Anne Palumbo: What the happiest country in the world can teach us
Pay attention because today I’m going to pass along the secret to eternal happiness. I pinched it from Denmark – the Happiest Country in the World, according to a recent survey.
The secret to their bliss? Modest expectations.
Surprising, isn’t it? Such a simple thing: low expectations. I had no idea. In fact, when I first heard the news, I thought, “Well, hello, of course they wake up with a grin as wide as the Baltic Sea. They’re all blonde, and anyone with a brain knows that blondes have more fun.”
But apparently hair color has nothing to do with it. Nope. It all comes back to low expectations, which then translates into not being disappointed when things don’t go as expected. Not being disappointed, they say, equals contentment.
I also read that when things go even better than expected in countries with this particular outlook, euphoria sets in. Yes, euphoria! Do you remember when the underdog Danes won the European Soccer Championship in l992? Some say the country is still popping corks.
Me? I’ve only felt euphoric once in my life. It was the summer I took steroids for a severe case of poison ivy. Sincerely, I was sad to see the blisters, wild dreams, and aggressive spending go.
But getting back to worldwide happiness. Our country ranked a depressing 16th among 50 nations, which comes as no surprise really. We seem to suffer from just the opposite: too-high expectations. Needless to say, when those expectations are not met, we grow surly and agitated, and toss things we shouldn’t out the window. (Note to self: Must look for high heels in pine tree.)
I don’t know about you, but I’m embarrassed by our happiness rank. Here we are, one of the richest nations in the world, and yet we’re all moping around like sad sacks. Not good, America. We need to join hands today and agree to lower our expectations.
Call me visionary, but I already started; and I’m happy to share the areas that have had the biggest impact on my mood.
To begin, I no longer expect my family to discuss gripping world issues at the dinner table. My futile attempts to engage family members in spirited debates about, say, global warming were so often met with “I dunno” that I had to give that one up. Now, all I expect to hear is chewing. I’ve never been happier.
I also got realistic about my car, namely the condition I always find it in after the kids have driven it. Laughably, I clung to the hope that I would find it how I left it: full of gas and clean, with soft jazz on the radio. Ha! Once I embraced what I always encountered – Cheeto-strewn seats, an empty gas tank, 200-decibel rock – I became much more satisfied with life.
Finally, I lowered my own standards for housecleaning, replacing my old motto “Does it sparkle?” with my new motto “Where I can stuff it?” So far, so good.
In conclusion, lowering expectations is a surefire mood-lifter. So give it a try! You might be pleasantly surprised. And if it doesn’t work out, well, there’s always poison ivy.
Anne Palumbo writes this weekly column for Messenger Post Newspapers. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.