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Pursuing Happiness
Where We Live - with John Dankosky
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In this episode:

Where does happiness live?


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52:02 minutes (24.98 MB)
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NPR correspondent Eric Weiner has covered a lot of tragedies and human suffering around the world, and on the way, he became fascinated with how people experience happiness.  He went in search of researchers who are attempting to quantify happiness - and map it around the world.  Do rich nations necessarily produce happier citizens?  Are countries wracked by poverty also mired in unhappiness?   Today on Where We Live, we'll talk with Weiner about his new book,The Geography of Bliss: One Grump's Search for the Happiness.

We'll find out what makes people happy around the world and why this self-described "grump" would go on such a search.

We'll also talk about Gross National Happiness.  The third annual International Conference on Gross National Happiness takes place this week in Bhutan. Is it a way to replace the Gross National Product?

Portions of today's show aired on February 8th, 2008.

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email from Ahmet Ali Unsal, Turkey

Thank you for considering my comment.. My comment is I think happiness is surely correlated with the economic welfare of the people but if you think about it America can also be called "United People of America" which is made of the people from all the world nations.. Maybe this tells us variety brings new excitements, exploration, and new way of looking at one another.. That brings wealth of culture and that brings happiness..

Thank you again.

email from Gerry Pollak of Hamden

Hi: I'm listening to your show and find this very interesting, particularly as a geography major. My comment is about the idea of searching for happiness. For me (I'm 53), I'm learning to accept happiness and sadness as both parts of the human condition. Isn't happiness a relative term? I'm not convinced that we should be searching for happiness. I'm trying to search for "centeredness", with varying results. When I do find happiness, it's when I'm feeling connected, which takes many forms. Same for sadness.
Great show!

email from Antonio Peronace

I graduated college just several years ago and as my major senior paper I decided on the topic of happiness.  I was a political science major and was taken by the idea that as a society we could put in place certain policies to make us happy in general.  In going through books and studies on the subject I realized some very important points.
1)  That to truly understand happiness we have to also grasp despair and hopelessness.  It is from these things that happiness has a springboard to launch from (so I read a lot of Schopenhauer).
2)  That there is a difference between happiness and contentness.  The notion that we can be content and satisfied with our lives and surroundings but not necessarily happy.  Happiness is not just a level of enjoyment but moreover a movement towards a better place in lives.  It is that motion that is significant.
In most of what I read it is true that many cultures have many differing opinions on the worth and substance of happiness.  However, a very common thread has been that of companionship.
By and large, people who have found a companion... an individual they very gleefully connect to... are happy.
I thought about it and considered why that would be.  Sure we're social creatures and therefore why wouldn't being with someone consistently not make us happy but, that has to be more to it.  Our very first experience in this reality is to be connected to someone and in their love.  Entirely cared for and sheltered from dangers of an outside world.  Then, from the moment of our birth and further through our development we move away from that initial connection.  Thus, there is a void to fill.
Be it psychological or by instinct, we long to be with someone to "complete us."  Therefore, when we find someone who we fall in love with... someone we feel at home with... we feel this swell of happiness.  It signifies a complete attack on despair and hopelessness in our lives.  It marks a movement to a better place up from contentness.  It is the experience of being happy.
So this then begs my original question of what can we do as a society to make our membership happy.  It's a bedrock notion.  That we help to nourish an environment where love can blossom.  If we bring this idea to the table whenever and wherever initiatives are discussed we will be a lot better off and dare I say it... happier.  Everywhere from policies in the workplace, to regulating insurance plans, to better, affordable communication and transportation technologies can be improved.  We can do better, we can be happier.
As a side note, I certainly thought about all this in recent weeks as the debate of same-sex marriage has come to the forefront in Connecticut.  Here we have the opportunity to give a large and law-abiding demographic of citizenry a platform for being happy.  So it consumes me, what right do when then have to deny same-sex couples, who have done nothing illegal nor have abridged the rights of any others, the right to pursue happiness?

Many regards,