5 Things I Learned from Traveling the World

...about how to find happiness.

by - Posted on Oct 19, 2010

If you want to to find a recipe for happiness, sometimes you have to find it in far away places like Eric Weiner. Here are five tips he picked up while traversing the globe.

1. Think about death for five minutes every day.
This isn't as morbid as it sounds. We in the West avoid the subject of death at all costs. But the fear of death is always there—amplified, ironically, by our avoidance. So we experience a chronic background anxiety. This can be relieved by contemplating, though not dwelling on, our own mortality.

2. Envy isn't worth it.
Envy is one of the great enemies of happiness. It is toxic. Envious societies are invariably unhappy ones, since everyone is constantly comparing what they have with what others don't (and vice versa). It is a game with no winners, and the happiest countries in the world go to great lengths to squelch envy. The Swiss, for instance, don't show off their considerable wealth. Their attitude is: If you've got it, hide it. It works.

3. Don't overanalyze.
Some of the happiest places in the world are those where people don't contemplate happiness very much. In these cultures, excessive thinking—about anything—is considered a form of mental illness. The Thais have a wonderful expression that translates as, "You think too much!" The unexamined life can be liberating.

4. Everything in moderation, including moderation.
Engage in what I call "bracketed indulgence." Icelanders know this well. They indulge on the weekends but are teetotalers during the week. That's the way they approach work and love, too. It makes for quite a zesty life.

5. Happiness is other people.
The notion of personal happiness is ridiculous. No one ever found happiness alone, gazing at his navel. Happiness is not personal. It is relational. If we improve our relationships, we will surely boost our happiness. An obvious lesson, perhaps, but an essential one.

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