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Are We Living in a Post-Happy World?

Joy, it seems, is everywhere these days. It is used to sell boxes at Ikea. It is included in ads for drinks at McDonald’s and there are T-shirts that tout joy as “an act of resistance.” There is the “Chasing Joy” podcast. And a number of books are being published each year devoted to joyful living, including marriage and productivity.

But if joy is everywhere, why does happiness feel so elusive? Politics in America has divided into two camps: angry and angrier. Our world is threatened by climate change. And the booming United States economy is showing signs of fatigue. Douglas Abrams, author of The Book of Joy, said “In an age of despair, choosing joy is a revolutionary act.”

So, are we living in a post-happiness world? According to the World Happiness Report happiness in the United States is declining. Americans said they were less content in 2018 than a year earlier, ranking No. 19 behind Australia and Canada. The 24-hour news cycle, combined with the onslaught of natural disasters, social upheaval, and political strife, has left Americans exhausted. Worse, the agitation shows no sign of abating; psychologists suggest anxiety is on the rise.

Source: Laura M. Holson, “Are We Living in a Post-Happiness World?” The New York Times (9-28-19)

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