The World Happiness Report came out today, on International Happiness Day, and the United States is the 19th happiest country. Last year, we were the 18th happiest country, and the year before that, we were the 14th happiest. So… what’s happening? Why are we, a developed country, failing at happiness? What even is happiness?! How can I be happier?
Happiness is the feeling of contentment and pleasure. Okay, so it makes some sense why we’re not happy. We live in a country where we’re constantly replacing things with new editions, and never content. We also are obsessed with social media – I’m always seeing friends, acquaintances and strangers living their “best life” and comparing it to my own. But what about the other countries that are on the list? They have access to the same new tech that we do, and I’m sure they’re just as Insta obsessed.
American culture doesn’t believe in “happiness” in the way that other parts of the world do. We don’t value work life balance. In fact, I often hear people bragging about how much they’ve put into work: “YO BRO – I put in 50 hours of overtime last week and I got FREE dinner every night.” I’ve heard similar things while eavesdropping over the years.
Fortunately, I work in a place that gives me great work life balance. I work from eight to three, and am usually home by four in the afternoon. I don’t even have work e-mail on my phone, and the atmosphere at work is relaxed and not stress inducing. So I don’t need to do much in that area to be a happier person. ON TO THE NEXT SUBJECT.
Countries all over the world have times of rest. Italy, Spain and the Philippines have siestas where the shops and businesses close down so people can have a break in the afternoon. The U.K. gives workers a mandatory 28 days of paid vacation annually. The average American? We get 10 paid days off per year, and even with that, most Americans don’t use them all! As a teacher, who works 208 days of the year, I could not fathom a life where I have to work 50 weeks a year. No wonder we’re not happy!
There’s also the fact that most of the happiest countries in the world are countries that are pretty mono-cultured. The four happiest are Norway, Denmark, Iceland and Switzerland – countries that have a pretty high percentage of citizens from the same culture. This probably gives them a sense of belonging that can be difficult to find the in the melting pot that is the United States. Along that note, we also have a government who is trying to make things work for people across cultures, backgrounds, education levels and economic ranges. It appears impossible to please everyone.
So what can we do?
Let’s zoom in. Focus on our own day to day happiness. It’s going to be hard to make changes that make everyone in this country happy, but it’s a whole lot easier to make changes to your day to day life.
Maybe we can start by saying no more often. I’ve started to do this, and I see my own happiness growing. Unless it’s something I want to do, or that I see as a advantageous, I typically say no. I used to say yes to everything, and would inevitably find myself crying about how overwhelmed and unhappy I was. Give it a try, guys!
Efficiency can help too. Take a look at how you’re using your time. Is the two hours a night you sit on your couch something that truly brings you joy? If it is – go for it girlfriend! If not – use that time better! Pick up a new hobby. Spend time making your home cozy. Read a damn book. DO SOMETHING THAT PLEASES YOU!
I don’t have the answers, but I’m on the constant search for them. I want to hear from you! What do you do to be happy? On a scale of 1-10, how happy would you say you typically are? How do you get yourself out of an unhappy rut?