GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – If you are concerned about something, you aren’t acting too worried.
WalletHub, the financial advice outfit that crunches numbers and tells us a lot about our world, says that North Carolina is one of the 20 happiest states in the U.S.
We rank right at No. 20, behind our neighbors in Virginia (No. 12) and Georgia (No. 19) but ahead of South Carolina (No. 33) and way ahead of West Virginia, which was dead last in the rankings.
WalletHub didn’t just choose this order, like sports writers or coaches listing the best college football teams, but it was more like “sabermetrics,” those data deep dives that sports teams use to evaluate players and trends (if you don’t know about this, read or watch “Money Ball”).
WalletHub’s numbers crunchers collected data about emotional and physical well-being (physical and emotional health) – which was 50% of the calculation – work environment (how much we work and how we get there) and community and environment (weather, time outside and, uh, divorce rates).
There were points assigned for weighted metrics (such as 5 points for work hours, 4.76 points for life expectancy and 1.25 points for commuting time), and the scores were added. A score of 100 would be “maximum happiness.”
Hawaii (!) was at the top of the list (its score was 66.31 vs. 53.65 for NC), followed by – and you can argue among yourselves here – Maryland, Minnesota, Utah, New Jersey, Idaho, California, Illinois, Nebraska and Connecticut.
At the bottom, just “above” West Virginia (Nos. 45-49) were the Southeastern Conference … er, we mean Mississippi, Alabama, Kentucky, Arkansas and Louisiana.
More about North Carolina
If you look at the data, North Carolina ranked best for income growth (No. 13) and for having one of the lower suicide rates (No. 14). The state was above average (i.e. No. 25) in most categories:
- 29th – % of depressed adults.
- 20th – Adequate-sleep rate.
- 14th – Suicide rate.
- 28th – % of civilian labor force unemployed 15 weeks or longer.
- 30th – volunteer rate.
- 29th – Separation & divorce rate.
- 13th – Income growth.
- 19th – Safety.
- 29th – Share of adults feeling active & productive.
“Given the factors that lead to happiness, including the availability of competitively paying jobs, safe environments, a sense of belonging, family, nature, and other factors, location will impact one’s happiness,” Sunil Ramiall, a business professor at Concordia University Wisconsin, told WalletHub. “It is the variables of the location that contribute to the happiness factor, not the location itself necessarily.”
And if you recall from an earlier evaluation, Raleigh was ranked No. 27 among the happiest cities, with Charlotte at No. 67, Durham, at No. 74, Winston-Salem at No. 129, Greensboro at No. 137 and Fayetteville at No. 168.
What makes us happy?
So how did this happen? What makes Maryland a happier place than Alabama? Certainly not college football.
Kyle J. Emich, a professor of economics at the University of Delaware, and an expert commenter for WalletHub cites these four factors for a happy life:
- You must have the freedom to control your own behavior. You must be free to do what you think you should be doing.
- You must use your skills toward a meaningful end; however, you define meaning (usually this involves helping others or benevolence).
- You must build relationships that matter.
- You must leave time for leisure.
Maryam Kia-Keating, who has her own meditation organization while also teaching psychology at Cal-Santa Barbara, narrowed it down to an acronym: PERMA:
- Positive emotions come about from connecting with others, participating in activities that bring you pleasure and joy, savoring each moment, and avoiding activities that have the opposite effect.
- Engagement happens when you are deeply involved in an activity and find presence and flow at that moment so that everything else falls away.
- Positive Relationships are a key ingredient to overall well-being.
- Meaning comes about when we find activities that fulfill our sense of purpose.
- Accomplishments are important as far as they give us a sense of pride and satisfaction.