Ask Dr. Joy: the pursuit of happiness

By WEEK Producer

Ask Dr. Joy: the pursuit of happiness

July 24, 2013 Updated Jul 24, 2013 at 5:19 PM CDT

Happiness...we all want it, but how many of us really feel happy? What do we really know about happiness and the biology of happy?

There are some new statistics about happiness:

• The happiest people live in Iceland, #2 New Zealand, #3 Denmark.
• U.S. ranks 23rd
• Americans have lots of “toys” and things, but they don’t know how to enjoy what they have and keep looking for more
• Happiness has a lot to do with taking a risk, searching and achieving
• People who make more money in the U.S. tend to be happier and have great well being despite past statistics that have told us differently
• People are happier when they can purchase non-necessities and Americans spend more on cars, eating out and sports.

What do we know about Americans and happiness in the last ten years.

• 15 percent were pessimists in 2004 and in 2013 only 4 percent.
• 79 percent said they were optimists in 2004 and 50 percent currently
• 35 percent of people save working towards a goal makes them happy, but 59 percent of Americans say achieving a goal makes them happier
• 41percent of people say they are as happy as expected and 28 percent say they are happier than expected and 27 percent say they are unhappy

What are some simple truths about the pursuit of happiness?

• Remember: People who have good memories and reminisce are happiest.
• Couples: Married people tend to be happier than singles
• Furry Friends: Happier people tend to have pets to provide comfort, companionship and love.
• Exercise: Those who take a daily walk or jog, tend to be happier than those who are sedentary.
• Spirituality: Studies show that those who have a spiritual connection are happier than those who don’t.
• Kids: Adolescents' happiness rises when they have hobbies, are in team sports and have active lives with friends.

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