Why are so many of us unhappy? Why are mental health problems growing so rapidly? According to the Surgeon General 1 in 5 American adults AND children are affected by a mental disorder during each year! WHY?!?!
The following comes from an anonymously written editorial on the website chinatownconnection.com. It is titled “Why Are Americans so Unhappy” and I believe sheds light on the “why”:
Is it that we have electricity and running water 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Is our unhappiness the result of having air conditioning in the summer and heating in the winter? Could it be that 90+ % of these unhappy folks have a job? Maybe it is the ability to walk into a grocery store at any time and see more food in moments than Darfur has seen in the last year?
Maybe it is the ability to drive from the Pacific Ocean to the Atlantic Ocean without having to present identification papers as we move through each state? Or possibly the hundreds of clean and safe motels we would find along the way that can provide temporary shelter? I guess having thousands of restaurants with varying cuisine from around the world is just not good enough. Or could it be that when we wreck our car, emergency workers show up and provide services to help all involved. Whether you are rich or poor, they treat your wounds and even, if necessary, send a helicopter to take you to the hospital.
Perhaps you are one of the 70 percent of Americans who own a home. You may be upset with knowing that in the unfortunate case of having a fire, a group of trained firefighters will appear in moments and use top-notch equipment to extinguish the flames, thus saving you, your family and your belongings.
Or if, while at home watching one of your many flat-screen TVs, a burglar or prowler intrudes, an officer equipped with a gun and a bullet-proof vest will come to defend you and your family against attack or loss. This all in the backdrop of a neighborhood free of bombs or militias raping and pillaging the residents – in neighborhoods where 90 percent of teenagers own cell phones and computers.
How about the complete religious, social and political freedoms we enjoy that are the envy of everyone in the world? Maybe that is what has 67% of you folks unhappy.
A 2011 Gallup poll found Americans were somewhat or very dissatisfied with overall quality of life (23%), opportunity to get ahead by working hard (45%) and moral and ethical climate (70%).
Ruut Veenhoven of Erasmus University in Rotterdam does research on the subjective appreciation of life and maintains the “World Database of Happiness”. He found the United States not even close to the top ten with a general level of happiness that places our country at 17th!
OK. Now that I added fodder to the general murky mood in the U.S.A., please allow me to offer my perspective. When I had little growing up I did appreciate the things I did have, even though I yearned for more. Anything new was most often received with joy even if it was new clothes under the Christmas tree and few toys. When I was a struggling 20-something I remember buying my first new couch on credit that took 18 months to pay for. I loved that couch and to this day have never appreciated a piece of furniture as I did that one. Living after a natural disaster in a foreign country without running water for six weeks and electric service for almost three months taught me gratitude for those two things I had always taken for granted. In retrospect of my life I can see it was lack and struggle that made me appreciate things most. It was rarely, if ever, abundance that brought any more than momentary gratitude.
As a middle-aged adult I “made it” and had the resources to have and do most anything reasonable I wanted to do. I worked for years under the guise that $$ would make me happy but instead my unhappiness grew to its maximum level that accentuated every fault and dysfunction I had.
My level of contentment and appreciation of life today is the highest ever. While it took a lot of work, changing what was going on inside of me brought that about. It is my opinion that is what is wrong in our country today: Looking outside our self for “other esteem” will NEVER bring about good self-esteem within. I am living proof of that. If success, money, sex, awards, accomplishment, things and external experiences could make someone happy I would have floated away in delirious bliss years ago. Instead, it took pain and heartache followed by lots of deeply emotion inner work to open me to the sources of happiness. There is nothing perfect about my life. Trouble, concern and worry are still around. But today those things sit mostly on the bench in my game of life while contentment, caring and love are the primary players with gratitude as the quarterback.
Riches, both material & spiritual, can choke you if you do not use them fairly. For not even God can put anything in a heart that is already full. One day there springs up the desire for money & for all that money can provide: the superfluous, luxury in eating, luxury in dressing, trifles. Needs increase because one thing calls for another. The result is uncontrollable dissatisfaction. Let us remain as empty as possible so that God can fill us up. Mother Teresa