Happiness. It’s a big subject and I know that the more you think about it the less likely you are to get anywhere near it, but still, I can’t leave this country without saying a few words about what I’ve seen.

The Malawians are happy. There is no two ways about it.  They are super friendly and are always smiling and laughing. And they haven’t got a proverbial pot to piss in. They live in one of the poorest countries in Africa, survive on less than $2 a day, have an AIDS prevalence rate of up to 30% and a life expectancy of about 45. And they seem happier here than those living in any of the richer, westernised countries that I’ve been to.  Why is that?

I’ll hazard a few guesses:

  • They live for today
  • They value life
  • They work outdoors (in a warm climate)
  • Their family and friends are at the centre of their lives
  • They are kind and caring and the community looks after its  own
  • Religion (I can’t discount it)
  • They are in touch with nature
  • Their two main goals are the two that nature intends for all life – survival and having babies

Or perhaps they are happy because of the things they don’t do, such as:

  • Not being obsessed with money, buying things, careers or status
  • Not putting off living today for some point 20 years from now
  • Not putting themselves at the centre of the universe
  • Not spending most of their waking hours in front of a PC or television screen
  • Not saddled with personal debt
  • Not bombarded with depressing stories in the news and not surrounded by marketing and advertising which makes them feel unsatisfied

I’m sure there are lots and lots of other reasons, but I think some of those above must be relevant. And in contrast to Malawi take a look at Switzerland, a peaceful country with a high standard of living, good education and healthcare, breathtaking landscape and 40% of the Swiss are on anti-depressants. FORTY percent! And apparently its even higher in Belgium at 50%, but I guess that’s more understandable.

I know you might be thinking “hang on a minute, all you’ve done is spend a few weeks looking and talking to people – that’s hardly scientific!” And that’s true, but happy people do look and sound happy and miserable people do look and sound miserable so I don’t think I’m that far off.

I also think that happiness and miserableness are contagious so perhaps that’s part of the reason that the past month that I’ve spent in Malawi has been one of the happiest of my life.

But having said that I am also happy to be leaving because I have a tent and a sleeping bag and am on my way to Zambia 🙂

Happy Birthday Jo!!! xxx

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