The cold fog is slowly lifting off the Po river plains. After months of the pale browns and greens of winter, the first intrepid cherry blossoms are making their appearance bringing smatterings of color where I’d forgotten it had ever been, like the first sparrow’s song in the still early spring morning.
These early spring days always make me shed my winter humbug skin and reactivate my joie de vivre. And so to inaugurate the return of the birds and blossoms, I decided that for my Monday pre-intermediate group class, we would talk about happiness. I had my students reflect on what were five things that made them happy and once again, no surprises here, food and drink topped everybody’s list. But to say that it was just food and drink would be an oversimplification: what was underlying everybody’s list was a love of conviviality. I wonder how lists would come out in other countries? Here, the majority of the five things listed involved spending time with family and friends, either around a dining room table or in a pub or lolling around the piazza. There was no mention of a good job or making a lot of money. The list was about hanging out at the beach, friends and family: a list that speaks volumes about Italian values.
Global’s article on happiness brought up questions of whether you can really measure happiness, so I decided to give my students a chance to judge whether or not you can with the New Economics Foundation’s Happy Planet Index Survey. We headed over to the computers to do the survey, which evaluates criteria varying from personal attitude to ecological footprint and then compares your results to its data received from all over the world. The outcome was very interesting: in some cases exciting and in other cases even a bit worrying. The site has fascinating graphics illustrating the results from around the world that really get you thinking: why is Latin America so “happy” and yet in the so-called lands of “plenty” the happiness scores are so low?
Luckily spring’s on our doorstep, which gives us plenty of opportunities to raise our happiness quotient! Spring means: out of the car and onto the bike, long walks in the park and the first fresh vegetables of the season ready to be chopped up, sautéed, and served over a big bowl of pasta for a group of chatty, convivial friends drinking Sangiovese wine.
Viva la primavera! Happy springtime to all!
Photo Credit: Cliff1066 Creative Commons Licence