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Get happy!

By Merrill Ogden - | Apr 10, 2024

Some of you remember the singer and actress Judy Garland. Some would recall that she played the part of Dorothy in the “Wizard of Oz” movie and sang “Somewhere Over the Rainbow.”

Judy also sang a song titled “Get Happy.” The first verse goes like this:

“Forget your troubles, c’mon get happy; You better chase all your cares away; Shout ‘hallelujah,’ c’mon get happy; Get ready for the judgment day!”

I heard some news on the radio recently that made me think of that song. The World Happiness Report has been released. Finland remains again, according to the report, the happiest country in the world. The bad news headline for us in the good, old USA, is that America has dropped out of the top 20 nations for happiness. We’re #23 now.

Interestingly, the Nordic countries of Finland, Sweden, Denmark, Norway and Iceland were all in the top 10. Here are the variables the report uses to measure happiness: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom, generosity, and perceptions of corruption.

Evidently, if you lose your wallet on the street in Finland, there’s a good chance you’ll get it back. There is a culture of people helping people there. Health service and education opportunities are high quality and available to everyone.

Here’s the good news though, for us in Utah, and I think specifically for us in Sanpete. According to WalletHub’s annual ranking of the happiest states in America, guess who’s No. 1. Yep, *drum roll* – Coming in at No. 1, the 45th state of the union, the Beehive State, yes Utah!

Hawaii came in at No. 2. I mean really, who would ever want to live in such a place as Hawaii? I’m kidding. Hawaii actually ranked highest for emotional and physical well-being. It also had the lowest rate of adult depression.

This isn’t the first time Utah has been No. 1 on this list. I don’t have all the history and I know there are different variables for different organizations.

Some years back, I know there was a Gallup poll which determined that Utah was the happiest state. The Gallup organization has been taking public opinion polls for decades. Mr. Gallup, who put opinion polls “on the map” died in 1984, but the Gallup polls are still going strong.

(I remember wondering as a kid if perhaps they would ever do a Gallup poll on what people thought about horses running at a fast pace. Lame joke, I know.)

So, what were the kinds of questions used in that poll which determined that Utahns were so darn happy? Here’s four of the 42 core questions which were given to more than 350,000 people. Along with the questions, I’ll give you the answers I would have given had I been part of that survey. Here they are:

No. 1) Did you eat healthy all day yesterday? Answer: How did you know that I ate all day yesterday? Like most days, I ate healthy until about 7 p.m. – then I ate anything and everything I could lay my hands on that had sugar or chocolate in it. Three-day old chocolate doughnut – inhaled. Girl Scout cookie Thin Mints – ate one right after another knowing that our supply is huge. We spend more on GS cookies than we do for real food for a week.

No. 2) Did you smile or laugh a lot yesterday? Answer: Yes, I smile and laugh a lot every day. It’s not a choice. It’s a mandatory coping mechanism.

No. 3) Do you feel safe walking alone at night in the city or area where you live? Answer: Yes, I do. But, you have to remember that I got over my fear of mountain lions, bears and skateboarders a long time ago.

No. 4) Are you satisfied or dissatisfied with your job or the work you do? Answer: I’m just happy to have a job. Working beats watching daytime TV. Even though, I might be able to get back into “General Hospital” which I sometimes watched at lunchtime during my college days in the ’70’s. (I’m wondering what ever happened to Monica?) So, I’d say “satisfied.”

See how happy I am? Regardless of the question, a happy person in Utah, like myself, is going to give a “happy answer.”

I believe that Sanpeters are the happiest of the happy. We’ve convinced ourselves of it long ago, and perception is everything. Ever since I moved to Sanpete, nearly 40 years ago, I’ve been told how lucky I am to live here. I’m not sure when I actually started believing it; but I do now, in fact, believe it.

We pat ourselves on the back and stand up in church and proclaim that we’re blessed to be here. If you used to live in Sanpete, Sanpeters are always hoping that you’ll come back where you belong.

If you’ve never lived in Sanpete – well then, we just feel sorry for you and hope that you’ll find some brief moments of joy in your miserable non-Sanpete existence. Especially if you live near a beach or in a tropical climate.

There really is a bond of happiness in Sanpete. Ironically, the happiness over the years has been boosted by the connection of the shared gloom of the cycles of economic hardships we have here. I know – it sounds like a paradox.

So anyway, to conclude, I say, let’s be grateful that we live in the Finland of the USA. And, I’d go so far as to say, the Finland of Utah.

Please don’t prove me wrong. If I lose my wallet, for heaven’s sake, return it to me. It’s such a hassle replacing that driver’s license. (Yes, I know it’s technically a “driver license” – but that just sounds dumb.) And, if I lost my National Park Pass, I don’t think I’d ever be happy again. But, I’d let you keep my Cougar Club card – maybe. — Merrill


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