With the global economy in crisis, terrorist gunmen spraying bullets into crowds of innocent civilians, and political and religious unrest around the world, it can be easy to focus on sadness and despair and miss the joy in the world around us. We have all experienced the sensation of joy, but what is the source of that happiness? In those who have been diagnosed with depression, their malaise is attributed to a chemical imbalance in their brains. Is happiness a neurotransmitter? Is it serotonin and dopamine levels? Or is it something more profound than that?

In Suicide in paradise, Maura O’Connor investigates why Sri Lankans have one of the highest suicide rates in the world, despite having gross national happiness (GNH) measures higher than India and Russia. Elsie Sze takes us to Bhutan in her piece Happiness in Bhutan. The Himalayan kingdom is famous for its high GNH rankings despite widespread poverty and a lack of first-world luxuries. Jon Hall recently attended a conference in Bhutan exploring the reasons for this and shares some of his insights in a Dispatch for the 4th International Conference on Gross National Happiness.

What the Bhutanese provide a demonstration of is that happiness comes from within, not from the comforts of the external world. In A boy grows in Brooklyn, Claire Houston documents the simple, pure joy a child brings to her neighbors, a lesbian couple who have been trying to have a baby for years. Emma Kat Richardson explores the joy of David Sedaris’ humor in From the stage to the page. Of course, happiness is often inextricably intertwined with other, darker emotions. Roman Skaskiw writes of the mixed joys that love can bring in his short story The goblins’ drum. In Riding (uphill) to prosperity, Debra Borchardt investigates how bicycle tourism brings both economic success and controversy to a rural Pennsylvania town. Finally, in On the shoulders of giants, I explore the delight to be found in the the natural beauty of New Zealand.

As with all emotions, happiness is fleeting and difficult to quantify. What is clear, however, is that the source of happiness is inside the human heart and soul, rather than in the outside world. We must each find joy in our own lives and in our own ways, cherishing it when we find it and accepting its departure with the knowledge that this too, like all things, must pass.

 

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I am a writer/editor turned web developer. I’ve served as both Editor-in-chief and Technical Developer of In The Fray Magazine over the past 5 years. I am gainfully employed, writing, editing and developing on the web for a small private college in Duluth, MN. I enjoy both silence and heavy metal, John Milton and Stephen King, sunrise and sunset. Like all of us, I contain multitudes.

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