The UN released their annual World Happiness Report last week, and the happiest country in the world is…Denmark.
The U.S. came in at No. 13, up from No. 15 last year.
And you know what? That made me feel proud.
Countries are ranked based on six factors: GDP per capita, social support, healthy life expectancy, freedom to make life choices, generosity, and freedom from corruption.
Looking at that list, it makes sense why we’re ranked so high. We’re economically strong, we have so much freedom, top-notch health care, and amazing people.
In fact, we’re pretty lucky to live where we do.
But the truth is, a “report” can’t determine how happy you are. Only you can make that call.
As Abraham Lincoln once said, “Folks are usually about as happy as they make their minds up to be.”
Why? Because happiness is an inside job. And there are things you can do to become happier.
But just how important is happiness anyway?
Well, I’ll tell you how important happiness is…
Happiness can save your life…because your happiness is directly related to your health.
And there’s a lot of research to prove it…
1. A 2005 study published in Neurobiology of Aging, found that happier people tended to have lower blood pressure and heart rates.
2. In 2008, University College in London looked at patients with coronary artery disease. It turned out that on days the patients felt happier…they had healthier heart rate variability (the time between beats).
3. The 2010 Canadian Nova Scotia Health study followed 1,739 adults for 10 years. They discovered that happier patients (based on survey answers) had a much lower incidence of coronary heart disease.
Here’s something else you need to know…
Happiness and unhappiness feed on themselves — creating increasingly positive or negative cycles.
When you’re happy, you feel better…and that makes you feel happier…which improves your health and makes you feel better. It’s a continuously growing positive cycle.
On the other hand, unhappiness leads to stress. That stress causes your body to release adrenaline and hormones…which increase your breathing, heart, and blood pressure rates.
Long-term elevation of these functions leads to heart attacks, strokes, digestive problems, sleep problems, fatigue…all of which further increase your unhappiness.
Now, there’s nothing you or I can do to raise our national happiness ranking to #1.
But there are some things you can do to raise your own “happiness levels.”
One of the most effective ways you can make yourself happier is through gratitude.
And it’s simple. lt comes down to focusing on the positive things in your life…appreciating what you have rather than dwelling on what you don’t have.
These don’t have to be big things. All the little things that add joy to your life are just as important.
Things like that phone call or email you got last week…the TV show that made you laugh last night…a fond memory brought back by looking at old pictures.
Now, I’ve found it really improves my outlook on life if I sit down and make a gratitude list, at least once a month.
(Some people actually do it every day, before they even get out of bed!)
Simply write down everything and everyone you appreciate in your life. Once you start writing, you’ll be surprised how fast the list starts to fill up.
And I’ve come to realize something really important by doing this: The things I’m most grateful for are my friends and family.
So, I try to send an email to someone who is important in my life – someone on my gratitude list – at least once a week…just to let them know I’m thinking about them.
This simple action takes less than 5 minutes out of your day but it has a tremendous impact. It makes the people I love feel good and it makes me feel amazing, as well.
I’d love for you to try both of these tips: a) make a monthly gratitude list; b) write an email to someone you value at least once a week. They’re really simple to do…and you’ll love how they make you feel.
Gratitude is one of the guiding forces in my life. It brings me happiness and it actually keeps me healthy…
According to Harvard Medical School’s Healthbeat:
“In positive psychology research, gratitude is strongly and consistently associated with greater happiness. Gratitude helps people feel more positive emotions, relish good experiences, improve their health, deal with adversity, and build strong relationships.”
Again, I highly recommend these two simple tips: 1) writing a gratitude list, and 2) writing a weekly email to a loved one. I actually tell my patients to do it! Almost all of them say they’ve experienced a big improvement in their outlook on life.
I appreciate this opportunity to connect with you, and I want to tell you one more thing…
I’m grateful for you.
You’re the reason I come to work every day, and your loyalty and support are incredibly inspiring. Thank you!
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