What is the secret of Bhutan's happiness, the Happiest country in the world? Certainly not money, given that the inhabitants of this small Himalayan state are among the poorest in Asia: yet despite this their carefree faces are always illuminated by smiles.
Here is the reason, revealed by the inhabitants and by some scientific research: in the culture of Bhutan a person must think about death about five times a day.
- studies confirm this: often thinking of death, the inhabitants of Bhutan are happier than those who live in other countries. In a 2007 study, University of Kentucky psychologists Nathan DeWall and Roy Baumesiter divided dozens of students into two groups.
The first group was told to think about a painful visit to the dentist, while the other group would have to think about death. Both groups were then asked to complete a few words. The group that had thought about death was the one most likely to write something positive. Scholars have concluded that "death is a psychologically devastating and threatening event, but when people contemplate it, the direct reaction is to seek happy thoughts."
The problem of rich Westerners - observes Eric Weiner, of BBC Travel - is that they are not familiar with death, but rather remove it from their thoughts and ignore it. This can have serious psychological repercussions, creating anxieties and fears. The Bhutanese on the other hand are everywhere surrounded by images of death, starting from the Buddhist iconography that represents it with vivid and gruesome illustrations. No one, not even children, is kept away from these images and the ritual dances that often interpret the last moments of life.
In short, as Buddhists teach: one should be afraid of dying rather than throwing away one's old clothes (and for many this can also be a problem).
Asia Bhutan Mysterious places
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