Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Americans Stay Happy

A Study Finds Americans Unrelentingly Cheerful

A survey from the Pew Research Center came out yesterday on how Americans are feeling: for the most part, we're a pretty happy bunch.

Taking all the data together, we can put together a profile of the person who is most likely to be happiest: white, married, an annual income of $150,000 or more, Republican, churchgoing evangelical Protestant, living in the Sunbelt, over the age of 65.

Who would be the unhappiest? African-American, unmarried, low income, Democrat, living in the Northeast, agnostics between 18 and 29.

There are a few things here that bear mentioning:

1) Money matters. It may not be able to buy happiness, but having it sure can prevent a lot of unhappiness. If you want to increase your income, you need education and a willingness to take an entrepreneurial risk. If you're not willing to get educated and take a chance by competing in the private sector, then you've made a choice that you're not interested in money and you need to accept that your choice has placed certain limitations on your income potential. If you want to make more money, you know what you have to do: sitting there and complaining about things isn't getting you any sympathy and isn't changing a thing.

2) Climate matters. It's hard to be happy when every day is overcast and cold. On the flip side, you've got to really work at it to wake up angry when every day is sunny and warm.

3) Relationships matter. Can you be happy single? Sure, but life just isn't the same without someone special to share it with. That means the good and the bad times. Bad times aren't as bad when there's someone there to go through it with you.

4) Personal responsibility matters. Those whose outlook involves a sense of entitlement: that the world or the government owes them something or that someone else is responsible for taking care of things tend to be unhappy because they will never "get what they deserve" or "what is right." It's a road to perpetual unhappiness. Until you understand that you and you alone are responsible for pulling yourself up by your bootstraps and that you are responsible for what happens in your life, you will be doomed to a cycle of depression and failure.

5) Having faith matters. Whether your faith is Christian or otherwise, having faith can help you ride out the inevitable rough patches of life - whether it's a 'divine plan' or 'karma' or whatever you choose to call it. Those who believe in nothing get nothing in return.

6) Experience matters. Experience and wisdom bring perspective. When you're young, every crisis is the end of the world. When you've been around the block a few times, it's just another day on the job. With age comes the ability to take a step back and evaluate a situation with more than just emotion and hormones. To quote again: "If you're not a liberal when you're twenty you have no heart. If you're not a conservative at thirty you have no brain." And while many aging hippies will violently disagree with that truism, it's because they still allow their emotions to hold sway over objective reason.

I don't know if any of this applies to you: maybe you're already in that lucky group of folks who's found perpetual happiness. If not, maybe reviewing some of the points above and making some changes in yourself is a good place to start on the road to getting there.

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