In recent years, much research has been generated to answer the question of what makes us happy. While some evidence suggests that happiness is connected to wealth, the fact is that we are all “better off” than 50 years ago but we are not a lot happier. One researcher sees happiness as related to people rather than things. Here is a list of eight factors that influence happiness:

1. Happily Married

43% of married men and women reported being very happy while only 24% of unmarried men and women said the same. Marriage itself boosts men’s and women’s feelings of well-being in life. Men and women talk more to spouses and women often are the social planners ensuring that men and women stay connected to family and friends.

What about the “nagging” that wives are so famous for? Turns out that it pays off…married men drink less, smoke less, eat better, get more sleep and engage in less risky behaviors than their unmarried peers.

2. A Reason To Believe

Americans are some of the most religious people in the western world. In the U.S., attending religious services at least once per week is a strong prediction of happiness. Why does religion bring us happiness?

Religious communities provide us with opportunities to support others in need, a commitment to take care of our bodies, and support a faith community all of which bring about happiness and joy.

 

3. Let The Sunshine In

The region of the country in which you live may impact your risk of suffering from depression and likewise the sunniest cities bring more happiness. Those of us living in the northern part of the country are at more risk off suffering from Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD). So get as much sunshine as you can to be happy.

 

4. Employment

Working makes most people happier than being unemployed. When men lose their job it can have both long term and short term psychological effects. For women unemployment does not lead to unhappiness but divorce. An engaged blue collar worker is much more likely to be happy than the independently wealthy engaged millionaire.

 

5. Health

It is probably no surprise to find that healthier people are happier than those who aren’t as healthy. The Pew Research Center found that 48% of people who rated their health as “excellent” also described themselves as very happy, while only 15% of those with “poor” health said the same. Of those who described their health as “poor” 55% also said they were not too happy.

 

6. Time For Family, Friends and Community

One truism has emerged in happiness studies…People who are socially engaged are much more likely to be happy and less likely to be depressed. A recent Time Magazine poll found that the four most significant sources of happiness are: children 77%, friendships 76%, contributing to the lives of others 75% and spouse or partner 73%. Time, work, and traffic now days all impact the time we spend with others, but those who make a commitment to others are happier.

7. Giving

Helping others was and is a major source of happiness for 75% of Americans. Volunteering is an excellent opportunity to be socially engaged in the lives of others; it gives us purpose and meaning in life. Helping others doesn’t just make us happier; it makes us healthier. People who give more have lower rates of depression and heart disease.

 

8. Good Cities

Some cities make real friendships and real community more possible. Cities can facilitate social interaction through excellent transportation, parks, events, and opportunities to serve.

 

So be happy!

Some information from MSN Health and Fitness by Lisa Farina