The news was dire.
This spring, despite our best efforts — despite all that yoga and meditation and therapy and astrological consultation and turmeric and that slightly worrisome addiction to self-affirming memes — levels of happiness in the United States dropped for the third straight year, according to the World Happiness Report, the United Nations’ annual barometer of global good times. In the country rankings, America slumped to 19. Now it is sandwiched below Canada, and safely above France.
The data on happiness is sparse, and the metrics by which we’re measured new; the World Happiness Report was introduced less than a decade ago and cobbles together survey answers to arrive at its results. But it illuminates a truth: We are failing at the thing so fundamental to Americanness that we made its pursuit a cornerstone of our founding document. If there is a happiness nadir, this seems to be it.
So in this issue of The Highlight, Vox’s home for features and longform journalism, we’re looking closely at the notion of being happy.
Are we woefully limited in our definition of well-being, and could a few words from other cultures help? And how did the ideas of resilience, achievement, and “flourishing” become benchmarks for happiness in just 20 years since the field of positive psychology was born?
We also look at how experts say you can spend money to enhance your general levels of well-being (trust us: spend to save yourself time) and investigate why women’s happiness continues to lag behind men’s — in a comic.
By shining a light on the universal struggle to ease our growing dissatisfaction, maybe we can lead to a little more well-being in the world.
A psychologist claims that learning “untranslatable words” from other cultures may be a key to being happy. I experimented on myself to see whether it’s true.
by Sigal Samuel
Just over 20 years old, the field of positive psychology has captivated the world with its hopeful promises — and drawn critics for its moralizing, mysticism, and commercialization.
by Joseph Smith
After decades of women’s rights gains, why are women less happy?
by Aubrey Hirsch
Simply having a lot of it won’t automatically increase your sense of well-being. “But using it well can,” says one expert.
by Laura Entis