My doctor told me I should consider anti-depressants. Not because I’m depressed, but because I’m so anxious all the time. Apparently Prozac fixes everything. Coincidentally, two weeks later I was pitched to review the new book “America the Anxious: How Our Pursuit of Happiness is Creating a Nation of Nervious Wrecks.” The timing couldn’t have been more perfect.
America the Anxious Explores Our Happiness Obession
Everyone has this image of the carefree, full-time RVer. Maybe that’s applicable to the retired baby boomer living off a fat retirement savings account. As for Jim and me, our reality is quite different. We don’t have the luxury of kicking back (yet). Our long work days are filled with many of the same stressors as many people.
Will we have enough money for old age? How are we going to afford it?
Am I making my client happy? Am I producing quality work?
Am I spending enough time on my passions?
Do I work out enough for good health?
Do I show enough attention to the dog? Is my dog happy?
As we sit here camped with a friend who takes a more laid-back approach to life than we do, I wonder why it is that he can be so non-chalant about things. Me? Well, I worry. So it was with great interest that I was comped an issue of this new book by Ruth Whippman.
Whippman is a snarky British writer who migrated to the U.S. and was quickly ambushed with what she terms the American “happiness industrial complex.” It’s a fitting term, and one that I can proudly say got Jim and I to ditch our old sticks-and-bricks lifestyle. As we pursued happiness with our Jerry while he fought cancer, the only thing on our minds was following Eckhart Tolle’s advice to live in the moment. But once Jerry passed on, life got more serious. Today we’re happier than ever, yet ironically I worry more than ever. Is it my fault? Why can’t I worry less even though I feel happier on most days? Is it the roads we travel? Our rig?
Whippman explains why the ideal state of happiness always seems so elusive to me and millions of others:
“The more I immerse myself in the Great American Happiness Machine in all its vicarious incarnations, from mindful dishwashing to Tony Robbins, Eckhart Tolle to the Oprah Magazine, the more I realize that once you get past the fist pumping and the platitudes, there’s a steely and anxiety-inducing underlying threat to the message. . . .
There is only one thing that has the power to make you happy, and that is . . . YOU! . . . the flip side of this logic is that if I am not happy, then it is All My Own Fault.”
Studies cited in the book show that the more we pursue happiness, the more anxious, stressed and lonely we become. It’s a vicious cycle and one that I never realized affected me until this book landed in my hands (thanks St. Martin’s Press!).
Don’t Be Fooled by Shiny, Happy Full-time RVers
Why would anyone question the happiness industrial complex? Isn’t it doing everyone good by ensuring we’re all in pursuit of an “enlightened” state? Obviously not. According to Whippman’s research, American spend more money, time and effort on finding happiness than any other country on the planet, but we’re one of the least happy countries in the developed world!
The young, shiny, happy full-time RVers on Instagram all have us fooled. They look so happy don’t they? Odds are, however, that they haven’t found the keys to happiness simply by living the full-timing lifestyle. More than likely, those travelers are just as stressed out and anxious as anyone living a traditional lifestyle. They just work harder at hiding their worry.
My friend on the other hand, chooses to stay disconnect from the Instagrammed world that has us believing everyone is far happier than ourselves. Clearly, my friend’s lack of involvement in social media has much to do with how happy and relaxed he always seems. Is that the secret? Hmmm…
Please put down your iPhone and grab a hard copy of this funny, witty book. Drag yourself away from connectivity for a few hours and learn why the secret to happiness isn’t found in a pill, a device or a lifestyle — it’s only obtained by severing your reliance on the self-help section of Amazon and building real connections with good people in real life.