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United States Measured Happiness
What does Happiness Mean to You?
Happiness means different things to different people. Experiencing happiness because we received a raise or lost ten pounds is but an experience, but does that really mean you actually a happy person?
“I feel good emotionally” is a general expression that might be used to evaluate your level of happiness, but does happiness come from money, love, passion, excitement, inspiration for a particular goal, or exactly what? For some people it is actually being calm, peaceful and content. It is very natural to be happy.
The dictionary defines happiness as:
- A state of well-being characterized by emotions ranging from contentment to intense joy
- Emotions experienced when in a state of well-being.
US Measured Happiness
The Department of Health and Human Services funded a program to measure happiness, which began in December 2012. The goal was to “define reliable measures of subjective well-being.” In the past happiness was gauged by the nation's quality of life, which was based on the gross domestic product (GDP). The GDP is the sum of its economic output.
Former President Obama named Alan Kruger as the chairman for the Council of Economic Advisers to study the concept of happiness.
Daniel Kahneman, psychologist, explains happiness as the difference between “experiencing self” and “remembering self". Therefore, the assumption is that happiness must be studied to understand how personal experiences lead to a happy life.
Since happiness is really subjective, would it not be very difficult to actually quantify statistics for Americans, who come from a huge variety of cultural backgrounds and individual experiences? Is it the government’s job to figure out who is happy and where they live? Or is this a waste of taxpayer dollars? It seems the United Kingdom is also beginning this type of research, plus France and Canada are considering it.
World Studies on Happiness
Studies on happiness have been completed around the world. Some scientists believe that the GNP or GDP has always been used as a measure of national happiness. Therefore, if this study is successful it could conceivably be used to manipulate poll number or perhaps legislation.
Advocates for the research state a measure of happiness can contribute to evaluating the success or failure in a wide variety of government policies. It is believed that this measurement could gauge whether a health benefit or education is more valuable than, for instance, a higher income. It also proposes to measure how people spend their time between leisure activities and work. Do we really want to share this much information with our government?
Ultimately the United States, while being so prosperous, still measures number ten on the world scale for happiness. The Scandinavian countries rank highest the list.
Framework of Research
The guidelines the researchers used to study happiness included:
- “Happiness is made up of pleasure, engagement and meaning
- It involves both positive emotions and a global sense that life is worthwhile
- People can accurately report their own level of happiness”
The research team by utilizing the above framework learned more “about who is happy, what makes them happy and why.” Yet, some people cannot tell you if they are happy.
Pew Research Survey
Pew Research Center did a survey in 2010, and found that even though the number of married couples has shrunk, 75% of Americans consider their family to be the most important aspect of their personal happiness.
That is taking into consideration that there is a very different definition of what constitutes a family than there was a generation ago. Americans considered the quality and quantity of family time directly related to their happiness.
Some of the research revealed Republicans are 15% happier than Democrates. Older people are 18% happier than younger people.
Does money make people happy?
Well, it sure doesn’t hurt, however, Laura Vanderkam, author of “All the Money in the World: What the Happiest People Know about Getting and Spending” states we should not focus on budgets or compare ourselves to our friends, but think of money as a tool.
The conclusion from her research revealed that people who are happy feel like they have enough money, even when they are not wealthy. They can get more money if needed but have full control over how their money is spent.
Obviously poor people without enough food and housing problems are not going to be particularly happy. However, wealthy people may have their own set of problems, such as obesity, anorexia, bulimia, adult onset diabetes, various addictions, such as: alcohol, gambling, shopping, TV,
Negative Emotions Produce Unhappiness
Sometimes people are addicted to unhappiness according to David Sack M.D. They absolutely "wallow in their misery", which has many possible causes
If you are experiencing grief, self doubt, depression, anger, boredom, dissatisfaction, shame, guilt, anxiety, stress, sadness, discontent, fear, envy or jealousy, then you are probably not happy as these are negative emotions.
Quotes about Happiness
“Pursuit of happiness” in the Declaration of Independence
- “Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.” - Abraham Lincoln
- "If you want to be happy, be." ~Leo Tolstoy
- "The best way to cheer yourself up is to try to cheer somebody else up." ~Mark Twain
- "It's never too late to have a happy childhood." ~Berke Breathed
- "There are some days when I think I'm going to die from an overdose of satisfaction." ~Salvador Dali
Bobby McFerrin – Don’t Worry Be Happy
Valued Times by Americans
Some of the times that are the most valued by Americans are family vacations, talks between a mother and daughter, visits from loved relatives, phone calls with family members, holidays spent together with family and friends and time spent with Grandma and Grandpa.
I have always taken Abe Lincoln’s advice, at least as I have aged. I believe happiness is an inside job, so affirmations and positive thinking are helpful to me. If you need to set boundaries with someone, than do so. If you start feeling bored there is a plethora of hobbies available and some cost very little money.
If you have physical problems that have necessitated a lifestyle change, which is true in my case, fine new and exciting things you are able to complete that will keep you content. Embrace each day like it will be your last on this earth.
Are you happy?
The copyright, renewed in 2018, for this article is owned by Pamela Oglesby. Permission to republish this article in print or online must be granted by the author in writing.