Happiness is not a partisan political issue | Ron Cole | Journalist
The results of a new Gallup poll suggest that Americans are less happy than at any time in the past 20 years. This is based on a questionnaire that measures people’s satisfaction in eight different aspects of their lives and across 21 different policy issues.
According to the report, only 38% of Americans say they are “satisfied” in these 29 different dimensions, compared to 48% two years ago. What’s not immediately reported is that Registered Republicans (as a whole) are much less satisfied with how things are going while Democrats are a bit more satisfied, which only goes to show that Democrats are happiest when a Democrat is in the White House and vice versa with Republicans.
As the poll covers a wide range of burning political issues, no one is likely to be “happy” across the spectrum, and so, it’s just one more tool used to amplify how much we we are polarized in our attitudes.
For example, satisfaction with energy policy among Republicans has fallen 45% over the past year, but it has risen 6% among Democrats. Conversely, Democrats are unhappy with what is happening to abortion rights (measured by a 14% drop on the “satisfaction” scale), while Republicans are slightly happier than a year ago (a 3% increase).
And yet, if you read the headlines or listen to the shows, they all say that Americans in general are in a bad mood and think we’re going in the wrong direction as a nation. (They all come to the same conclusion but for different reasons, depending on the political leanings of the news source and the audience they are addressing). I call this technique suggestive criticism because it implants and spreads the idea that we are unhappy.
My objection to the poll, and especially the way it is reported, has to do with the idea that our happiness should depend on outside forces and events, which could have the effect of leading people to believe that the happiness is beyond our control when, according to a large body of psychological research from around the world, happiness is a function of our own attitudes and how we interact with the world.
Commonly identified keys to happiness include:
- Connecting with people: being friendly, building and maintaining close relationships and being part of a community;
- Helping people, caring about people, giving someone your time, attention and energy to make them feel good, which makes you feel good;
- Learning new things, which keeps you interested and interesting, curious and enthusiastic; it allows you to grow, to try and to feel (always) active and alive;
- Being physically active, which produces chemicals in the brain that contribute to positive emotions;
- Finding meaning and purpose through a connection to something greater than yourself, whether through work, faith, service, duty, volunteering, etc. ;
- Forgive yourself and others, which increases your self-esteem and your sense of power and self-determination; it eliminates negative energy and opens new doors to new happiness; and
- Being grateful: recognizing the beauty and goodness in our lives, the people, the opportunities, the gifts, the tools, the talents, the experiences that make us who we are and contribute to our awareness and sense of purpose. ‘membership.
All of these things contribute to happiness, and all of them are within our reach and under our control.
If we are not as happy as before, it may be because we are not as warm and friendly as before; maybe we don’t care or help others, or we have lost interest in learning; or because we are not as active as we could be, or because we are unwilling to forgive, or because we are neglecting the blessings in our lives.
Happiness is not a partisan political issue and it shouldn’t depend on 21 political issues.
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