Lifestyles and pace of living differ across the different cultures. While I was traveling in the Mediterranean region, I was amazed by the people’s relaxing and lay back lifestyle especially in the summertime. During a day, people enjoy a large variety of food made out of the freshest local ingredients – seafood, vegetables, and fruits, wine, etc. Either after work during the weekdays or in a holiday, people travel a short distance to the beach for a suntan or swim, until the sun fades and the popular nightlife begins.
With good weather and geographical advantages, people easily take such high quality of life for granted. There seems to be something magical about weather’s influence on one’s mood. Scientific study has postulated the positive correlation between weather and a person’s well-being. During my stay in Manchester, England, most topics that the Mediterranean people share with each other are the suffering and lower moods caused by the prolonged rainy and cold weather.
Is weather the determining agent on the quality of life? Certainly there are other factors to be considered, like sociohistorical influences, economy, individual differences etc. Yet nature asset seems to be the main key. One Mediterranean friend once shared, “With such high quality of life, we tend to not achieve as much as those outside the region. I would not want to give up my life just because I need to earn money. The sun and the food are everything to me.” Back in China, people’s psychological and physical health is greatly impacted by the heavy pollutions.
Nature indeed has a big influence on our quality of life, yet I believe that our inner drive can be the stronger determining power. Like those in the African countries, many are struggling with survival on the daily basis, e.g. clean water, yet people have found their ways to express via music and free spirits. In China, people have turned to the people-oriented definition of happiness. Interpersonal relationships are strongly valued towards gratification of unification and harmony, in favor of the individualistic freedom/happiness which seems impractical due to the huge Chinese population.
I am always amazed by the experiences of traveling in a different place or speaking to a new person. The different definitions of quality of life broaden my understanding of the meaning and purpose of life. Our openness to the different experiences helps us shape own beliefs and values. The quality of life does not have to be necessarily solely determined by the external environment/resources. On a contrary, we can break away from our fixated mindset, and actively seek own ways towards self-fulfillment and happiness.
I once read about a case of a woman’s transformative life change. Married to her husband, the woman moved to a new town feeling isolated and lonely. She stayed at home most of the time and complained about not having any friends. In real life, the woman was heavily dependent on her husband, even in traveling as she waited for her husband to pick her up each time when she left home. When her husband was working during the day, even knowing about the happening socializing events, the woman refused to leave home as she did not know how to drive. The turning point came as the woman took the initiative to go to the driving school, and since then her social life changed dramatically. She became one of the most active members in the different clubs and events. She also had a better relationship with her husband.
When bounded by the influences of the external environment, one can only passively conform to what is limitedly provided. When letting the self as the main drive to seek for different alternative ways, the definition of life quality can be rich and dynamic. To have self-drive, one needs to be more self-aware, opened to differences,
Perhaps that in the end, it is not just the idea of happiness itself, but also the process of seeking which turns out to be our main source of happiness.
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