The United States, the land of the free and the home of the brave, it is the land of opportunity, where even the poor live well, in comparison to 3rd world countries. It is an operative nation. Equality is prevailing. Being a dominant world power, U.S. citizens have security, and ideals such as the pursuit of happiness, ethics and virtue are persistent in the American culture.
Americans are some of the most unhappy and dissatisfied people on Earth. One in five American adults suffers from some form of mental illness, with anxiety and depression being the most prevalent†. The U.S. is currently the most medicated nation in the world, and mental health is at the top of the prescription list††.
We have everything we could ever need or want yet, stress is a persistent nuisance that corrupts happiness wherever it goes.
Why is this?
I myself have suffered most of my life with anxiety and I still do not comprehend the complexity of it. Through all of my research and experiences I have found some key factors that play a huge part in the overall attitude of U.S. citizen and are significant influences in mental health.
- Americans have too many choices.
Yes, I know that is a part of being a free nation, but really think about the typical day in the American life. You get up in the morning and you are faced with your first decision of the day…what to wear. If the standard American’s closet looks anything like mine, this is a very stressful choice to face first thing in the morning. Then we decide what to eat or if we even want to eat. Some go to work and some stay home, yet both aspects require a steady routine of decision-making throughout the day. Lunchtime comes and you are faced with the decision of where to eat and then what you want to eat and drink. This is an ongoing process day in and day out. We go to the store and have to decide, not only what brand of something we want, but also, what flavor, with or without sugar, and snack size or family size. Even the simplest recipe requires a great deal of thought. Comparison shopping can drive anyone to Xanax.
This past year, my son was asked to prom so I had to get him a tux. Being a 16-year-old boy, he waited until the last-minute to find out the colors of the girls dress. (Actually I ended up having to get a hold of her). She wanted coral. After searching the internet, I soon realized that it was just as cheap to buy a tux or suit (1st decision) than it was to rent one. So… do I want a tux or suit, a vest or a jacket, what color undershirt, a bow tie or a neck tie, do you know how many different colors of coral there are??????? 4 hours and a dozen opinions later I finally ordered the darn thing. My son was no help in this process. He “didn’t care”. This is everyday life folks!
On an old episode of The Big Bang Theory, Sheldon decides that he is going to roll dice to make his decisions and as absurd as he made it look, I found myself thinking how much easier life would be if we didn’t have to make so many decisions. A simple task can go astray quickly when the decision process enters the mix. Not only do we get stressed when faced with a multitude of choices, but those choices, shape who we are and what our future holds. OK, so maybe deciding to eat at Taco Bell instead of Pizza Hut doesn’t make much difference in the future, (except whether you have heart burn or not) but what about deciding where to go to college, who to marry, and even who to hang out with. Along with this plethora of choices comes great responsibility.
We are blessed with an abundance of possibilities, but rendering these choices, and the accountability that accompanies making the right choice, is definitely a contribution to mental apprehension.
- Pop Culture
Pop culture has created a false sense of reality leaving the feeling of void in many people’s lives. This is the main component for discontentment. Everywhere we go there is bigger and better, skinnier and prettier, smarter and more successful.
Pop culture is waved in front of our eyes like a raw steak to a lion. We get the latest and greatest phone one day, and the day after, we see a commercial promoting something even later a greater. We save our whole lives to get a bigger house only to find out that tiny houses are now the latest trend. We spend more money on name brands than it would take to feed an entire village in Africa. No matter what we have, pop culture leaves us wanting more. How can a $200 pair of boots be in style one year and out the very next year? Hollywood flaunts their skin and bone bodies in front of the woman population leaving us feeling unattractive and displeased with our own self-image. We diet, then we binge eat only to end up depressed once again the minute we catch a glimpse of Jennifer Aniston’s legs.
Reality shows are not reality! People do not fight THAT much, and men are not that romantic. We stress ourselves out trying to afford the finer things in life that pop culture incites as necessary facets of satisfaction. It is a constant cycle of striving for something that is often unattainable. Even though most see it as a coveted existence, I guarantee pop culture does not hold the key to happiness or satisfaction, and we need to quit stressing ourselves out reaching for this fictional existence.
- The Media
This is a tender subject for me. I believe, with all my heart that the media, is the enemy of United States culture. Whether it is politics, religion, equality, racism, you name it…I blame the media. There is a little flame that burns inside of all of us, it’s called personality, and the media jumps in to turn that flame into a full-fledged combustion.
We are all against something at some point, whether it is something fairly insignificant (Tom Brady and deflate gate) or something profound (pro-life). We all stand for or against things in our life. That is what America is about, freedom and diversity. Freedom to individuality. It is the difference in opinions that make us the nation we are. The media swoops in to fuel the opposing sides of debates leading to all-out conflict within our nation.
Just the other day, I was watching something on ESPN (which use to cover sports), and I found myself getting upset over the way they were treating a young man they were interviewing about a controversial topic that is currently flooding the media. I didn’t necessarily have a stance in the argument, but the way they were treating this person, because he was asked to be on their show and he was asked to give his opinion only to be roasted in front of millions of people, made me angry, and then of course…stressed out. People are constantly asked about their beliefs on hot topics only to be reprimanded and slandered to audiences throughout the world.
Not only do they stir the pot of discord, they promote bad and devastating news and events. They take unfortunate events that are personal to people and exploit it for entertainment purposes! We have become a nation that thrives on commotion and dramatic affairs. We are also guilty of spreading bad news like wild-fire, especially when it is at the detriment of someone else. What would happen if we had a world that thrived solely on the views of a few individuals? Our nation flourishes on balance, yet that is not what the media displays. They pin republican against democrat, homosexuals against Christians, blacks against whites and so on. Someone might be upset about something, the same way we all get at some point, but if it is the right person at the right time, the media is there with a microphone in their face saying “well how did that make you feel” and of course, in these instances, people speak from emotions, and not only their current emotions, but emotions that have just been fueled and then exploited by the media.
No one is perfect. No one person is right all of the time. No human being’s feelings matter more than another’s. The media creates an atmosphere of antagonism that so many fret over to a point that is unhealthy. Why subject ourselves to a world of bad news, complaining and hostility?
Let’s take control of our own lives and our happiness. Make a commitment to be a positive person. Don’t get angry at those who don’t see things the way you do; see them as special in their own way. Abstain from complaining because honestly, it is just a bad habit that so many of us get caught up in. Smile daily and see how that affects you. Build confidence in yourself, based upon who you are, not what American culture displays. Be conscientious of the choices you are faced with, and if you get stressed roll a dice.
I have news…God love us and that is all that matters. He loves us know matter what we do and only desires for us to love Him back.
Love God…Love yourself…Love others!!!!!
†Engel, P. (2013). Some Alarming Facts About Mental Illness In America. Business Insider. Retrieved from http://www.businessinsider.com/us-mental-health-statistics-2013-10
††Global Research (2014). Pill Nation USA: Are Americans Over-Medicated? Retrieved from http://www.globalresearch.ca/pill-nation-are-americans-over-medicated/5367349
Any Mental Illness (AMI) Among U.S. Adults (n.d.). National Institute of Mental Health. Retrieved from http://www.nimh.nih.gov/health/statistics/prevalence/any-mental-illness-ami-among-us-adults.shtml