Posts Tagged ‘happiness’

Jordan Teicher at National Public Radio reports that Icelanders really love their books.

“Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world,” writes Teicher, “with five titles published for every 1,000 Icelanders. But what’s really unusual is the timing: Historically, a majority of books in Iceland are sold from late September to early November. It’s a national tradition, and it has a name: Jolabokaflod, or the ‘Christmas Book Flood.’ …

“Iceland has a long literary history dating to medieval times. Landmarks of world literature, including the Sagas of the Icelanders and the Poetic Edda, are still widely read and translated there, according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific, and Cultural Organization. …

” ‘Generally fiction and biographies would be the mainstays, although it varies a lot,’ [book researcher Baldur] Bjarnason says. Two years ago one of the surprise best-sellers was a pictorial overview of the history of tractors in Iceland.’ …

“The Book Flood tradition, according to The Reykjavik Grapevine‘s Hildur Knutsdottir, dates to World War II, when strict currency restrictions limited the amount of imported giftware in Iceland.

” ‘The restrictions on imported paper were more lenient than on other products, so the book emerged as the Christmas present of choice. And Icelanders have honored the tradition ever since,’ Knutsdottir writes. …

“The book in Iceland is such an enormous gift, you give a physical book. You don’t give e-books here,” [Bryndís Loftsdottir of the book chain Penninn-Eymundsson] says.”

More at NPR, here.

Turning briefly to the UK, here’s a columnist who believes in books. She aims to solve any personal problem you send her by recommending a book.

My own advice? Reread another Dickens.

Photo: Bryndís Loftsdottir
Browsing at an Icelandic book chain.

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Following up on yesterday’s post, which highlighted simple pleasures like spending time in the library, I give you this report by Morgan Ribera at Bustle.

“Apparently, libraries provide patrons with a happiness that money can’t buy. Or at least nothing less than almost two grand in cash. According to a recent study commissioned by the U.K.’s Department for Culture, Media, and Sport, the act of going to the library induces joy equivalent to that brought on by a £1,359 ($1,878) pay raise.

“The study was conducted in an attempt to measure which activities have the most positive impact on an individual’s well-being. Visiting a library scored among the top joy-generating activities, alongside dancing and swimming, giving us yet another reason to hang-out at our local library. …

“And this U.K. study adds even more to the proof already stacking up on the value of libraries, a value that was evidenced extensively in a Pew Research Study released [in March]. The rather pleasing results of this eye-opening Pew study showed that habitual library goers maintain stronger community ties, are more likely to socialize with friends and neighbors, and exhibit higher levels of technological engagement.”

More at Bustle, here.
Photo: Bill Lapp

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Here’s research showing that creativity can make people feel good.

Tom Jacobs writes at Pacific Standard, “In a study of college students, ‘people who reported feeling happy and active were more likely to be doing something creative at the time,’ a research team led by Paul Silvia of the University of North Carolina-Greensboro writes in the journal Psychology of Aesthetics, Creativity, and the Arts.

“What’s more, the researchers add, you don’t have to be a master poet or painter to reap the emotional rewards. Even if the results of one’s creative activity are ‘frivolous, amateurish or weird,’ this research suggests ”the creative process that yielded them appears important to positive psychological development.’ ”

After taking a survey about themselves and their creative activities, participants were “called on their cell phones eight times a day for the next seven days. They replied to each call by answering the question ‘Are you doing something creative?’ and describing their emotional state at that moment. …

“ ‘We found that the frequency of doing something creative was quite high — around 22 percent,’ Silvia and his colleagues report. What’s more, when participants were caught in the act of being creative, ‘they reported feeling significantly happier and more active’ than at other reports.” More here.

OK, I admit it sounds like a pretty slim study, but I’ll take it. I especially like the idea that it still counts if the creative activity is “frivolous, amateurish or weird”!


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A few years ago, Suzanne visited Bhutan, drawn to a country that talks more about Gross National Happiness, GNH, than Gross Domestic Product, GDP.

Magda Fahsi at Mint Press News recently interviewed Bhutan’s former Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y Thinley and asked whether Bhutan ran into difficulties talking with other countries about development, given that its index is GNH and theirs is GDP.

He answered, “We have had no difficulties at all. We know our development partner countries in particular are interested in Bhutan’s growth process as measured through the yardstick of GDP; and we have not rejected GDP.

“GNH does not exclude GDP, but confines it to the role that it is supposed to play as originally conceived by Simon Kuznets, the person who established the measure after the Great Depression. Kuznets said that it was nothing but a measure of the goods and services produced by a particular place, at a particular time and exchanged in the market. He made it very clear to Congress that it was not a measure of development, not a measure of societal well-being. And in fact, he was very sad to see that his GDP was being misused, because, as you know, many countries now associate GDP with well-being. And this is where the mistake is.

“So Bhutan uses GDP as well, but only to indicate our material or economic progress; we give equal importance to other things like environmental conservation, sustainable socio-economic development, cultural preservation and good governance; these are further separated into nine dimensions that enable true societal well-being. …

“Happiness is a state of being that one achieves when one is able to balance the needs of the body with the needs of the mind, when the material and the emotional, psychological needs are being met, within a stable, peaceful and secure environment.”

More here.

Photo: AP /Mustafa Quraishi
Bhutan’s former Prime Minister Lyonchen Jigmi Y Thinley, puts on his shoes after paying tribute at Mahatma Gandhi memorial in New Delhi, India, Wednesday, July 16, 2008.

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This post is for singer Will McMillan. It refers to singing in choirs, but I think singing with family around the campfire — or on the stage — would have the same effect on endorphins.

Slate  recently adapted a chapter from Imperfect Harmony: Finding Happiness While Singing With Others, by Stacy Horn,  Algonquin Books.

Horn says, “I used to think choir singing was only for nerds and church people. Since I was neither, I never considered singing in a group—even though I loved singing by myself. ”

She describes a period in her 20s when she was feeling really down. As she searched for ways to pull herself out of it, she remembered how happy she felt one time when she joined others to sing Christmas carols.

So, she continues, “I joined a community choir. Except that at that first performance, we didn’t sing Christmas carols—we sang a piece of music that was 230 pages long: Handel’s Messiah. It was magnificent. I was left vibrating with a wondrous sense of musical rapport. Since that performance, I haven’t found the sorrow that couldn’t be at least somewhat alleviated, or the joy that couldn’t be made even greater, by singing. …

“Music is awash with neurochemical rewards for working up the courage to sing. That rush, or ‘singer’s high,’ comes in part through a surge of endorphins, which at the same time alleviate pain. When the voices of the singers surrounding me hit my ear, I’m bathed in dopamine, a neurotransmitter in the brain that is associated with feelings of pleasure and alertness.

“Music lowers cortisol, a chemical that signals levels of stress. Studies have found that people who listened to music before surgery were more relaxed and needed less anesthesia, and afterward they got by with smaller amounts of pain medication. Music also releases serotonin, a neurotransmitter associated with feelings of euphoria and contentment.  ‘Every week when I go to rehearsal,’ a choral friend told me, ‘I’m dead tired and don’t think I’ll make it until 9:30. But then something magic happens and I revive … it happens almost every time.’  More.

Makes me want to sing. (Thanks for the lead, Jean!)

Photo: Slate.com

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Indiana University’s Strategic National Arts Alumni Project (SNAAP) reports that artists generally seem to be happy with a life in the arts.

From the blog ArtsJournal.com: “According to SNAAP’s survey of 36 000 creative arts grads, their unemployment rate is half that of the national average and 71% of bachelor’s degree holders in the arts and 86% of those with an MA are working or have worked as professional artists.” More at the Snaapshot site.

Having seen La Bohème and read George Gissing’s 1891 novel New Grub Street (and having accepted every word as Gospel), I believe that a life in the arts can be difficult. But I do think if you can work in a field that lets you use your creativity — or one that provides time to do art  part time — you will be happier. Everyone, in fact, should have a creative outlet, I’d say.

Would love your comments.

Photograph of Timothy Callaghan by Mary Ann Hall, Quarry Books editor

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The site ReadWriteWeb has an interesting piece on smiling and life satisfaction.

“Researchers J. Patrick Seder and Shigehiro Oishi at the University of Virginia in Charlottesville discovered that smile intensity from a single Facebook profile photo in the first semester of college predicted self-reported life satisfaction three and a half years later, at the time of college graduation.

“This type of study isn’t actually unique to Facebook, however. A 2011 study by Harker and Keltner showed that female students smiling in their college graduation yearbook photos from 1958 and 1960 were reportedly happier 30 years later. A similar study by Abel and Kruger (2010) found that professional baseball players who smiled more intensely in archival photos lived seven years longer than those who didn’t smile much.” Read more.

I hope you’re smiling.

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