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Record number of Americans are 'thriving'—even more than before the pandemic, Gallup finds
Photo by Ryan Moreno on Unsplash

There's no question that the COVID-19 pandemic has been devastating on multiple levels, and the upheaval in all of our lives has had an impact. But a new poll from Gallup shows that the U.S. in general is well into recovering from the worst of it, with more Americans reporting that they are "thriving" than at any point during the 13 years since Gallup started measuring.

Gallup's Live Evaluation Index measures how well Americans feel about their lives, asking people to rank their current and future life on a ladder scale of 0 to 10, with 0 being the worst possible life you could imagine for yourself and 10 being the best possible life you could imagine. Those who rank their current life at 7 or above and their future life at 8 or above are considered "thriving."

The percentage of Americans who are "thriving" reached 59.2% in June, eclipsing the previous high of 57.3% set in September 2017, and far exceeding the pandemic low of 46.4 in April 2020, which was tied for the lowest measurement during the financial crisis in November 2008.


Interestingly, the percentage of Americans who are estimated to be "suffering" according to the scale hasn't changed much during the pandemic. In June, 3.4% of respondents fell into the "suffering" category, which is in line with pre-COVID levels.

In addition to a spike in life satisfaction, levels of daily stress and worry have recovered to pre-COVID levels as well. According to Gallup:

"The percentage of people who reported experiencing significant stress and worry "a lot of the day yesterday" showed unprecedented increases in the first half of March 2020, with stress rising 14 percentage points to 60% and worry rising 20 points to 58%. These spikes were about four times greater than what was measured over the course of 2008 as a result of the Great Recession. Reports of experiencing these emotions have subsequently fallen to pre-pandemic levels in both cases. Daily stress eased to 45% in January and has remained in the mid-40s since, while daily worry has declined further since the start of the year, to just 38% in April through June, down from 43% in January."

Gallup also reports that "daily enjoyment" is up, though it hasn't yet recovered to pre-pandemic levels.

What does all of this mean? The most obvious and logical explanation is that the vaccine rollouts and economic numbers since the beginning of the year have given people a dose of hope and optimism. It may also have to do with the fact that most—not all, defintiely, but a majority of—Americans actually got richer during the pandemic.

Gallup also credits the fact that more of us are able to gather with friends and family again:

"Beyond the vaccination rollout and improving economic conditions, though, is the critical psychological benefit of renewed social interaction. Reuniting in person with family and friends and joining in large gatherings of people such as at sporting events is a crucial part of social wellbeing. Past research has shown that those who spend six to seven hours a day in social time experience about one-fifth the stress and worry on any given day as those with no social time at all. These effects are likely on display as the levels of these negative emotions have improved to pre-pandemic levels in recent months."

Of course, these rosy numbers don't mean all is well for everyone. Some people are still struggling with the economic and emotional impact of the pandemic, and some groups of people have been hit disproportionately hard by COVID-19. With 600,000+ Americans lost to the virus, millions of us are mourning loved ones, and despite jobs coming back, our unemployment numbers are still higher than we'd like them to be.

But the fact that more Americans say they're "thriving" than at any time over the past 13 years is a positive sign that the country is headed in the right direction.

A breastfeeding mother's experience at Vienna's Schoenbrunn Zoo is touching people's hearts—but not without a fair amount of controversy.

Gemma Copeland shared her story on Facebook, which was then picked up by the Facebook page Boobie Babies. Photos show the mom breastfeeding her baby next to the window of the zoo's orangutan habitat, with a female orangutan sitting close to the glass, gazing at them.

"Today I got feeding support from the most unlikely of places, the most surreal moment of my life that had me in tears," Copeland wrote.

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via Pixabay

Giving a high-five to a kid who needs one.

John Rosemond, a 74-year-old columnist and family psychologist, has folks up in arms after he wrote a column about why he never gives children high-fives. The article, “Living With Children: You shouldn't high-five a child” was published on the Omaha World-Herald’s website on October 2.

The post reads like a verse from the “Get Off My Lawn” bible and posits that one should only share a high-five with someone who is one's equal.

"I will not slap the upraised palm of a person who is not my peer, and a peer is someone over age 21, emancipated, employed and paying their own way," the columnist wrote. "The high-five is NOT appropriate between doctor and patient, judge and defendant, POTUS and a person not old enough to vote (POTUS and anyone, for that matter), employer and employee, parent and child, grandparent and grandchild."

Does he ask to see a paystub before he high-fives adults?

“Respect for adults is important to a child’s character development, and the high-five is not compatible with respect,” he continues. “It is to be reserved for individuals of equal, or fairly equal, status.”

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She's enjoying the big benefits of some simple life hacks.

James Clear’s landmark book “Atomic Habits: An Easy & Proven Way to Build Good Habits & Break Bad Ones” has sold more than 9 million copies worldwide. The book is incredibly popular because it has a simple message that can help everyone. We can develop habits that increase our productivity and success by making small changes to our daily routines.

"It is so easy to overestimate the importance of one defining moment and underestimate the value of making small improvements on a daily basis,” James Clear writes. “It is only when looking back 2 or 5 or 10 years later that the value of good habits and the cost of bad ones becomes strikingly apparent.”

His work proves that we don’t need to move mountains to improve ourselves, just get 1% better every day.

Most of us are reluctant to change because breaking old habits and starting new ones can be hard. However, there are a lot of incredibly easy habits we can develop that can add up to monumental changes.

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