Why Aren’t We Happy?

Americans today enjoy a growing economy, low unemployment and an ever-improving standard of living – but we aren’t getting any happier.

The 2018 World Happiness Report and Gallup’s Well-Being Index reveal American happiness at its lowest level since 2006, with every single state in the union in decline since 2009. Americans report feeling more depression, more day-to-day worry, less “positive energy” from family and friends, and less satisfaction with their work and personal lives than they did a year ago. America is bummed out.

It’s tempting to assume this drop-off is another symptom of today’s political, racial and class tension, but falling happiness isn’t reserved for the “forgotten class” or a sign that Republicans have succeeded in their quest to “own the libs” into permanent depression.1 Surprisingly, more affluent and educated states have experienced a steeper decline in happiness than states with lower median incomes or less educational achievement. The deterioration of our national mood didn’t begin with the last election cycle either; Gallup found that well-being is higher in states that disapprove of the President.

Political, racial and economic divides contribute to the happiness equation, but none of these divides correlate strongly with the recent slump. Something else is going on here.

Jeffrey Sachs, a Columbia University economist and co-author of the World Happiness Report, argues that the US “offers a vivid portrait of a country that is looking for happiness in all the wrong places.”

The pursuit of happiness is a fundamental American right. It’s time we learn to look in the right direction.

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Sports Gambling is Legal, and You Can Bet Change is on the Way

Hot off the top-of-the-inbox, it’s time for a back-and-forth breakdown of the recent Supreme Court ruling in favor of legalized sports gambling. Game on!

AK:1 Welcome to the era of legalized sports betting! In a 6-to-3 decision, the Supreme Court struck down the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act of 1992 (PASPA) and opened the door for an unprecedented transformation of American sports. There’s a ton to digest here – how sports themselves will change, the fan experience, the political consequences, the moral implications, the risk to my 401k account – but before we dig into the feast, allow me to set the table.

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How Language Shapes Your World

To see how language shapes experience, take a visit to wine country.

A vineyard doesn’t take shape naturally. Fields of grapes are organized rank-and-file, an infantry of vines standing at attention in tidy rows and columns. Identical wooden frames steer the vines’ winding growth off its natural path into a tight, upright posture. In hilltop tasting rooms, leather-tanned locals with bleach-blonde hair pour reds and whites as much into glasses as into categories. Fruit-forward or dry, bold or buttery.  

If you’re like me, you can’t tell the difference after your first sip. Tastes like… wine. Then someone explains what you’re tasting – what you should be tasting. “The Syrah,” your guide explains, “is dry and heavy, with a cherry finish.” You drink again.

Of course – I get it now. With a frame to rest on, the flavor of the second sip snaps around the words into its own orderly, defined posture. Dry. Cherry. The words give more than a description; knowing the words makes the wine taste different.

We often think of language as a tool for describing our experiences and communicating with one another. Research suggests, however, that language can reach beyond description to influence what we see, think and remember. Our thoughts and experiences grow around the structure that language provides.

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