The United Nations recently released the 2017 World Happiness Report, a survey measuring global happiness. Of the 155 participating countries, the United States ranked 14th. Happiness has been on a slow decline for the US, which ranked 11th in 2012 and 13th from 2014 to 2016. The report cites social issues rather than income as reasons for the decline. Scandinavian countries dominated the top tier with Norway winning the number one spot.
Happiness statistics in China remain similar to those 25 years ago, even though China has experienced a sharp growth in per capita income. The timeless adage that money can’t buy you love seems to still hold true today. Since the initial report in 2012, monitoring happiness has become a credible method of measuring social progress and crafting public policy.
Improving individual happiness set points (genetic basepoint) has spawned an entire industry devoted to helping people put a smile on their face. “Mindfulness” boot camps, “Neuroplasticity” sessions and “Happiness Coaches” to improve your happiness quotient are the themes du jour.
UC Berkeley’s Greater Good Science Center researches and teaches the “science of a meaningful life.” More than 350,000 people worldwide have attended the free 10-week online course, Science of Happiness. The Expanding the Science and Practice of Gratitude project at UC Berkeley promotes evidence-based practices of gratitude in medical, educational and organizational settings such as schools and workplaces. Evidence shows that people who consistently practice gratitude report benefits such as a stronger immune system and lower blood pressure; they also exhibit a greater sense of optimism and happiness.
Happiness is a dream niche market for the tech industry as they transform the science of happiness into action-based platforms. Programmers are busy designing gamification apps to uplift your mood and tune-up your attitude. In a few simple steps you can find and track your happiness quotient, determine your attitude strengths or re-set your brain by “cannonballing” negative emotions.
Bottom Line: There is a science to being happy. The brain can be re-trained for positivity. Experts cite physical activity, performing acts of kindness (be sure to mix it up), practicing mindfulness, sufficient quality sleep (six hours and 15 minutes), life experiences vs. materialism and spending time with happy people as best practices for a happy lifestyle.
Written by: Wendimere Reilly, Wellness Workdays Dietetic Intern