Not Happy? Maybe It’s Your Culture

Another fascinating documentary, “Happy,” entered my consciousness yesterday. It talks about what makes for happiness. Some of you may be familiar with the concept of “flow” — if not, the movie is an excellent primer. But beyond flow, the film also provides research about how little social status and money (above a certain basic minimum for health and safety) really have to do with happiness. Parts that were particularly intriguing were the descriptions of Co-housing in Denmark, and how people there report record high levels of happiness and contentment. Co-housing exists in America, but not at all to the degree it does in Denmark. It might be an interesting model for Americans to allow into their field of vision, now that we have suffered a massive economic downturn and many people have lost their homes to foreclosure. Maybe we could even try a co-housing development with the bond money that will be on the Rhode Island ballot this November.

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9 responses

  1. This sounds like The Coops in NYC established by the communists in the 1930′s(?)-it didn’t work out in the long run.Are you ready to live in a cooperative community?Or is it for other people?It seems to me like it would be allowing other people to stick thier noses into your life to an unwarranted degree-obviously you were never in the military service-that was all the “cooperative living” I ever want to have had to deal with.I remember the ‘communes”of the 60′s also-how many are left?

  2. I think something like this– called Green Houses?–also offers a happier alternative for older people who can no longer live alone.

    1. Yes, the ones in Denmark have a pack of older people who live there as well and the woman interviewed in the film talks about how these people have been like grandparents for her children. Made me jealous momentarily as my children have no grandparents. I am sure this would be a huge adjustment for someone like me to live in a group community, but my children were very enthusiastic about the idea when I described it to them. The older kept saying, “Let’s move to Denmark!”

      1. You can’t just “move to”Denmark-unlike us,the “progressive”Danes take their immigration laws very seriously.
        @sshaver-what you are describing sounds like independent/assisted living that we have all over the place here in RI.

  3. FWIW the Netherlands has the highest percentage of people living alone of anywhere in the world.

    1. Interesting…any speculation as to why?

  4. I am not sure-I spent a lot of time there between 1997-2002 and space is at a real premium-apartments are very small and there are aspects reminiscent of maritime accomodations-not surprising given the seafaring history of the country-so maybe it’s a result of being by necessity confined to small living spaces.The people are very friendly,however.Another maybe unusual aspect is that people living on the ground floor usually have the shades open so you can check out their living room.Upper floors often display plants or cacti or art objects for the passerby to notice.Used book stores are all over the place as are museums.The Dutch are also avid stamp collectors-a hobby which takes up little space.They have pretty much fully integrated Surinamese/Curacoan/Indonesian cooking into their national cuisine(which isn’t really exciting otherwise unless you like a lot of fish products0 so variety is all over the place-I’ve had stuff there that I had no idea what was in it.

  5. It doesn’t even have to be formal cohousing. Last year I decided to rent a big apartment and offset some costs by having roommates – it’s actually been terrific fun having company. Sure, sometimes your style is cramped, but that’s much more than offset by not being as lonely.

    I advertised the vacancies on a cohousing list (and Craig’s List) and made it clear that although this was not the typical cohousing situation – it was for people who liked living in community but who were focused on their work and didn’t necessarily want to attend a lot of meetings, do a lot of cooking together (although happy to share whatever gets cooked, should the occasion arise), etc. I got two great roommates with similar needs and we coexist beautifully.

    I’m 53, btw, and would never live alone again.

    Hillary in Boston

    1. Excellent story, Hillary, thanks so much for sharing! I wish you well.

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