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The Pandemic and Well-Being of Americans

Going Beyond Happiness and Meaning in Life

I have previously blogged about why Americans are so unhappy. American happiness had been eroding for years. Then the coronavirus happened. Americans are now less happy than they’ve ever been.  Americans have never been in more despair. As a result, the well-being of Americans has suffered greatly during the pandemic.

The main pillars of happiness — social connections, physical health, income, and employment — have all been threatened by the virus and by the actions taken to control its spread. Before that, erosion of trust in public institutions, weaker social connections, declining generosity, and growing inequality were all playing their part. The U.S. ranked 11th among 156 countries in the 2020 World Happiness Report, published by the United Nations Sustainable Development. Solutions Networking. According to data from the Gallup World Poll, it had fallen to 18th, and  that was before the coronavirus pandemic.

Happiness and well-being go hand in hand. The five basic elements of well-being are as follows.

Career Well-Being. Many Americans have lost their job due to the pandemic. Career advancement hangs in the balance.

Social Well-Being. It has become more difficult for Americans to develop strong relationships and love in their lives because personal contact has given way to zoom contact.

Financial Well-Being. It has become more difficult to pay the bills, stay in your home, and put money aside for a rainy day, and it is pouring outside.

Physical Well-Being. This is about having good health and enough energy to get things done on a daily basis. For many, physical activity in gyms has been difficult, although taking long walks can help.

Community Well-Being. Others are suffering all around us. The number of deaths have been rising alarmingly, with close to 250,000 deaths from the virus to date.

While 66% of people are doing well in at least one of these areas, just 7% are thriving in all five. If we're struggling in any one of these domains, as most of us are, it damages our well-being and wears on our daily life. When we strengthen our well-being in any of these areas, we will have better days, months, and decades. But we're not getting the most out of our lives unless we're living effectively in all five. Well-being

Other reasons for a decline in well-being are many Americans are poor and becoming poorer because businesses have shuttered and jobs lost. Many have suffered health-wise because of the decline in these factors that drive well-being.

Why is well-being so challenging today? Here are a few reasons and causes of the decline.

  • Pressure placed on high school students to get good grades yet learning during the pandemic is challenging at best. Will they get into their college of choice?
  • Dependence on opioids like Vicodin and Oxycontin that can cause addiction and the need for more and more to get the same fleeting effects of well-being. The spread of the virus and uncertain futures have exacerbated the problem.
  • Bullying and cyberbullying that harm one’s sense of self-worth and can lead to suicidal ideation, all of which have increased because most people are online all of the time during the pandemic.
  • Social media interactions where one group of people “cancel” others out because they don’t like what they say or do. This has increased exponentially in recent years, peaking during the 2020 election.

My suggestions to enhance individual happiness and well-being are as follows.

  • Set aside time to develop your skills so you’ll be more job-worthy when the pandemic gets controlled and job opportunities start to increase.
  • Volunteer in your community to the extent possible (i.e., work at a food bank) by helping others to achieve a greater level of well-being, which will lead to them holding you in high regard and increase your sense of self-worth.
  • Learn to meditate to relieve stress. We have more time than ever to work on our mental well-being.
  • Develop meaningful relationships to the extent possible and work on existing relationships. Make things better for yourself and others.

I have been writing and speaking about enhancing well-being for many years. My recent book, Beyond Happiness and Meaning, provides additional tips to enhance your well-being.

Mary Gentile, the developer of the “Giving Voice to Values” thought process, comments about my book: “Steven Mintz’s [book] reads like an engaging and deeply informed conversation with someone who has spent a lifetime thinking and teaching about how values and happiness intertwine in our lives… His discussions offer useful lenses by linking these choices to our universal quest for happiness and purpose in our lives.”

Finally, be kind to yourself and others and they will be kind to you.

Blog posted by Steven Mintz, aka Ethics Sage, on November 12, 2020. Visit Steve’s website and sign up for his newsletter. Follow him on Facebook and “Like” his page. Click on this link to buy a copy of his book.