It’s perplexing that the U.S. has never ranked in the top ten on the World Happiness Report given that it is one of the richest countries in the world. The rankings are based on data from the Gallup World Poll which uses the “Cantril ladder” metric. Citizens are asked to envision a ladder with their “best possible life” being a 10 on the highest rung, and the worst possible life being a zero, then asked where their life falls on that ladder. This year, the United States dropped to No. 14, down a spot from last year.
Here are five ways to increase your level of happiness.
Harness gratitude– Dale Carnegie’s 2nd Human Relations principle, ‘Give honest, sincere appreciation,’ is not only about giving thanks to those you cherish and appreciate. It also encompasses taking note of everything for which, and everyone for whom, you are thankful. Multiple studies show that garnering gratitude helps stymie stress and improve a person’s state of mind. According to researchers at the University of Massachusetts, the benefits of being grateful are feeling better about your life, more enthusiasm and willingness to help others. If you don’t already keep a gratitude journal, consider buying one and writing down what you’re grateful for every day.
Avoid putting all of your eggs in one basket – Relying on a single person or set of circumstances to make you happy is a recipe for failure. Apply Mr. Carnegie’s 21st Human Relations principle, ‘Throw down a challenge,’ by challenging yourself to broaden your happiness horizons. Which activities are you most passionate about? Who would you like to get to know better? Engaging in new adventures actually creates brain chemicals that boost your level of happiness. What have you always wanted to try, but never dared yourself to do? The answers will serve as inputs to your personalized prescription for happiness.
Pursue it within – No one except for you can make you truly happy, even though it seems that we can derive happiness from other people and things. As The Beatles famously proclaimed, (money), “can’t buy me love,” because it’s an inside job. People who earn six figures or more aren’t guaranteed contentment. On the contrary, their happiness levels may be relatively lower because of their responsibilities, travel schedule, pressure, etc. To hone happiness, focus on your passion instead of your paycheck.
Play – If you don’t feel very happy, it’s probably because you don’t have much fun. With so many personal and professional responsibilities, it can be difficult to find time for fun, however it’s critical for happiness. Carve out some time each month to play, whether that means tapping in to your creativity or doing activities you enjoy such as skiing, scrapbooking, snorkeling, etc.
Yield toxicity – Marshall Goldsmith said, “You’re only as good as your team,” from which we can glean that you’ll probably only feel as happy as those around with you. Surround yourself with positive people and avoid ‘Debbie Downers’ as much as possible.