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Why is America getting less happy?

Pick up the November issue of National Geographic and you'll find a world map with smiley faces representing the level of each country's happiness.

Scandinavia is beaming. South American countries are cheesing it. Canada looks merry.

The United States? Well... We're smiling. Sort of. It looks forced.

Happiness levels in our fair land are actually falling, according to the 2017 World Happiness Report published by the United Nations Sustainable Development Solutions Network.

The report found that the U.S. ranked third among the 23 countries surveyed in 2007 but plummeted to 19th of the 34 countries surveyed in 2016.

How can that be? After all, our own Declaration of Independence proclaims our right to pursue happiness.

Why aren't we happy?

Well, money, primarily.

The report blames our country's laser focus on economic growth at the expense of lots of other things. Like building trust and relationships. Like prizing honesty and honor.

Apparently, we care more about money than well-being.

The shift largely happened during the 1980s, during a huge economic expansion.

Before that, Americans went to college to "develop a meaningful philosophy of life," points out author David Myers in "The Pursuit of Happiness." That changed in the 1980s. By 1990, most students began saying they went to college to "make more money."

They wanted money, power and massive vacation homes even more than ethics, social responsibility and spirituality.

Does that mean we've spent the past few decades scrambling over each other, grubbing together what we can, regardless of our mutual well-being?

No wonder our smile is faltering.

No wonder our politics have become winner-take-all, to-hell-with-losers.

No wonder our Facebook conversations become snarling, snapping brawls.

We've learned to care more about winning and losing than listening and sharing.

Happiness isn't about money, power or things.

It's about having good friends.

It's about treating each other well.

It's about pursuing meaningful work.

It's about trusting. And being trusted.

Do we care about being happy? Most people, I believe, would say yes.

And, in Minnesota, we're happier than most other states.

There's another map in National Geographic. It assigns a smiley face to each of the 50 states. Ten states look positively morose. Ten appear joyful — and one of them is Minnesota.

Minnesota has its problems. But we still care about ethics, spirituality, neighbors and the natural world. I think we still care more about hot dish than Hot Lotto.

Let's keep it that way.

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