PERDIZ: Happiness is contagious

By Teresa de Andrés. November 23, 2012


In the Spanish lyrical tradition, the partridge is known for being a lucky animal. That is why –and why not?– PERDIZ (Spanish for partridge) is the title of a new magazine that aims to brighten our mornings (and while at it, to make our life last longer). PERDIZ is the other side of the coin, the good news, smiles, pleasures and utopias of an improvised choreography in the tube in rush hour. We interview its creator, Marta Puigdemasa, who is behind the steering wheel of this new happy project that has appeared to the misfortune of spoilsports, pessimists and defeatists, shaped as a partridge-green magazine. Because happiness is contagious.

Hi Marta. I’m writing  from our new office, which is located right above the air vent of a renowned theatre in the centre of Madrid. That means that quite often we hear the rehearsals, the sound of bagpipes, overexcited kids, people shouting, moaning or yelling, actors with an affected diction. While I’m preparing these questions, a group has burst into laughter on the stage. I’m guessing it is part of a rehearsal or an acting class. This idea fits just perfectly to talk about the first few pages of PERDIZ, which begin with the 'genuine' smile, 'discovered' by the French doctor Guillaume Duchenne during the scientific physiognomy fever. They say that when we smile the brain produces endorphins that generate in us a feeling of wellbeing. Do you think we could be happier if we forced ourselves to smile more? That the process can even be forced?

They say that the genuine smile cannot be forced. But maybe we can 'force' ourselves, as much as possible, to do activities that make us laugh and have a good time or surround ourselves with the people we have fun with. It’s common sense: the more time you invest in positive experiences, the happier you’ll feel at the end of the day, right? But, anyway, that’s no magic formula!

'PERDIZ is a magazine about people and the things that make them happy. (…) A publication of social activism with a positive tinge.' You also say that you are in favour of seeing the glass half full, something hard to do nowadays (aggravated by the current crisis but terrible for decades for 'the other half' of the world, who has been suffering the consequences of the brutal capitalism). When did you get the idea to start with this project? When did you think 'I’ve had enough, it’s time to start seeing things differently'?

The idea for PERDIZ occurred to me more or less two years ago. I was already working as cultural journalist but my studies and previous experience in advertising had developed within me a critical spirit towards that world, the capitalist system that surrounded it and its consequences for our society: depression, anxiety, absurd behaviour and value crisis, in addition to the economic and ecological ones. Back then, at a personal level, I wanted to start an editorial project that really satisfied me and which would seem more universal and meaningful than other more specific topics such as music or fashion. I guess I wasn’t really interested in any of those. One day I read an article published in the British Medical Journal that explained how happiness could be transmitted emotionally or by imitation, like when somebody yawns in the tube. That’s how the magazine’s motto and topic was born: 'Happiness is contagious'.

Although PERDIZ does not aim to give the magic formula to achieve happiness, it does tell us what other people do to be happier. I guess I cannot help being so predictable but, can you tell us something you have changed lately in your life that has made you be more satisfied, to smile more and better?

Something as simple as cooking my own food more often, that is, eating less outside. You save up money, you know what you are eating and it is a thousand times more comforting, especially if you share it with others.

In PERDIZ, Neil Bickford, a child prodigy from the United Stated passionate about maths, talks about happiness in very pragmatic terms (as you would expect from a fourteen year old kid who can solve a Rubik’s Cube in two minutes and who has enough reasons to argue why his favourite number is 240). He says: 'My equation for happiness would be the sum of (the number of awesome things you’ve done times how cool they were in retrospect) times the (hope if project, happiness if other) you have for the current thing you are doing.' Do you have your own equation?

Oh, I’m awful with at maths. Haha. No, seriously, happiness is such a subjective and abstract concept that to turn it into something as precise as numbers and operations seems too complicated (unless you are a child prodigy with a head filled with figures, like Neil). But, on a personal level, something I can assure you that makes me happy is to feel that I am investing my time in things that for me are worth it, either my friends, loves, family, career projects or hobbies. So I guess that my equation would be an infinite sum of small happy moments. Or a addition of those moments minus the time consumed which is running in the opposite direction.

How is the next issue coming along? Any advance as appetizer?

We literally cannot wait to publish this second issue. If you liked the first one, we expect this one to be even better. But we are waiting to see what happens with some funding issues before we know exactly when we will be able to publish it. Hopefully, by March 2012. For now all I can tell you is that the content outline we are closing seems to have a science fiction tone…

To end, an almost compulsory question: Are you happy?

Now I am. Now I’m not. It depends, but in general I am happy because I feel lucky. In perspective I have all I need to cover my basic physiological needs, security, affection, etc., so I cannot complain at all. Humans always want more; the truth is that being a little bit ambitious helps us feel alive but it is more important, or at least for me it has been, to know how to adapt to new situations and know at all times how to be happy with what we have.

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