The latest research in maintaining the good life.
Happiness, or the pursuit of, is at a record low with declines in 21 states, according to the Gallup-Sharecare Well-Being Index. Dan Witters, research director with Gallup-Sharecare, said on The Gallup Podcast that 2017 is “the worst well-being year on record for the nation.”
Gallup-Sharecare measures well-being in five categories: purpose, social, financial, community and physical. The normal indicators that can drive down a well-being score, such as employment or a recession, don’t seem to factor into our unhappiness. Dan explains that Americans took a significant hit in social and purpose well-being and noted that poor mental health is increasing.
Yikes! Well, we certainly have our work cut out for us to improve things this year. Challenge accepted.
We have collected the latest in happiness research to show you that all is not lost. No matter how bad things can get politically, economically or emotionally, happiness is always a choice.
Be a Social Butterfly
Good social skills—or the ability to appropriately interact with others—are important for our physical and mental health, and the lack thereof can lead to serious complications. According to a recent study from the University of Arizona, poor social skills were linked to loneliness and stress. Researchers noted that learning good social skills can improve both physical and mental health.
People who are married, especially to their best friend, enjoy more life satisfaction over those who are unmarried, according to a study from the Vancouver School of Economics. This marital bliss isn’t just in the honeymoon stage, but throughout the span of the relationship. This serves people especially well in midlife when we start to feel that U-shaped dip in life satisfaction as stressors pile on. Couples who feel they are married to their best friend experience about twice as much contentment.
All Together Now
If life has got you singing the blues, maybe try joining a choir to turn that frown upside down. A recent study from the University of East Anglia in England finds that singing in a group may be a great way to boost your mental health. Researchers monitored participants in the Sing Your Heart Out (SYHO) project who had had previous mental health issues reported less depression and anxiety. What’s more, the social aspects as well as the singing fostered greater feelings of belonging and well-being.
Earlier this year, Yale University's popular new course "Psychology and the Good Life," taught by Laurie Santos, Ph.D., broke an enrollment record with 1,200 students. Laurie says she started the class for three reasons: to share her knowledge of psychological science with the rest of the world, to help college students and to make herself a better person.
“Psychology has a lot to say about fixing human problems—from the big global ones to the tiny personal ones," she says. “This course is my attempt to critically synthesize what psychologists have learned so far about making our lives better, both on a global and local scale.”
For those who want to learn about the science of happiness without paying an Ivy League tuition bill, Laurie’s course is offered for free on Coursera.