If you happened to read the Little Book of Hygge that was everywhere a few years ago, this is a similarly styled (and similarly lightweight) ‘how to be happy’ guide- down to the similar pictures and easy-read formatting.
Russell, who is a British journalist now living in Denmark, takes ideas and ideals of happiness from a variety of cultures, describes them over a short chapter, and then gives a ‘how to’ list at the end that gives ideas for incorporating. While I appreciated the sentiment and occasionally the stereotypes (I do love to imagine that Italians live La Dolce Vita of doing nothing in the summer, or that Germans think happiness requires accomplishment first), I’m not convinced that these are actual attitudes in those cultures. Russell’s ‘research’ into ideas of happiness appears to be very anecdotal and surface- ‘my friend’s friend Jorge says that all Brazilians share this idea of happiness’. I’m Canadian and we anglo-Canadians sure don’t follow a joie de vivre happiness mentality, so I have added skepticism about the accuracy of her other summaries.
Despite limited factual accuracy, I did find myself thinking about whether I could use some of these ideas to reframe how I think about happiness. I also really liked learning words from languages- examples that I remember offhand are ‘tarab’ from Syria, which is a longing, soulful, sad type of music and ‘azart’ from Russia, which is a ‘punchy, in the moment, grab it with both hands while it lasts’ word for a kind of happiness. Although both of those words feed into ideas I already had about Syria and Russia, it’s still fun to think about additional ways to be happy in these anxious times. Also checks off the ‘How-To’ cbr12bingo box!