“People who don't want to think about outlawing handguns haven't seen firsthand the kind of damage they do." -- J. A. Jance, "Payment in Kind"

Sunday, November 27, 2022

Are You Happy Where You Live?

      There are several lists of U. S. states where people are the happiest . . . and the unhappiest. According to one list, the most miserable people live in California and New Jersey. But another survey cites Alaska and Maine.

     Some of the happiest people live in states like Colorado, Wisconsin, Washington and Idaho. Everyone else, presumably, is normal -- not depressed but not euphoric either.

     Of course, this assumes that where we live can make us happy. Do you think it does?

     Surely, people who hate the cold shouldn't retire to Michigan or Minnesota. People who hate the heat should avoid Florida and Arizona. I wonder if these days another climate -- the political climate -- can make us happy or miserable. We do typically end up sorting ourselves into like-minded groups, don't we?

     I have several liberal friends who live in liberal New York. Residing among their fellow liberals may make them feel comfortable. But I don't know if that by itself makes them happy. But the reverse can be true. I have a liberal friend who moved to Florida. He lasted a couple of years, then moved back to New York. He got fed up with all the people who, in his opinion, were conservative, Trump-supporting cretins.

     I have a brother-in-law who is a religious conservative living in conservative central Pennsylvania. He seems very happy with his situation, with lots of friends through his church, his community, his family. He would be a fish out of water if he lived in a liberal mecca like Boston or Washington, DC.

     Of course, not all of us identify so closely as liberals or conservatives. Politics is not that important to everyone. I belong to a golf group. There are conservatives and liberals in the group and some independents as well. But it doesn't matter. Everyone is happy to be outside playing golf and joking around with friends instead of sitting at home alone watching TV or doing chores.

     But I'm thinking that there's a lot more to happiness than where we live or even who we hang out with . . . as outlined by my friend Jeremy Kisner in a post I did last year. It helps to be healthy, to have a circle of friends, to have something to do. Wealthier people are happier than poor people -- but only up to a point. I've read that even something as simple as owning a pet can make us happier. And it may not be a coincidence that the things making us happy can also help us live longer.

     I've also read that each of us has our happiness "set point." How happy we are depends more on how we look at things rather than what happens to us, or where we live. If something bad happens to a happy person -- even the loss of a spouse -- they grieve for a while, feel depressed, but eventually their happiness returns to their own natural level. Similarly, the curmudgeons among us might experience a burst of happiness if they win the lottery. But a year or two later? They're still curmudgeons.

     What makes me happy? Having a nice home, a beautiful spouse (both inside and out), some friends to hang out with, a few activities that I find interesting. I do sometimes wonder about the actual purpose of my retired life. Is it bringing me real satisfaction? Am I making a difference?

     I don't know. I used to have the same doubts when I was working, too. For the most part I enjoyed my job. I certainly liked getting paid. But was I really doing anything to improve the world?

     Maybe when we're retired we have a smaller world, bounded by family and neighbors and limited activities. But we can still make a difference to our community, and to the people we love.

     So who are the absolute happiest people? You can check out the list at Digg.com. But according to them, it's the people from Utah. I guess the clean-living Mormons have it all figured out. 


Anvilcloud said...

I am reminded of the saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.” I guess happiness is more personal that locational, but I wouldn’t rule out location as a factor. There may also be a difference between happiness and contentment. I think of happiness as more of a temporary state of being.

Anyway, I am happy/content here in southern Canada. I might be temporarily grumpy in late January or early February, however. 😀

Arkansas Patti said...

Like your Florida friend, sometimes politically we can be blindsided. I moved to Arkansas in 2004 when it was still fairly Democratic. Home of Bill Clinton, Dem gov. Then it changed. However I have found a group of like minded friends so while my vote rarely counts anymore, at least I can talk to my friends.

Rian said...

Tom, California and Maine surprise me... not sure why but I thought California people were happy go lucky and I love Maine (just too cold in winter to live there).
And I'm not sure where you live makes a big difference on the happiness scale. We're in North Texas and although it's not the prettiest state, and although I would love to live closer to the coast (any coast),we're happy here. Sometimes the political climate bugs me... but I can handle that.
I don't think we're all meant to do great things, so how much my life contributes is a question I ask also. But the way I look at it is that I take care of my own... and help out others when possible... (and can only hope that's enough). Am I happy? Sure.

gigi-hawaii said...

It doesn't matter where you live, as geography is no big deal. What does matter is having a family you can truly count on.

Kay said...

I was sad to leave Illinois which is more Democratic and we lived in a more liberal area. Our daughter, son, friends lived on the mainland and were easy to visit. Long time friends there kept our lives full.

Now we live in Hawaii where we grew up. You can't beat the weather. It's a Democratic state so lots and lots of like-minded friends and neighbors. So yes, we're content. I think a lot depends on your family and social network. Then again, we like never having to shovel wet snow off our driveway.

Olga said...

I am a happy person -- maybe content is a better word. Since I am perfectly happy in Florida when I am there and perfectly happy in Vermont when I am there, I would say it has not much to do with location, weather, or politics. Two places could not be more different. I have had the privilege of a lot of travel. People are the same and different no matter where you go. I think if you can see that you are happy and if you think what someone else has takes something away from you then you are going to be unhappy.

Tom said...

AC -- Wouldn't the antidote to your Jan./Feb. grumpiness be a vacation to someplace like Florida or Arizona? Or Hawaii. I've never been to Hawaii, but I can't think anyone would be unhappy in Hawaii. But I do agree with you, Gigi. Family and friends are more important than location.

maryland said...

I moved to Portland, Maine from metro DC. I am happy to exchange swampy summers for Maine's winters.

CJ said...

Husband always says we don't talk politics, religion or baseball. But a Midwestern being on the coast of Alabama I might say, or football.😊 We love it here most days I suppose because we mostly live outside all year long. I can ride my bike to beach or kayak the lagoon. My town is small and safe. Most all we meet are this unexplainable southernly sweet like I've not known and mannered. It's the visiting vacationers that are nuisances as are fire ants, and tropical disturbances. Still thinking about our forever home though and it's coming quickly the faster we get older!

Tabor said...

As Anvilcloud wrote...definitions of happiness vary greatly among people depending on income, age, health, etc. I guess I will settle for peace of mind most of the time.

Jack said...

"Most folks are about as happy as they make up their minds to be.". — Abraham Lincoln.

I'm a happy person as that is my choice.

Happiness manifests itself from the inside out into the world that is why things can't make you happy rich or poor doesn't matter.

My happiness doesn't depend on finding a place where everyone agrees with me on everything.

Mona McGinnis said...

Overall, I'm a happy person, mostly optimistic and generally content. It's taken >60 yrs to get to this point. Like has been mentioned, no matter where you go, there you are and one will be as happy as one sets out to be. If lucky means preparation has met opportunity, then I'm lucky to live in rural Alberta with family, friends, education, good health & income. The cold winters get harder as I get older but back to preparation. I'm reminded of the benefits of community almost daily. I'd like to think that community could be created wherever I live.

Ed said...

Your link doesn't work anymore, at least by the time I got home and caught up on your blog. But based on other surveys, my state generally is solidly in the top third of happiest states.

I never understood that growing up. But as I have aged, moved around and come back again, I think what makes me happy about living here is the familiarity. Had I grown up in California or Florida, I probably would be happy there now but I grew up in rural Iowa and rural Iowa is what makes me happy these days. It isn't because people are politically leaning my direction because it is rare for me to find any that do. But it is the atmosphere I grew up in and no all the intricacies of how things work and that familiarity makes me happy.

Tom said...

Ed -- Thanks for the heads up about the link. I think I fixed it. Btw, Iowa comes right up near the top of the list!

Anonymous said...

We left the East and moved back West- to Idaho. Idaho is my husband’s home state. Why are they happy? Lots of kids( even kids who will shovel your sidewalk ).Homestead attitude- everyone grows a garden - even golfers. The extremes of wealth are not “in your face”, but shared. The billionaires build schools and transport people to hospitals. The “refuges” and poor are given a way to work into the middle class. I love the motto- we are fiercely independently helping the whole community.Add that you only have to drive a few miles to be alone with nature….

Madeline Kasian said...

I grew up in New jersey and loved being able to go “to the shore”. on a moments notice, but I did not like the cold gray weather many months of the year. Moving to Arizona in my 30’s changed my life in many ways and I am blissfully happy with the desert, the heat and the sunshine.I am naturally optimistic but in cold damp gray weather my personality gets crankier. We moved.
up north” in Arizona when we first retired and I could not be comfortable int he colder climate, plus the small town was very conservative and trumpian and I actually was afraid of some of the people up there! We moved back to the sunny Valley of the Sun and I’ve been a VERY happy camper since 2014 when we came back. I think the climate,place, and attitude of neighbors all contribute to happiness. Yes “wherever you go,there you are..” but I believe finding your “place” is a critical part of being as happy as you can be!

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Wisewebwoman said...

I've never suffered from weather barometer happiness though many of my friends have and what I find interesting is that these moved to Florida or Arizona in old age, but guess what? They are sill disgruntled, appalled at the US politics and if only we could improve the weather in Canada in the winter they'd be back in a heartbeat. So, to my mind that's no way to live.

Health is everything. And I know. Being so impacted by bad health for a few years and now out of that particular storm. I truly love where I am living and proximity to the sea contributes to that. Weather doesn't bother me as I am quite content to be at home with a storm/cold/blizzard outside. I was great at amusing myself by myself as a child and that has me carried into old age.

Studies have been done on nuns with childhood diaries and if one has a sunny contented disposition as a child? That carries one through the rigors of old age.