiest place in the world is said to be Denmark.  Free education through college, free health care for life, and their co-housing communities allow for families to split all of the daily responsibilities (Shadyac, 2002). Sometimes we undervalue our need for other people.  Especially for the modern American women, we often are taught to be independent.  While there is nothing wrong with learning to do things on your own; none of us came into the world completely alone, as turtles, to raise ourselves. Which is why I believe that, instinctively, no one wants to die alone. Have you ever seen those random people who hold up the “FREE HUGS” signs? As silly as the idea seems, no matter the age, or the grumpiness of the receiver of the hug .. you can’t help but to pull away with a smile. We all need somebody..

In summary, happiness is not all that complicated.

“You were given life; it is your duty (and also your entitlement as a human being) to find something beautiful within life, no matter how slight” (Gilbert, 2006).

 

 

Byrne, R. The Secret. 2006.

Gilbert, E.  Eat, Pray Love. 2006.

Shadyac, T. The Happy Movie. 2002. <http://www.thehappymovie.com/film/&gt;

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Optimists Beware!!

Turn away now, if you’re looking for a fuzzy blog entry. This ain’t the one. This is solely for venting… and I invite any others with frustrations with their current country to chime in below.

You know that lifelong question… “Would you chase money or happiness?” On this one assignment, I decided to tough it out and see what it’s like to go after the money.. I read up on the possible extent of unhappiness I’d come across here: the treatment of different hierarchies, as told by the book “The Princess”, inequality of women, from the book “Inside the Kingdom”. I read into the Sharia law, to see what exactly I can and cannot do. With the laws on coverings, proselytizing, selling drugs, mingling with opposite sex.. I knew that all of these were a “no go”, and there’s no point in sparking a rebellion about it. These books, were in the point of view of Saudis. Therefore, I knew that some, but not all of it would apply to me, since foreigner aren’t held to the exact standard. So, then I checked out Expat Guides, Facebook message boards; people who I assumed could paint a perfect picture of what life is like here… But I’ve come to realize that there is not ONE straight story. Talk to one expat who is contracted with a business, and likely he is making double your salary. The one working for in the Diplomatic Quarters has his family to keep him sane. The nurses, live on their own compound. So, I decided then find some teachers.. and realized the difference based on university. Work at one, and you may walk the large campus grounds, uncovered, and with enjoyment of the pool. If you’re a male teacher, you take your breaks at the campus gym and automatically have a higher salary. And then there’s mine… I’ll just say that we have none of the luxuries mentioned above.

Compounds: Most expats in Riyadh live in compounds. I do not. Now, my apartment is not wretched by any means, thanks to me opting to find my on arrangements. However, I must step out my door as a Saudi. I must cover-up, walk with someone, and the language outside that building is Arabic. Compounds, on the other hand; they are secured with thick tall walls, barbed wire, and armed guards.. the inside of most of these forts are mini Americas. It’s a nice step into normalcy after a day out in the streets. Where almost everyone, no matter their background, understands English. Anything that you were told that you would never find in Saudi.. it’s here. Included in these living quarters are pools, fusion restaurants, salons, skating rinks or bowling alleys, courts/gyms, mixing and mingling.. and weirdly the one that I miss the most.. grass! Yes, I said “grass”. I know it sounds simple, but hear me out. I’ve found living in a city that lacks a color palette outside of brown and beige, to be somewhat of an eye-sore. Imagine, never being able to kick off your shoes outdoors. Or how nice it is to sit on something outside other than stone. Or just have your senses livened a little. Even though I’m allergic to it, I stood in grass yesterday.. for a long time.. with my little group of teachers. And for a good while, none of us said a single word.. it wasn’t an awkward silence, because I’m sure we were all thinking of home. It was midnight, while we sat in a lounge chair, with music in the background. This was the 2nd time in 3 months, that I have felt breeze touch my skin, without an abaya (cloak) blocking it.. It’s the simple things, you know… We played ping-pong, pool, air-hockey; a little entertainment, that we can’t find anywhere on the outside. We walked around the grounds, without a guardian. And I’m thinking, outside of these walls, I would’ve definitely gotten harassed for doing the exact same things. “Women shouldn’t be out this late”.. “We shouldn’t play music in public” “Shouldn’t commune with men”.. “And the women are ‘uncovered’”?? I’ve lucked out this semester with awesome classes, so my girls have not really been the issue. It’s just having my most freedoms, big and small, taken away from me, that has been a huge adjustment.

A teacher in Korea asked me the other day, to compare there to Saudi. It’s such a stark contrast, that you’ll only do harm to yourself by reliving the memory. Living among the people, in Korea, was welcoming and quite easy. What you say, your public acts, and your beliefs were all your business. And even if you decided to share, it wouldn’t get you deported or killed. There are other things that I’d like to vent about, but maybe this isn’t the place. I will say that this country is like no other. Therefore, you can’t quite fully prepare for it.

I’m writing this entry because, perhaps I was a little naïve and optimistic, coming into this one. We get so wrapped up, into one thing that we want (whether it’s money or a lifestyle).. that forget that there’s a downside to everything that you get yourself into. And then we start lashing out at loved ones, when their “I told you so” comes true. I’m not one to easily quit, so I will stick it out for the year.. but I will need to do a little attitude adjustment. Although, I have had great moments and have learned tons (if you want to read about those, check out the other posts)…but it would only be fair if I presented the negatives, as well.