While I was searching for happiness on the internets, I came across lots of information that could help me understand what I am supposed to be looking for and what doesn't contribute to happiness. It's really easy to find what doesn't make us happy even though it seems Americans particularly cling on to those things. Watching commercials on the tube makes people the least happy, having lots of clutter around is not conducive to happiness, a government that looks out for businesses before people doesn't put people in a happy place, having a boyfriend or girlfriend definitely isn't the solution for unhappiness (how about that divorce rate?), being beautiful or rich has nothing to do with it (just look at the celebrity news)... happiness really has a lot to do with community and lack of fear. (BBC News has a series of stories and videos on the subject of happiness as well as ABC News.)
You might want to poke around http://www.happyplanetindex.org/ to see how they measure happy places on earth. It takes into account 3 separate factors: ecological footprint, life-satisfaction and life expectancy. What really makes the US plummet to 150th place on their charts and maps is our enormous carbon footprint, because we really aren't all that emotionally unhappy and our life expectancy isn't all that bad either. The happiest places on their charts may not have such high life expectancies, but they aren't damaging the planet either. It seems like a silly thing to incorporate into the happiness factor, but after watching the video the story of stuff (scroll down), it begins to make sense. Having too much stuff takes away from our overall happiness, so a country that is hell bent on consumption rather than social interactions can never make it to the top of the list no matter how lovely the climate is or how long you may live.
If we Americans want to be happier, should we
Tomorrow, we'll discuss the myths of beauty, financial independence and finding the right significant other as the keys to happiness.