How Are You, Really?

I saw a news paper article about a Swedish woman who on Facebook had asked her friends state how they really felt about life and not give that standard glossy version. Apparently, she was astonished by the response since most her friends opened their hearts and told her and everyone else about was most important right now. This is not typically Swedish.

There have been attempt to use comments in social media to spot potential suicide candidates, such as the Samaritans Radar app. However, as indicated by Demos Alex Krasodomski-Jones' comments, this is very much a tricky task that would involve thorough research that would require lots of permissions from ethical committees.
But how easy is it to answer a question like that: How are you, really? Could it be that life is too multifaceted to be described in one or two sentences? Is it possible to feel full of sadness and happiness, have worries and anticipations, have hopes and shattered dreams, all at the same time?

One international attempt to measure well-being has been made by the OECD called How’s Life?, published every two years, provides a comprehensive picture of well-being in OECD countries and other major economies by bringing together an internationally comparable set of well-being indicators. It looks at people’s material conditions and quality of life across the population in eleven dimensions including: income and wealth; jobs and earnings; housing; health status; work-life balance; education and skills; social connections; civic engagement and governance; environmental quality; personal security; and subjective well-being.

In this study, Sweden comes out as a top performer in environmental quality, and it ranks above the average of the 36 countries in the dimensions of civic engagement, education and skills, work-life balance, health status, subjective well-being, income and wealth, jobs and earnings, housing, and social connections, but slightly below the average in personal security.

However, the OECD also created the Better Life Index which is an interactive web application that invites citizens to compare well-being across OECD countries and beyond on the basis of the set of well-being indicators explored in How’s Life? Users chose what weight to give to each of the eleven dimensions shown below and therefore see how countries’ perform, based on their own personal priorities in life. Apparently, the users in Sweden put most emphasis on life-satisfaction, health and the environment.

I wonder, maybe we put a little too much emphasis on life-satisfaction. I think I do. Or rather, I'm not thankful enough for the gifts life has brought me. I laugh everyday at work. I've spent 20 years in school because I wanted to. I love my apartment and my allotment. I'm close to friends and family. Playing volleyboll makes me happy, and training youngsters how to play gives me a sense of usefulness. Since I turned 18, I've voted in all Swedish elections, and although I'm not engaged in a political party I am engaged in political questions. I feel secure even when walking home alone in the night under the full moon.
Two out of the three times I've visited Boston, I've stopped at the Life is Good shop on Boylston Street. I bought soft t-shirts for my sister and brother-in-law, but also a pink sweater for myself with the brand logo printed on the front. I should wear it more often. Especially when feeling sad and sorry for myself.

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