Do you whistle while you work? Or worry about your bills?
Do you feel connected and secure? Or isolated and anxious?
Whatever your response, where you live likely plays a big role in your answer, or, more specifically, which country you live in.
It's Monday, March 20, 50 degrees in New York City and the first day of spring.
It's also International Happiness Day, and I got my smile on by going to the United Nations for the release of the 2017 World Happiness Report. (Yes, it's a thing.)
While we live in a country that emphasizes “more, bigger, better,” and “you can do it — and should be able to do it — on your own,” the report indicates that even though we're wealthier and live longer, America is actually #14 on the list of happy countries, down from #11, since 2012 when the report was first published.
Smaller, colder countries came out on top.
Norway is happiest, and Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland and Finland fall in line after that. Canada and Australia are also in the top 10, and the Central African Republic came in last.
Gallup measured the results based on things like income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust, with the latter measured by the absence of corruption in business and government.
Americans have more income and live longer, but we're not happier. Why is that, and what can we do about it?
One of the report's editors, Professor Richard Layard of the London School of Economics spoke with Elite Daily, and he said the key to happiness wasn't so much America's much-touted “rugged individualism,” but rather, community and connection.
He says people “should be making a contribution to the life of the community — not just to themselves — to be able to be compassionate to others.
Prof. Layard went on to recommend that people get together in secular ways, like creating a “church without church,” in order to make this happen.
People can't understand, how can it be? We've got more and more, yet we feel more and more stressed.
The key to the top happiness spot, the report finds, was less about “making America great again,” or finding out whatever happened to Kanye and Kim, and more about deep mutuality and trust at all levels, from personal to professional, to governmental.
The report measured key areas including “income, healthy life expectancy, having someone to count on in times of trouble, generosity, freedom and trust, with the latter measured by the absence of corruption in business and government.”
Basically, it says we have to balance and moderate not only our personal lives and consumption, but that of our country. And that if we don't, we'll be unhappy as individuals and as a country.
The findings indicate we'd be happier in the long run if we were more patient and took a "bigger picture" view of things.
The report explained,
It is sometimes said that Norway achieves and maintains its high happiness not because of its oil wealth, but in spite of it. By choosing to produce its oil slowly, and investing the proceeds for the future rather than spending them in the present, Norway has insulated itself from the boom and bust cycle of many other resource-rich economies. To do this successfully requires high levels of mutual trust, shared purpose, generosity and good governance.
The report also indicates that mental and physical health (or the lack of it) is one of the biggest causes of unhappiness, as is a lack of satisfying personal relationships.
The report really has me thinking about our use of social media: screen time and online “friends” vs. how we operate overall, IRL.
Are we really connected, or do we just think we are?
The report cites declining social support (and increased corruption) as factors causing Americans' unhappiness.
I, for one, know that sometimes spending too much time online makes me feel more unhappy than happy. It's easy to get jealous or to compare oneself to others who look “happier” than me.
For sure, another big factor is work: if you have it and don't like it, or you don't have it at all.
The report kind of echoes what millennials already know: Work needs to be purposeful.
The report stated,
Unemployment causes a major fall in happiness, and even for those in work the quality of work can cause major variations in happiness.
If all this has you down, Prof. Layard went on to say that Americans — and other Westerners — shouldn't lose hope.
[It's critical] to develop and sustain your optimism, your ability to contribute to other people's lives. And by its nature, this just can't be done on an individual basis. You need to meet regularly with people with the same kind of ideas. It's not likely to be very successful unless we can create some kind of community organizations where people meet regularly and practice.
So with all these findings, it's obvious what we need to do: get out and meet up.
Volunteer together, find a meditation group and get happy! No, seriously, happiness is a birthright, and you deserve it!
You can check out the full 2017 UN World Happiness Report, produced by the Sustainable Development Solutions Network and backed by the Ernesto Illy Foundation, here.