Perceptions of Happiness Around the World

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Across the Globe, cultural practices dictate how we express (or repress) certain emotions, and this can impact how we perceive happiness

  • In Western culture - particularly in the US - the pursuit of happiness is seen as the utmost goal that a person should have and that feelings of sadness should be avoided at all costs.
  • However, sadness is an inevitable part of life - we all encounter it at one point or another. So, is the best approach avoiding it at all costs? Here, we can learn a lot from other cultures...
  • In many societies, being in touch with the full scope of one’s emotions is the norm. For example, in South Asian culture the belief is you can embrace happiness and sadness simultaneously.
  • The Chinese concept of Xingfu refers to happiness not as a good mood but as a good life. This idea of a good life may not entail a pleasant existence, it may be hard but it will have meaning.
  • Of course, there are some universally applicable approaches to happiness: surrounding yourself with those you care about, being open, having a job you like and being outside - to name just a few.
  • Yet, diving into the variety of cultural perspectives on happiness, sadness and the rest of the emotional spectrum, could aid us in discovering the best way to process all that life throws at us.
The Washington Post
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