Money doesn’t seem to buy happiness, after all. Socio-economist Dr. Randall Bell weighs in on the UN 2017 World Happiness Report.
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"Norway has risen to first place, while the US has fallen to 14th place from 13th place in 2015. The report cites six key factors that explain the rankings—GDP per capita, social support, healthy years of life expectancy, freedom to make decisions, generosity, and trust in institutions.
"Though poverty hinders happiness, wealth does not ensure happiness. Once basic needs are met in a nation, social factors—such as social support and trust—play an increasingly important role in its overall level of happiness. In addition to these factors, positive emotions and other subjective experiences of happiness also explain the rankings.
"Though per capita income and life expectancy have increased in the United States, its happiness index has decreased. “America’s crisis,” write the authors, “is, in short, a social crisis, not an economic crisis.” A lack of support, trust, perceived freedom, and generosity have eroded happiness in the United States.
"The implications for public policymakers may be apparent, but what about individuals? Must individual citizens simply wait for policymakers to act? While public policy solutions may improve national levels of happiness, individual citizens must take a different path. Of course, the easy reactions are to bemoan the national and global state of affairs—or complain or blame. But these reactions simply reinforce the sense of powerlessness that leads again to discontent.
"Individuals can improve their own level of satisfaction and happiness by becoming aware of, assessing, and changing their habits. Over one hundred years ago, the great philosopher and pioneer of psychology William James said, “The greatest discovery of my generation is that a human being can alter his life by altering his attitudes of mind.” This is as true today as it was in the late 19th century.
"Life is full of choices. And, when people are not making conscious choices, they are often making the unconscious decision to keep engaging in old habits. These programmed decisions can be brought into conscious awareness, assessed, and changed.
"The problem many people face when trying to change their habits is that they become overwhelmed and give up. Habits are often so deeply rooted into a person’s psychology that they become indistinguishable from personality. Stopping a habit then seems like a kind of death. Who will I be if I stop being who I am? Many respond through a fear-driven rationalization and over-complication."