The holidays are long gone, so it’s going to take more than family visits, huge home-cooked dinners, and presents to stay in a feel-good mood.
In 2013, the Harris Poll questioned 2,345 adults in the United States about their level of satisfaction in life. The results concluded that only 33 percent of Americans were classified as happy, The Huffington Post reported. That number had lowered from 2008 and 2009, when 35 percent had claimed to be happy.
Several experts say that economic hardship play a role in how happy a person is, while others maintain that money can’t buy happiness. Jeffrey Sachs believes the latter. Sachs is the director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University, which released the World Happiness Report in 2015 that found the U.S., one of the richest countries in the world, ranks No. 15 on the list of happiest countries.
“Thirty years ago, studies found that Americans are getting richer, but they’re not getting any happier,” said Sachs. “That remains the case today. Our incomes are going up. But our well-being is not going up. It’s barely budged for 50 years.”
“What we learn about the United States, is that while income has been rising, the social qualities have been worsening — the level of trust, the confidence in our government, has been going down. This has been offsetting what otherwise would have made us feel better,” he continued.
So, what can you do to make 2016 one of your happiest years yet? Read some of our pointers on how to enhance your joy below.
Volunteer and be generous.
Making someone else happy by doing something kind will, in turn, make you happier. “We found that generosity is not only good for the receivers, but is also good for the givers,” said Sachs. “That sounds cliché, that it’s better to give than receive, but this shows up strongly in the data for happiness.” So, there you have it — helping others promotes happiness. Find a local nonprofit organization that you can spend a few hours a week assisting. Or, if you see a service that isn’t available for those in need, create it yourself. You can also make “blessing bags” to leave in your car in case you happen to see someone in need.
Not only can exercise improve your health, but it’s also a major mood-booster. Fitness helps generate and release chemicals in the body called endorphins, which raise feelings of satisfaction and reduce stress. If you exercise regularly, you could see a major shift in your mood in no time. The Department of Health and Human Services suggests that adults do at least 150 minutes per week of moderate aerobic activity or 75 minutes of vigorous activity. They also add that strength training exercises should be done at least twice per week.
Live in one of the happiest places on Earth.
The 2014 Gallup-Healthways Well-Being index ranked each state in the U.S. in accordance to its residents’ overall level of joy. These are the top five states:
If you want to venture out of the United States and become an expat in search of happiness, these are the top five countries you’ll want to move to, according to the 2014 Legatum Prosperity Index:
Love your job.
Some of us tend to take any job that will help us make ends meet, even if we despise getting up to go there every day. While this may be necessary for a while, don’t make it permanent. Put effort towards landing a job that you’ll be excited about each morning. Whether you are employed by a company or you start your own business, make sure you’re doing something that puts a smile on your face. After all, studies show that we spend a total of about 10 years of our lives at work, so be sure those long hours are spent being happy.
Don’t be a people-pleaser.
People-pleasers worry about what will make everyone else happy instead of doing what makes them happy. Though we are taught that it’s not okay to be selfish, that’s completely false. If you have a desire, don’t stress yourself over what others will think or feel about it. It’s your life, so be a little selfish and put your needs first, because if you don’t, no one else will. Follow the wise words of actor Johnny Depp: “Just keep moving forward and don’t give a sh— about what anybody thinks.”
Stop telling that sad story.
We all have things from our past that still feel like a punch in the gut when we think about them. Some of us hold onto that hurt or “baggage” and refuse to let go. We repeat the story to anyone who will listen. Our past is something that we can’t change, no matter what, but what we can change is how we look at it. Use your past to inspire you to become a better person so you can avoid ever having to relive those events or to prevent someone else from having to go through the same thing. Teachers of New Age philosophy will explain, telling the same story of loss, abandonment, struggle, etc. will keep the vibrations of these feelings present in your life. Begin telling a new story of abundance and bliss.
Keep a positive group of people in your life.
As motivational speaker Jim Rohn once said, “You are the average of the five people you spend the most time with.” This means that being around those who are negative will only bring you down with them. In that case, wouldn’t you want to maintain a close relationship with those who are not only elated about their life, but who are also living as you aspire to live?
Set and work toward personal goals.
Just simply imagining your dream life can conjure feelings of exhilaration. Now, imagine if your dream life was a reality. Regardless of what you’ve been told, your desired life is possible, and the best way to get there is to set goals that will move you closer to what you want. The first step is to figure out what you really want, then write it down. Get started by reading books like “Write It Down, Make It Happen” by Henriette Anne Klauser. Then, figure out what actions you need to take to meet your objectives and commit to them. As you reach your goals, your body releases a chemical called dopamine, which can make your happiness levels skyrocket.
Make 2016 the year you commit to internal happiness.