Resolution #8: the Value of the Cultural Diversity of Happiness

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When we say “Happy New Year,” how can we ensure that wish leads to genuine happiness for others?

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PSYCHIATRIC VIEWS ON THE DAILY NEWS

Besides the usual personal resolutions individuals tend to make at the beginning of a new year, we have covered the other side of the resolution coin, that being some ways to enhance the happiness and psychological well-being of society. This 8th one will end this series.

When we wish others a Happy New Year, as you probably did many times, how is such happiness most likely to actually increase and how can that greeting help achieve that? The wish is just that, a well-meaning and usually well-received optimistic wish, not a process or path to action that will bring more happiness sustainability.

As I have learned through editing 4 volumes on various religions and psychiatry for Springer International, the differing religious values and cultures influence our American “pursuit of happiness,” along with where one lives. In the United States and the so-called West, material success and acquisitions seem to be a prominent social goal, and achieving it may bring happiness, but usually only the shorter-term variety.

On the other hand, in the so-called East, there seems to be a tendency toward self-improvement, as illustrated by the development of meditation techniques over time. This Eastern tendency is more like the internal psychotherapeutic focus of psychiatry and, no wonder therefore, our recent psychological adaptation and use of meditation techniques, formally and informally.

The altruism of helping others that is also the basis of psychiatry can turn into a powerful influence on helping both the giver and receiver toward the more lasting happiness of satisfaction. A shining light affirmation of our humanity, especially when we can help the “other,” it is the kind of happiness I wish for psychiatry and society in 2024.

Dr Moffic is an award-winning psychiatrist who specialized in the cultural and ethical aspects of psychiatry and is now in retirement and retirement as a private pro bono community psychiatrist. A prolific writer and speaker, he has done a weekday column titled “Psychiatric Views on the Daily News” and a weekly video, “Psychiatry & Society,” since the COVID-19 pandemic emerged. He was chosen to receive the 2024 Abraham Halpern Humanitarian Award from the American Association for Social Psychiatry. Previously, he received the Administrative Award in 2016 from the American Psychiatric Association, the one-time designation of being a Hero of Public Psychiatry from the Speaker of the Assembly of the APA in 2002, and the Exemplary Psychiatrist Award from the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill in 1991. He is an advocate and activist for mental health issues related to climate instability, physician burnout, and xenophobia. He is now editing the final book in a 4-volume series on religions and psychiatry for Springer: Islamophobia, anti-Semitism, Christianity, and now The Eastern Religions, and Spirituality. He serves on the Editorial Board of Psychiatric Times.

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