Americans spend nearly $11 billion in hot pursuit of happiness. By rights, they really should be the happiest people on the planet. But in reality, almost the complete opposite is true. International comparisons consistently show that people in the United States are some of the least happy (the United States is 19th among OECD countries, down from third in 2007), most stressed, and anxious people in the developed world.
So what is going wrong? I spent the last few years trying to get to the bottom of this strange paradox while researching my book, America the Anxious, Why Our Search for Happiness Is Driving Us Crazy and How to Find It for Real. Here’s some of the key things I learned about how to get off the happiness-seeking treadmill and find genuine contentment: