Why Aren’t We Happier?
We are no happier today than those who lived in the 1950s. Even though we have higher incomes, fascinating technology, endless forms of entertainment, and remarkable advances in medical care, we are no happier than those who lived with far less.
Studies reveal that since the 1950s:
– Happiness levels have remained flat.
– 25.1% of children ages 13 to 18 experience anxiety disorders.
– Antidepressants are the most common prescription drug for people ages 18-44.
What is going on? Why are we so depressed? Why aren’t we any happier than previous generations? Everyone says they want to be happy. You’re likely reading this because you want to be happier. The Declaration of Independence even lists the pursuit of happiness as one of our inalienable rights. So why doesn’t this powerful combination of desire and permission result in measurable success?
Magazines, billboards, and commercials claim to have the answer to our happiness woes. They tell us to buy new clothes, luxury cars, and faster mobile phones. But when the novelty of our purchase wears off, we discover it did not make us happier.
Advice on how to be happy comes to us from all angles. Friends, parents, coworkers, and siblings are all eager to share their tips on making them happy. Advice on happiness can be found in fortune cookies, cereal boxes, and the cover of magazines. Finding advice on happiness is easy; knowing which advice to follow is the hard part.
Think back to when you learned to ride a bike. Do you remember watching others and thinking it looked easy? A bicycle seems so simple: two wheels, a seat, two pedals, and handlebars. We believe something so simple should be easy to learn, but when we try it ourselves, we quickly discover the complexities behind riding a bike.
Riding a bicycle involves balancing our entire body on top of two thin rubber strips, pedaling fast enough to overcome gravity, holding the handlebars steady, and braking at the right time with the right pressure. Many bruised knees and scraped hands can attest to the difficulty of learning to ride a bike.
Learning to ride a bike is a lot like trying to be happy. Both endeavors require balance, good judgment, and frequent practice. Listening to someone explain how to ride a bike isn’t enough. We must practice riding a bike ourselves. The same is true for happiness.
The science of happiness can share what has been learned about happiness, but we must climb onto our happiness bicycles and practice what we’ve learned at the end of the day.
Learning how to ride our happiness bicycle includes exploring the impact of genetics (bicycle frame), the role of our life story (chain), the value of leaning toward optimism (steering), how to maximize our “return on happiness” (ROH, wheels), the importance of relationships (seat), and how to implement these concepts in our own lives (pedals).
The goal of this book, and Hapacus, is straightforward: to share what science has uncovered about happiness (understanding the bike) and then practice it in our own lives (riding the bike).