The Harris Poll has been monitoring Americans’ happiness over the past decade and levels have stayed relatively steady… until recently.
Around 33-31% of respondents reported that they were happy over the past five years. However, in May of 2020, the Harris Poll reported that only 14% of Americans reported being “very happy,” which was the lowest score in 50 years and included the same people being polled in recent years, too. If this statistic is surprising for you, keep in mind that Americans do not make the top 10 list of happiest countries, either. (Finland, Denmark, and Switzerland tend to hold the top ranks for the happiest countries.)
Happiness is strongly linked to health and lifestyle. Being happy promotes an overall healthy lifestyle that enables individuals to:combat stress more easily, experience a boost to their immune system and heart health, reduce pain, and enjoy increased longevity, which we see from our global counterparts. Although our brains have a negativity bias (meaning we tend to focus more on negative news, events, feedback, etc.), with age, we shift towards a positivity bias, meaning we tend to focus more on positive news and events. But we must still put effort into our emotional wellness.
How would you rate your overall happiness?
What has brought you joy today?
Please try the following exercise. Focus on a couple of things that have happened so far today (as you are reading this blog) that have brought you joy, happiness or a smile to your face. Make a mental note or physical list. Finding joy in our daily routines requires presence, being in the moment, as well as acknowledging the small things in addition to the big things.
For some, happiness might be the stillness of the morning air when putting their pet outside early in the morning (O, how I wished I had enthusiasm for the love of mornings like my dog does at 4 am!) or enjoying a fresh-brewed cup of coffee or green tea to start the day. For others, it might be in preparing breakfast, engaging in a morning workout or chatting with a friend. Taking time to find small moments of joy and happiness can boost to our overall well-being.
There are many steps we can take as part of our daily lives to support our practical happiness. Time, money, and energy are our resources. We tend to recognize that money is our resource as we are cautious with how we spend it, but when was the last time you considered your time or energy as a precious, valuable resource?
In our current situation, our time and energy may be limited or it might be more unstructured. For many, we are in flux and adjusting but we have an opportunity to rearrange our days and re-evaluate our time to see what brings us joy and happiness, and to prioritize the things that are the most important to us.
Consider what takes up most of your time or the least of your time. Is there something you can restructure to support your personal well-being? Regardless of our situation, when we are saying “yes” to something, we are essentially saying “no” to something else. Choose wisely how you want to spend your time and energy.
3 Practical Tips to Happiness
1) Spend time with yourself and others. Make time for both in your life. If you had one hour to do whatever you want, what would you do? Make a plan. Write it down. Now, see what can be done to fit this into your week or month. Make your plan happen for yourself. Just one hour for you. (If one hour is too much, start with 15 minutes or 30 minutes.)
2) Live in the moment. Unfocus your time and energy for a few minutes each day. Start with five minutes to “play” or take time out for some fun and gradually grow this time window. Tinker with an old project, dabble in a familiar task, or try something that has been on your bucket list. Whatever the activity or exercise, stretch outside of your comfort zone a bit and maybe even have a laugh at yourself along the way. Remember to play, laugh, giggle and even frolic to have a little extra joy in your day.
3) Surround yourself with beauty. Get rid of rubbish and clutter, and try to avoid buying more things when your mood is low. Enhance your environment with things that make you smile or immerse yourself in nature for a subtle uplift. Eat dinner off of your fancy plates and sip milk out of your crystal. Whatever it is in your home that is beautiful, find joy in using these items. Don’t wait for a holiday or special event. Bring them out of the cupboards and incorporate them into your daily living. If they aren’t something you admire, pass them along to someone else to enjoy.
Now, there are many ways to find small uplifts in your daily life. Seek these moments out and work to be present in them when they occur. After all, happiness is our inside work but we can benefit from other boosts in our environment and the way in which we live our lives: reach out to others, stay active, rest well, nourish to flourish, meditate, spend time outdoors, and express gratitude. I hope this might spark some inspiration to find happiness in your day and create moments of joy for yourself.
In brain health & wellness,
**Written for “EngAGE Your Brain!” blog series for Northeast Ohio Boomer & Beyond Magazine. Read the original article post here.