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The (Painstaking) Pursuit of Happiness

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A Concoction of Connections

In recent years, we’ve seen and perhaps also experienced a disconcerting trend: the decline of happiness. Despite economic growth, technological advancements, and improved living standards, many are grappling with emotional distress, isolation, and a general sense of unease. Earlier this year, the UN, in partnership with Gallup and Oxford, released the 2024 World Happiness Report. Levels of happiness in the US were found to have dropped substantially, with the nation no longer ranking among the Top 20.

To some dismay—but perhaps little shock—happiness among millennials and Gen Z was found to be woefully low, as summarized in this Wall Street Journal video above. The absence of happiness afflicting the bulk of our workforce may stem from the inequality of well-being. As noted here by the University of Washington, despite economic growth, many are feeling the nauseating effects of a cocktail made of financial disparity and several dashes of social isolation.

Communities are fraying and social bonds are weakening as digital interactions rapidly replace face-to-face connections. An estimated 62% of the world’s population now participates in social media platforms. With a rate of adding almost 10 new users per second, the unhappiness cocktail continues to ferment. But as previously noted, in-person isolation is but one part of this morose concoction.

Uncertainty of individual futures—or the very present—has many contending with existential provocations. The decline in optimism for ourselves and our successor generations sets us before the threshold of a crossroads. We can either submerge ourselves further within this murky mixture, or we can aim to pursue a more nurturing nectar, the kind found in human connection and social bonds.

Social support, as highlighted in this UN video above on the ingredients of happiness, is paramount. Though we as a society may strive for some of the additional ingredients, many are notably beyond our control as individuals. Many, but not all. As pressures come to a rolling boil, we needn’t succumb to the belief that it’s a dog-eat-dog world. Rather, instead of being against each other, we can each make a conscious effort to be there for one another. In this era of ever-rising digital interfacing similarly exists the need for ever-increasing authenticity. We can endeavor to exercise empathy and acceptance regardless of our medium. Whether in-person or online, sincerity can hold us together.

As delineated in the above video, when we make an effort to understand and empathize with others, we begin a concoction of connection. We each have the power to manage our own biases and emotions. When we focus not just on individual well-being but mutual well-being, we can help mitigate burnout and despair. We can cultivate a sense of concern and much-needed community.

“Money can’t buy peace of mind. It can’t heal ruptured relationships or build meaning into a life that has none.”
– Richard DeVos

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