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  • Writer's pictureedward conn

Three things to make you happy.

When it comes to happiness most people imagine wealth will deliver them the best results but is this true....what does the latest report tell us?

Most of the intriguing news comes courtesy of the annual World Happiness Report, a landmark survey of 1.6 million citizens of 156 countries. This survey involves asking people questions about how happy they are with their life.

They ask people to imagine that they are looking at a ladder. The top of the ladder is ten, the bottom is zero.

You have to place yourself on that ladder, depending on how happy you feel at that moment.

Of all the countries involved, Finland is top of the happiness league, followed by Denmark, Norway and Iceland.

The UK comes in at number 15, ahead of most of our European neighbours. The United States trails in at 19th place.

Right at the bottom, as you might imagine, are South Sudan and Syria, countries that are plagued by war.

But what does the World Happiness Report tell us about the things that make us happy? Well, they say three factors are particularly important.....

According to one recent study, couples with a combined salary of £36,000 each year can afford the simple essentials needed for the most basic level of contentment.

Other research suggests that once an individual’s salary reaches above about £65,000, happiness levels begin to decline. For those who bring in £100,000, depression is far more likely to strike. 

Researchers think that high earners begin to pursue money as an end in itself, or begin comparing themselves to their more affluent neighbours. While most people envy millionaires, millionaires envy billionaires. So wealth comes with its risks and after basic needs are met limited returns on happiness occur and greater stress can apply.

Key finding of the World Happiness Report was that, unsurprisingly, healthier people tend to be happier.

Particularly at risk of depressive symptoms are people who are very overweight and those with type 2 diabetes.

According to a 2018 study by researchers at Exeter University, women who are overweight or obese are 20 per cent more likely to experience depression.

First of all, there’s the issue of stigma – those with bigger bodies often experience discrimination. But also carrying excess fat around the tummy area sparks bodily reactions that result in the production of inflammatory chemicals. Chronic inflammation not only increases the risk of heart disease and cancer but also triggers anxiety and depression.

Weight loss, and good sleep may counter this. Exercising regularly will also trigger the release of happy hormones in the brain, boosting mood and helping to shift excess pounds.

Topping the list of the elements that are crucial for a happy life is love and companionship. And not necessarily of the romantic kind.

As part of the World Happiness Report, researchers asked participants: ‘If you were in trouble, do you have relatives or friends you can count on to help you whenever you need them?’

The results showed that citizens of the happiest countries answered a resounding Yes. This trend was first observed in the 1930s during one of the longest human studies ever carried out – The Harvard Longitudinal Study. Researchers recruited 724 students, as well as young men from the Boston area, and followed them for decades, interviewing them each year.

Some became very rich (future US President John F. Kennedy was one participant), while others were regular, working men.

The main finding of the study was that, above all other factors, the men’s social relationships were the biggest predictor of happiness and health.

Those who had plenty of friends, siblings, partners and other family members were far more likely to stay happy – and healthy – well into old age.

But if your social circle is dwindling, there is one exercise you can practice that is scientifically proven to boost your mood.

Every day, write down three good things that happened to you in the past 24 hours. Jot down the time, the place and why it made you feel good. After a few days, you will notice a slight uplift in your mood.

Being happy is related to key areas of life and it is advised to be proactive in order to optimise this.

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