According to the United Nations’ 2018 World Happiness Report, the United States is now the 18th-happiest country on earth. And here’s something else to sulk about. In 2017 we were in 14th-place. We dropped four places in one year, and I, for one, didn’t even realize it! To atone for my non-vigilance, I will vote in 2020 for any candidate who will “Make America Happy Again!”
But happiness is complicated. It’s only a big issue with me when I’m aware that I’m not happy, which isn’t that often. I don’t go around asking myself if I’m happy. I have too many other things on my mind. Nor have I purchased a Happy-Meter to attach to my belt like some people attach a pedometer. I don’t necessarily know when I’m walking in Misery, Discontent, Sadness, Melancholia, Sunshine, Happy as a Clamsville, or Ecstasy. (The Happy-Meter is sold by Watch-Your-Step, 17 Giddy Lane, Happy Valley, PA., for $2,499.95, which makes the company happy every time it sells one.)
I hear parents say to their kids (especially on TV after a family argument), “All I want is for you to be happy.” Really? What I want is for my kids to call home every now and then with good news and take care of me in my approaching decrepitude. I’d prefer they take my advice and do as I say, but I learned a long time ago that a sure way to make yourself unhappy is to have unrealistic expectations.
Furthermore, I have never bought a Happy Meal, nor been inside a Happy Feet Store, nor been happy-go-lucky. And Happy was never my favorite dwarf. I can remember watching Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs at a Saturday afternoon matinee when my family lived in McKinney, TX. I was so young that the Queen gave me nightmares for a week. (Nowadays it’s the news that gives me nightmares.) I can remember wanting to go work in the chocolate mines with Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, and Dopey, but not Happy. Even at such a young age, I could tell he’d get on my nerves. Our tastes change, of course, over the years. Grumpy is my favorite nowadays, even though Dopey has the largest fan club by far.
If I was asked in a Happiness Poll what would make me happy, off the top of my head I’d say “smart pills”. When I was a kid my dad used to say about a not-so-brilliant decision made by this or that person, “I guess he forgot to take his smart pills this morning.” Well, here we are more than sixty years later, and fast-acting, long-lasting smart pills still aren’t available over-the-counter. I think I could be happy if they were. Then I could do things like understand brochures that I keep getting in the mail.
I get lots of hearing aid brochures in the mail. But I’m not talking about them. Hear what I’m saying? I’m talking about these “Free Technology Workshops in Your Area” brochures. Whether it’s free or not, I don’t see what technology has to do with it. Each brochure I receive wants to teach me how to do things like download my apps. Why? My apps were downloaded long ago. All us “over the hillers” know this. All it takes are excess calories and inactivity over the decades. What I need is the free technology to have what the magazines at the checkout-counter call, “Six-Pack Apps!” I think that would make me happy. If I had six-pack apps, I wouldn’t bother to wear a shirt to my next cardiology appointment.
What is interesting about the 2018 World Happiness Report is that Finland topped the list, with Norway, Denmark, Iceland, Switzerland, the Netherlands, Canada, New Zealand, Sweden and Australia rounding out the top 10. I’m amazed because #3Denmark is the home of Kierkegaard, whom I’ve always known as “the melancholy Dane”. He must have been an exception to the Kingdom of Happy in Denmark. It’s like my dad also used to say, “If I had a head like a melon and a face like a collie, I’d be melancholy too.”
Why are people in these countries happy? Hint: most of these countries are cold countries, snow and ice, including portions of New Zealand and Australia. If I was to take a guess, it’d be that the people who responded to the online survey don’t suffer from prickly heat like they do in Brazil. But who knows.
The authors of this happiness study give us no help as to why these countries are the happiest. What they give us are the three symptoms of unhappiness in countries that didn’t make the top ten. And these are obesity, substance abuse, and depression.
According to the report, the U.S. has an estimated rate of 38.2 percent adult obesity, almost 6 percent higher than any other OECD country (Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development), along with 63,000 deaths from drug overdoses in 2016. The depression rate in the U.S. also rose significantly from 2005 to 2015.
I don’t just think, I know that I’d be happier if these symptoms of national unhappiness dropped dramatically. We’re all in this thing together, just like Happy is with Doc, Grumpy, Sleepy, Sneezy, Bashful, and Dopey.