ABC's Good Morning America stuck a smiley face smack dab in the middle of the country on Monday morning.
Nebraskans call it 'The Good Life.' Turns out, we're not alone. MainStreet.com's new Happiness Index rates the Huskers as the happiest state in the country. The rest of the country found out on Monday morning.
The report is based on economic factors; which states are surviving the best. No surprise, Nebraska's strong agriculture sector pushes us to the top. But one local happiness expert reminds us there's more to happiness than money.
"It's an honor to be the happiest state!" Family Resources Mental Health Practicioner Seanne Larson Emerton said. The president of the Grand Island health center studies happiness and bases some of her thoughts on the book, Authentic Happiness.
Emerton says the report, which ranks Nebraska 2nd in lowest foreclosures and unemployment rates, and 5th in lowest percentage of non-mortgage debt, coincides with that good feeling.
"Of course when people's basic needs are met, they enjoy themselves more and have less
anxiety," she said.
US Senator Mike Johanns said Nebraska's needs are met thanks to a balanced state budget and the fact that our state doesn't borrow money.
"We're the only state in the country where our unemployment actually ticked down last month.
That's absolutely unheard of in a recession of this magnitude. It's just a great place,
conservative people, conservative values, fiscal values," he said.
The Happiness Index places Nebraska's current unemployement at 4.2 percent. But fiscal talk aside, Emerton says lifestyle is our other ticket to satisfaction.
"I think in Nebraska we tend to enjoy the simple pleasures, we don't have mountains or
oceans, so we find joy in simple pleasures," she said.
For Terry Muir of Grand Island, a simple pleasure is a day at the lake, watching the geese. He's lived in Nebraska his entire life.
"It isn't crowded, there's plenty of things to do, and the people are pretty nice," he said.
It's the good schools and low crime rate that keep jewelry store employee Cecilia Buchanan, her husband, and four kids in Nebraska.
"I can live without a beach anyday. I'm just happy grilling steaks out on the patio and
hanging out with family. It's the best part of living here." (So you're happy, then) "Yes, very!"
Emerton said, "People who are the happiest are those who contribute to community, to others, to their family and friends. He (the author of Authentic Happiness) actually calls it the 'good life,' and that's what we're called, the "Good Life State."'
Reporter's Notes: Stacia Kalinoski
Iowa and Kansas rounded out the top three happiest states. You can find the article and see the Good Morning America special at http://abcnews.go.com/GMA/story?id=7264863&page=1.
The report is updated every month, and experts say Nebraska could drop from number one with the uncertain future of the corn industry.
Even with the number one ranking, there are still of course Nebraskans facing hard times.
Emerton said her number of clients has increased. "Most still have jobs, but have anxiety over
the 'what ifs'...like losing their jobs," she said. She said to seek help ASAP if you're feeling anxiety or show signs of depression. "It's much easier to get through it, the sooner you get help," she said.
You can contact her at: Family Resources of Greater Nebraska in Grand Island: 308-381-7487