Why are Americans So Unhappy?
The Gallup poll recently issued its 2019 World Happiness Report and the U.S. is ranked 19th. Why so low? The report says it’s because of a high level of addictions causing unhappiness and depression. “The compulsive pursuit of substance abuse and addictive behaviors is causing severe unhappiness.” This isn’t surprising to me as we all know about the opioid problem in the U.S. and how using is a quick high followed by a low and the need for more drugs.
Which countries are the happiest? Basically, the Nordic countries -- Finland, Norway, Denmark, Iceland. It appears the reasons these countries are at the top is clean environment, feeling they are one with nature, and success at converting wealth into well-being. Some have said the reason for a high level of happiness in these countries is they practice a brand of “compassionate capitalism”.
Nordic countries practice free market economics and have high taxes, and, yes, they have generous government entitlement programs. But, they’re not socialist countries. They practice socialist policies in the sense of entitlement programs but let’s get real, so do we in the U.S.
My take on it is the Nordic countries are happiest because their population is relatively homogeneous so have less challenges of a diverse population. It’s likely the cold weather plays a role in that Nordic folks spend more time with each other, direct communication is more common and builds strong relationships.
Perhaps I should step back for a moment and discuss just what is happiness. Many people think it’s to accumulate wealth, fame, etc. That’s not the case. Yes, it may lead to happiness but it’s fleeting. The more you have, the more you want, the more you need. It can be a vicious circle constantly seeking external reward when true happiness comes from within.
A happy life is one where we are satisfied with life’s circumstances and it can be strengthened by meaningfulness. A meaningful life is one that advances our well-being, such as dedicating ourselves to a praiseworthy cause.
Meaningful relationships can build self-esteem and make us happy as a result. They can also lead to satisfying higher-level needs such as self-actualization. Once we have reached a level of self-actualization, or achieving one’s full potential, we can turn our attention to helping others achieve a higher purpose and contribute to the betterment of society.
Life coaches Don and Nicole Nenninger address the issue of thriving to bring more happiness and fulfillment into our lives: to live a better life. They describe 20 practices, ten of which are listed below.
- Practice gratitude on a daily basis until it becomes a habit.
- Choose your thoughts carefully.
- Take care of your body.
- Look for beauty and inspiration to guide you in life.
- Forgive yourself and others for past “mistakes:” learn from your experiences and move on.
- Learn how to disagree respectfully.
- Pay attention to your limiting beliefs that may hold you back from pursuing meaningful relationships.
- Give back to the world in a positive manner.
- Learn to be 100 percent responsible for your life.
- Have a purpose in life; something that has value and can enhance your well-being.
While it’s important to know what promotes happiness in life, it’s just as important to understand what makes it more difficult so you know what you have to do to achieve a higher level of happiness.
What’s missing in the U.S. today is “Ethical Happiness.” To the ancient Greeks, happiness is the end goal of life. Virtuous behavior contributes to moral excellence. Moral excellence can contribute to a happy life. Thus, being a moral person is essential to living a life of happiness.