At the playground, the mantra of mellow parenting is “I don’t care, as long as he’s happy.” Whippman notices after a while that her reflexively sardonic British brain is suddenly looping around a new set of questions: Am I happy? Right at this moment? What about now? And now? Am I happy enough? As happy as everyone else? What about Meghan? Is she happier than me?
Tuning into this alien internal monologue reveals her grand thesis about America: The problem with our quest for happiness is that, apparently, it’s making us miserable. After some idle Googling, her suspicions are confirmed. Various clever studies by psychologists at the University of California, Berkeley, show that “paradoxically, the more people valued and were encouraged to value happiness as a separate life goal, the less happy they were.” When it comes to emotional temperament, America is the clumsy suitor of nations. We yearn and obsess and plot new elaborate strategies as the object of our desire shrinks ever farther away. It’s a little embarrassing.
~ Hanna Rosin, Why Are Americans So Anxious?, Book review of “America the Anxious. How Our Pursuit of Happiness Is Creating a Nation of Nervous Wrecks” by Ruth Whippman.