47th place is unacceptable

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

I love to look at the online news and see what "scientific" studies are happening.

The other day, I chanced to come across one done by livescience.com that ranked the happiness of the United States (including the District of Columbia).

"A new study found that a person's self-reported happiness matches up with objective measures of state-level happiness," the report said. "The results are based on an examination of two data sets, one that included personal reports of happiness for 1.3 million Americans and the other that included objective measures, such as how crowded that state is, air quality, home prices and other factors known to impact quality of life."

Before I even saw the list, I figured a warm, touristy state like Florida or California would likely be No.1.

Nope. Louisiana was at the top of the list. Now, I don't know about you, but Louisiana is a state I rarely think of. In fact, when I'm playing that game when I try to name as many states as I can in 30 seconds, I almost always leave out Louisiana.

Delaware is another one I always forget ... that one was No. 22.

Florida was No. 2, and California was a surprisingly low (in my opinion, anyway) 46th.

So guess where Indiana was on the list?


Yes, I said 47th. We're in the bottom five, trailed only by Michigan, New Jersey, Connecticut and New York.

This got me to thinking about how the rest of the world views us Hoosiers. Do people think we're a bunch of sad, depressed people? And if so, how can we turn that perception around?

I figure the best way to get happy about being in Indiana is to focus on the good things we have here. So I prepared a little list.

1. We have the Colts. I know last Sunday's game has a lot of us perturbed. Maybe you don't agree with how it all went down, but let's be honest: We're going to the playoffs no matter what, and chances are we're going to the Super Bowl, too.

I grew up in Michigan, and a lot of my friends still live there. They have the Lions.

Now they have something to complain about.

2. The reigning Miss America is Katie Stam, who is from Seymour.

I've actually met Katie, and I'm here to tell you she is really something to be proud of. My daughter was in pageants for a lot of years, and much of what many people think about pageant girls is true: They act nice but are really catty and ill-mannered.

Not Katie. She seems sweet because she truly is. When they announced her name as the winner of the Miss America crown, that surprise on her face was not fake.

3. Fascinating people from every area of arts and entertainment as well as the world of sports hail from Indiana.

Want a partial list?

Kurt Vonnegut, Michael Jackson, John Cougar Mellencamp, Tony Stewart, Jane Pauley, David Letterman, Axl Rose, Adam Lambert, Steve McQueen, David Lee Roth and James Whitcomb Riley.

Wouldn't that be a heck of a dinner party?

4. The change of seasons.

Yes, winter can be a challenge, but I don't know that I would want to live in a place where the climate was the same all the time.

One of the things I love about the Midwest is that from season to season, it's like you're in a whole different world. And in Indiana, simply going from county to county is an experience. I think ours is one of the most diverse states as far as the variety within it of scenery.

5. The state parks.

Indiana boasts some of the most gorgeous state parks I've ever seen, and every one of them is unique from the others.

McCormick's Creek in Owen County has -- well, a creek. It also has the best rustic camping spots, in my opinion.

Pokagon in Steuben County has the toboggan slide and the best hiking trails. Turkey Run in Parke County has the suspension bridge and awesome rock formations.

Shades, which overlaps into Montgomery, Parke and Fountain counties, is an incredibly rustic area with waterfalls and cliffs that are breathtaking.

See? I've been writing this column for 15 minutes and I came up with five reasons to be happy that you live in Indiana.

Surely you can come up with some, too.

Come on, Hoosiers -- let's turn those frowns upside down and make sure that come the next livescience.com study we've moved up a few spots.

Jamie Barrand is the editor of the Banner Graphic. She can be reached at jbarrand@bannergraphic.com.