Are We Happy?

Americans find pride in reminding everyone that we are created equal and have the right to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. It’s in our Declaration of Independence after all. We are free to be who we are and free to find happiness in our own way. But, we aren’t getting any happier than we were 50 years ago. Why is that and why is happiness so hard to attain?

Anxiety disorders affect 18% of adults in the US and 25% of our teens yearly. And these mental health disorders are on the rise along with substance abuse as well. It doesn’t sound like there is enough happiness in our country to me.

There are many factors involved in determining one’s happiness. Most people would say their happiness comes from a balance of their
physical/mental health, their safety and their job, home and social life. Without balance, the scales can be tipped in one direction or the other. Finding balance in all these aspects of life seems daunting! If I work harder on my job life, my social life may suffer. If I work on my physical health, my home life may suffer. So, how can we have it all?

Be like the Dutch. For years the Dutch people have been at the top of the Happy list. So, what’s their secret? It’s simple….simplicity.

From birth, Dutch children are given more freedom to roam and explore. Parents put less focus on controlling obedience and instead let the children find out who they are without fear of failure. School expectations are not set high either. Children are allowed to focus on play and discovery and there is less stress on meeting age appropriate requirements. They will get there when they are ready! There is also no homework (because homework suggests that children need more schooling outside of the classroom in order to compete with others to be successful). With this type of beginning to life, there is little competition and comparison and so much more acceptance. People are free to be who they want to be without being judged by their peers or their parents. Can you imagine living in a country where we aren’t judged by our choices? Acceptance. Isn’t that what we declared for ourselves? hmmm

As a Dutch parent, there is also less stress, anxiety and expectations. Parenting is equally shared by both partners and done so happily because again, they aren’t judged by others. Both parents take time for themselves without guilt (no mommy guilt????). By letting go of the control and letting their children find their own path means they have more time to care for themselves as well. Happy parents. Happy kids. Happy family.

As for success in life – here is a quote that says it all: “Achievement doesn’t lead to happiness but happiness can lead to achievement.” Let that sink in for a moment. If we focus our time on finding our true happiness, we will most likely find success as a result. Does this not sound like the BEST LIFE EVER? Seek your happy – not your highest paycheck or most recognized position. My opinion is this is where us as Americans get mixed up. We have it backwards.

So, what can we do to change this? I don’t have all the answers. I still feel social anxiety and fear failure and I am honestly not sure if I can change my mindset that easily at age 44. But, what I do know is that I can try. I can also ease up my grip on my kids and maybe suggest a gap year before they go off to college. There is so much to see and explore out there and happiness is way more important to me than a high paying job or a competitive lifestyle. Especially for my children. I am trying to learn to live with less myself and hopefully this will rub off on my kids because as American children, they are very focused on material things.

Simplify:

  • Focus on having fun instead of whether the game is helping your child learn.
  • Focus on enjoying a family meal together instead of how many macronutrients are on your plate.
  • Focus on trusting your children and letting them make mistakes instead of micromanaging every hour of their day.
  • Focus on acceptance and patience instead of worrying that they won’t be accepted into a good college at the age of 17.
  • Focus on what makes you happy instead of what makes you money.
  • Focus on the NOW and not the FUTURE – all in due time.

I am sure many will disagree with my opinion on this and I accept that. We all need to find our own way and I will continue to always encourage that you are authentic and uniquely you. But, if you ever feel overwhelmed or distracted, just take a deep breath and try to simplify.

And remember – happiness can lead to achievement.

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