Column: Satisfaction not guaranteed

Overall, Canadians are pretty happy bunch, but the ones who aren't are miserable, according to an Angus Reid survey

It turns out we Canadians are a pretty happy bunch.

At least, the majority of us claim to be satisfied with the way our lives are unfolding.

But the ones who aren’t — well, it seems they’re downright miserable.

These are the findings of a survey published last week by Angus Reid Institute. The life satisfaction survey broke respondents into four distinct groups: Golden Oldies, the Lonely Hearts, the Harried with Kids, and the Unhappy (no great mystery where the last group stands on the issue).

The happiest people among us, it appears, are senior citizens, three quarters of whom characterized themselves as “very satisfied” with the overall quality of their lives.

That shouldn’t come as a huge surprise. For the most part, they’re done working and have finished raising their families. Now they can focus on travel and enjoying their grandkids, secure in the knowledge that when things go pear shaped they can send little mites home to mom and dad.

Seniors have also had the opportunity to develop a bit of perspective and, with it, the wisdom to no longer sweat the small stuff.

For the Lonely Hearts and Harried with Kids it looks to be a classic case of the grass is always greener…

Lonely Hearts, not surprisingly, expressed some dissatisfaction with their love lives, while those who did marry and have kids describe themselves as being stressed and cite worries about money.

No doubt parents of young children would also give their left arm for 10 uninterrupted minutes in the bathroom.

The one in six Canadians who fall into the Unhappy category are generally dissatisfied with all aspects of their lives — from romance to money and everything in between.

Among their complaints, one supposes, is that they don’t get invited to many parties.

I couldn’t find any indication of when the survey was actually conducted, so we should allow for the possibility that respondents answered pollsters’ questions in the midst of January’s post-Christmas doldrums, during the coldest, darkest wettest days of winter.

These are factors that will definitely colour your outlook on life.

It might also explain why Quebeckers, who famously embrace winter — throwing a giant festival in its honour each year — topped the list of happiest Canadians with a “very happy” rating of  22 per cent.

B.C., where half of all residents could conceivably go an entire winter without  glimpsing a snowflake, came second at 20 per cent.

Atlantic Canada and Alberta were at the bottom of the “very happy” pile, with nine and 12 per cent, respectively. It’s not surprising, as one colleague noted: “They don’t have jobs.”

No question the economy is going to play into our overall happiness.

Poor health, finances and relationships are major sources of stress and unhappiness for many of us. So the question is, what do we do about it? Do we carry on fretting or make a serious effort to change the things about our lives that we don’t like?

Perhaps we follow the lead of the Golden Oldies and focus on the aspects that give us the most satisfaction.

But is mind over matter enough? Can we simply will ourselves to be happier?

Then again, it may be best to come back and ask us that in the spring.

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