By Suzanne A. Marshall from the March 2013 Edition
I am a shameless ‘Googler’. It seems that whenever I want to know something, the quickest and easiest option usually turns out to be the internet. On one of these adventures I was tracking a news story on the World Happiness Report. This got my curiosity up because the big question for me is: how on earth can they measure happiness? And where do Canada and Mexico fit in? (Or any other country for that matter.)
In this pursuit I found an article titled “Lessons from Mexico”. It was an excerpt from a publication called: Thrive: Finding Happiness the Blue Zones Way by Dan Buettner, 2010. Most of us who winter and live in Mexico will probably agree that the vast majority of Mexicans seem very happy. Sure they have problems and sadness like anyone, but for the most part they have the sunniest dispositions that I have ever encountered. The author goes on to say that in spite of serious problems, intelligent and talented people stuck in labor forces; financial challenges; high levels of corruption; low levels of development; and questionable governance, Mexicans are described as ‘blessed with happiness assets’.
HAPPINESS ASSETS IN MEXICO THE SUN:
Having more annual hours of sunlight than most northern neighbors and hence more vitamin D, exposure to sun prompts the manufacture of endorphins and elevates mood among a myriad of other beneficial attributes.
The sense of individual freedom of choice is by far, the variable that contributes most significantly to happiness. It’s difficult not to notice here in Manzanillo, how many entrepreneurs there are who start their own small businesses, open restaurants and taco stands and other self- employment activities.
Mexicans laugh at all the crap going on around them. They laugh at themselves, laugh at taxes, and laugh about crooked cops and politicians on the take. Laughter is thought to lead to social bonding due to shared positive emotions and the discharge of negative ones. People who laugh more tend to be more extroverted, have higher levels of self-esteem, and lower levels of depression. It can lower stress and release beneficial hormones.
JUST ENOUGH MONEY:
Mexicans it seems, have an easier time getting their financial lives in tune. If you’re an average Mexican you’re likely surrounded by people who are not competing with you, there is less pressure to keep up with the ‘Jones’ and thus people feel good about themselves and don’t compete for the big house, the big car and the latest fashions.
Religious people tend to be happier than non-religious people. But it’s not just about believing in God. There are very religious countries as in the Middle East for example, where happiness is elusive. “Somehow the Mexican combination of indigenous influences integrated with Christian beliefs has yielded a more uplifting faith than that commonly found elsewhere. Strong faith, someone to listen to you, socialization and religious community help people cope with hardship.”
“Mexicans understand the importance of social interaction. A lot of time is spent socializing with family and friends.
“Psychologists have identified two types of happiness – experienced happiness and remembered happiness. We tend to remember high points and low points in our lives but experienced happiness is the sum of the little joys throughout the day.” Making room for them often in daily life will increase your overall happiness. Perhaps a joke, a little favor, a greeting and a smile, sharing lunch or a drink all contribute. We should make lots of time for friends.
In Mexico I have learned to admire the closeness and extension of ‘family’. In North America, we tend to spread out across the country for work etc. and lose a lot of ‘closeness’ as a result. For Mexicans, family is an expansive term that includes mom, dad, brothers, sisters, your grandma’s sister’s daughter, your uncle’s neighbor and friends like us from Canada who live in the community. (Our experience anyway). On a personal level my family has spread out all over Canada and I have unfortunately lost track with most of them. Even my children are in different provinces so I am grateful for new technologies that keep us in touch even though I’d really rather make them Sunday dinner and give them regular hugs. I have noted to friends how welcomed and belonging I feel in Manzanillo. The genuine warmth and welcome from our neighbors and friends is addictive and inspiring and I have to honestly say I do feel happier here.
Mexicans can cope with huge problems and disorder in their environment as long as the family is okay. They support each other. Grandmas take care of the grandchildren so mom can work and earn money. The second generation takes care of their elderly and this adds to the happiness factor. This New Year’s I watched my neighbor dance with his 96 year old mother as she swung her cane around and delighted in the music. Truly remarkable.
COUNT YOUR BLESSINGS:
Armando Fuentes Aquirre, the Wise One reminds us that 90 percent of happiness is the pursuit of simple contentment – actively appreciating the good around us. The more we can take the focus off ourselves and forget our problems, the happier we’ll be.
To close this article, I eventually found the First World Happiness Report launched by the United Nations. Looking it over gave me cause to think that something called
‘happiness’ is an extremely subjective thing and an individual will know the difference by experiencing it. To measure it however is probably not possible in the true emotional sense of the word. There are factors in this report that are different. There findings for example state the happiest countries tend to be the richest. Rich in what I wonder? Surely something more than money.
This report found Canada to be 5th, U.S.A. 11th and United Kingdom 18th. I’m still looking for Mexico. It is far too complex to discuss in this edition but extremely interesting.
If you would like to check it out, just ‘Google’ the following text. It’s pretty fascinating stuff. happy-planet-index-report.pdf
Suzanne A. Marshall hails from western Canada and has been living the good life in Manzanillo over the past 8 years. She is a wife, mom and grandma. She is retired from executive business management where her writing skills focused on bureaucratic policy, marketing and business newsletters. Now she shares the fun and joy of writing about everyday life experiences in beautiful Manzanillo, Mexico, the country, its people, the places and the events.