I was listening to a book on CD today that stated that children in the USA are the 2nd unhappiest in the world (only children in the UK are unhappier). That's right, unhappiest. Being on CD I couldn't look at the footnotes to find the study, and I had a hard time finding the exact report online, but there were several articles stating that children in the UK were the unhappiest in the world and that the US was right behind them (again, not being able to find the exact report findings I'm not sure how old the study is but the book is less than two years old, so I think the study is well within the last decade).
This should be disturbing to all of us. We are a nation that prides itself on its right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Clearly we have failed in that pursuit.
All of our material possessions, technology, wealth, and freedom aren't making us happy. I wonder if our children are unhappy because of all the pursuing we're doing...
Giving our children more stuff isn't making them happy. Working more hours so our family has more money isn't making our children happy. Video games, ipods, and other pieces of technology aren't making them happy. Enrolling them in more and more extra-curricular activities isn't making them happy.
I think part of the book's conclusion on that part was that our children aren't happy because they're not picking up happiness from us as parents and that we haven't taught them well how to use their brains in ways to choose to be happy.
I haven't done well in this area, I confess. I grew up in a Scandinavian culture where emotions were something to be suspicious of. I'm just learning to be more in touch with them and to control them rather than just repressing them. So I know I haven't passed on those skills to my children well. And I know that I don't often portray happiness throughout my day.
Forgive me for another shameless plug, but in my book, Cultural Enslavement: Breaking Free into Abundant Living, I look at some of these issues. I assert that spending time slowing down in God's creation is better for us rather than spending too much time connected to technology, that our lives are fuller when we choose not to fill them with busyness, that we need to connect more with people in meaningful ways. In short that we need to slow down, do more reflecting and meditating, and dwell richly in God's provision. The book/CD isn't faith based, but it's nice to hear some research that points to the same conclusions.
So today may we each take a few brief minutes to slow down, breathe deep, and choose happiness. If not for our sake, for our children ("think of the children!"). I intend to try and smile more tomorrow.
(The book is 10 Mindful Minutes by Goldie Hawn. Yes, the Private Benjamin Goldie Hawn. I'm not through it enough to recommend it one way or another yet, but it does have some interesting data and scientific facts about the brain.)