Davis Motor Sales banner ad
Posted on 2/2/14

ronniemcbrayer300 bKENTUCKY (5/19/13) - There is something rotten in the state of Denmark.” That is a centuries old phrase from William Shakespeare’s masterpiece, “Hamlet.” Going back to your high school English class, you might remember that strange things were indeed going on in Hamlet’s world.

His father, the Danish king, had been murdered. His uncle was behind the conspiracy and had taken over the country. Ghosts and apparitions were visiting the castle. One of the characters finally states the obvious: “Something is fishy around here.” Denmark has smelled rotten ever since.

But in reality, Denmark doesn’t stink at all. It’s a wonderful place. In fact, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, and the Scandinavian nations of Northern Europe are officially the happiest countries in the world. This seems so counterintuitive to me. No offense to the Scandinavians, but when I think of happy places, the cities of the Nordic north do not quickly come to mind. Nevertheless, the statistics don’t lie.

Every year the Legatum Institute in London publishes its annual Prosperity Index that gauges the happiness level of the world’s countries. Consistently, Denmark, Norway and the sister Scandinavian nations are at the top of the heap. On the other end of the scale, the countries of Haiti, Afghanistan, the Congo, and the Central African Republic have more than a stench to deal with. These countries are consistently at the bottom of the happiness list, reflecting terrible misery for their populations.

If you are curious, the United States is currently ranked 12th on the Prosperity Index. Not too bad, but we were much happier in the near past. We have been sliding downward for some time now. Our society as a whole is not as happy as it once was, and honestly I don’t think that comes as much of a surprise.

While this survey says a lot about societal happiness, it says hardly anything at all about personal happiness. You can be a healthy, wealthy, free and secure Norwegian and be absolutely miserable. You can be a Haitian child living half-starved on the streets of Port au Prince and be filled with wondrous joy.

You can be a comfortable, successful, suburban, mortgage-paying, SUV-driving husband of one and father of two and be wretchedly unhappy. You can be a poor immigrant, a single mother with four children living in squalor, scraping for every meal, and be as happy as a singing bird in a tree.

Happiness is affected by our environment. That much is true. Happiness is a product of our genetics (scientists say that an elongated 5HTT gene will make you happier on average than most). But ultimately, barring emotional or mental dysfunction, happiness is a choice we make. No, we don’t live in Scandinavia. We have no control over our chromosomal makeup. We can’t do anything about our age and very little to change our personal economics. There are simply some things we cannot change.

But, there are other things we can do something about. We can opt to live near our friends. We can decide to practice gratitude. We can do work we find fulfilling. We can opt out of the blame game, and quit holding God, life, circumstances, past lovers, ex-wives, former business partners, parents, and reality responsible for doing us in.

We can make choices that will lead us toward becoming happy, joyful people or we can make choices that will result in us becoming chronically unhappy people. Regardless, that choice belongs to each and every one of us.

It was Viktor Frankl, famed Jewish Holocaust survivor and brilliant Austrian psychiatrist, who best articulated the power of choice in personal happiness. Reflecting upon his time in the concentration camps he wrote, “Everything can be taken from a man but one thing: the last of human freedoms – to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances.”

If you want to be happy you don’t have to move to Northern Europe or wait for science to alter your genetics. But you do have to choose to be happy, and no one else can make that choice for you.

Ronnie McBrayer is a syndicated columnist, speaker, and author of multiple books. You can read more and receive regular e-columns in your inbox at www.ronniemcbrayer.me.


Disclaimer: The content supplied by columnists and letters to the Editor on this site does not in any way, shape or form, implied or otherwise, necessarily express or suggest endorsement or support of any of such content, statement, or opinions therein. SurfKY News does not necessarily adhere to or endorse content provided by outside non-staff sources.

© Copyright 2015 SurfKY News Group, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, or rewritten without permission. SurfKY News encourages you to share this story by using one of the social media links below.

2/6/2014 - posted
3/13 - 16
2/6/2014 - posted
3/13 - 16

Most Read This Week

January 28, 2015 17482

UPDATED: Several Involved in Two-Vehicle Accident

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
January 26, 2015 7907

KSP Arrests Two on Child Porn Charges; MPD…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Trooper Stu Recke
January 25, 2015 7652

Dean’s List Announced

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Joyce Riggs
January 28, 2015 6764

Nortonville Man Accused of Meth Possession,…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center
January 26, 2015 5593

School Board Votes 3-2 for Utility Tax

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News
January 29, 2015 5563

Man Charged with Sexual Abuse of Child

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
January 25, 2015 5226

Juvenile Hit by Vehicle at McDonald's

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by GPD Officer Wes Miller
January 28, 2015 5166

Tax Recall Committee Formed Day After School…

in Local (Muhlenberg) Top News by Charles W. Riley II, SurfKY News

Most Read This Month

January 08, 2015 22625

Woman Claiming to be 'Lady Gaga' Tours Town in…

in Top News For All Sites by Madisonville Police Department
January 15, 2015 22248

UPDATE: Fatality Victim's Name Officially Released

in Top News For All Sites by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News

Stories Trending Today

January 29, 2015 5563

Man Charged with Sexual Abuse of Child

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
January 29, 2015 3563

UPDATE - Students Have until Jan. 31 to Enter…

in General News For All Sites by James R. Comer
January 30, 2015 3456

Woman Arrested for Allegedly Attacking Police…

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Madisonville Police Department/Hopkins County Detention Center
January 29, 2015 2418

Kentucky Highway Crews Prepare for Possible…

in Top News For All Sites by Keith Todd
January 30, 2015 2397

Portion of Kentucky 862 Closed as Emergency…

in Top News For All Sites Touching Hopkins by Rita Dukes Smith, SurfKY News Director
January 29, 2015 2201

Hopkins County Health Department Food Scores Thru…

in Hopkins News by Barry Franklin
January 29, 2015 2023

Group Organizing Prayer Circle for Youth

in Local (Hopkins) Top News by Doreen Dennis, SurfKY News
January 29, 2015 1987

Hopkins County Sheriff's Reports Released

in Hopkins News by Hopkins County Sheriff's Office
January 29, 2015 1986

Madisonville Police Arrest Reports - Jan. 29, 2015

in Hopkins News by Madisonville Police Department
January 29, 2015 1849

Keystone Approval Will Boost the Economy, Support…

in General News For All Sites by Robert Steurer
January 29, 2015 1818

Protect Your Sensitive Information from Hackers

in General News For All Sites by SurfKY News
January 29, 2015 1603

Whitfield Meets with Fort Campbell Soldiers

in General News For All Sites by Marty Irby