"Every statistic measuring well-being in the last fifty years has gone north, but measurements of morale have gone south, because people focus too much on a mood system based on daily hassles. So if you've got a hole in your swimming pool liner, you'll be as troubled as if you're worried that the Nazis are going to take your child away."
-- Martin Seligman, psychologist quoted in the Washington Post, December 24, 2002.
The moral is: don't sweat the petty things. And don't pet the sweaty things.
There is an element of truth in this. The reason is that people tend to concentrate on the short view, rather than looking at the longer perspective.
Let's look at a few pluses:
1. Life expectancy for most people in the developed countries is fairly long, even despite differences due to social class and opportunity. Moreover, it has actually lengthened in the past hundred years, especially for women.
2. Disease makes less of an impact. The last major pandemic was the Spanish flu one in 1919; but that one pales alongside the bubonic plague of 1346-49.
3. Adequate medical care is available for more people in our society than had been the case.
4. Southerners are not troubled by pellagra, malaria, or yellow jack like in the 19th century.
5. Air conditioning. Blessed air conditioning.
6. Fewer people are going to bed hungry in the United States and in Western Europe than hundreds of years ago.
7. Women are better treated in most countries nowadays than they had been historically. To be sure, there are still places where a woman would be crazy to visit, like in most of the Mideast.
8. We can elect our public officials. They often disappoint; but we can kick the bums to the curb every four years.
9. Americans live in an incredibly beautiful land, and it should be savored.
10. Chocolate pudding.
11. While there are still wars, some of which may not have been a good idea to be involved in, at least none reached the level of World War since 1945.
12. It is so easy nowadays, and so convenient, to travel to many interesting places.
13. Smart phones and cell phones are so available.
14. Racism and sexism, while still around, are no longer considered acceptable stances of behavior by educated persons.
15. It is really possible to obtain a comfortable and attractive bra.
16. Childbirth is a less risky proposition than it was 150 years ago.
17. Cable TV, so that we're not stuck with network TV.
18. Long-distance travel is safer and more convenient than it was a hundred years ago.
19. Better sanitation.
20. Tuberculosis is no longer a major threat.
21. There's beautiful music and art.
22. And, finally, the possibility of loving someone!
Now I realize I've mixed really, really big things with things that are less important, but there's a lot to be happy about. Both the little things and the big things count in subjective well-being.
Obviously, you can add a few on your own.
Therefore, count your blessings; and have a positive outlook on life. Laugh! Smile! Love! Indulge yourself!
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