Are we less happy than ever before?
Studies have shown that adults are generally happier than children - no wonder really, as we can stay up watching movies as late as we like, even on a school night, and eat as much chocolate as we want (within reason!). Higher incomes, more leisure time, better physical health and longer lifespans should also mean we are happier than ever before. But wait a second - it seems that may not necessarily be the case.
A new study has revealed that adults over 30 report being less happy than ever before (1). Despite all these technological and modern advances, which should make our lives easier, we are unhappy for the first time since studies into happiness levels began. But why? Well, researchers believe it comes down to our relationships. Living in a culture which values individualism, putting ourselves and our own needs before those of others, means we're missing out on the stable relationships and social support that earlier generations have enjoyed. In recent years, anxiety and depression rates have risen and in 2014, the marriage rate reached an all-time low. We're not saying you need to be married to be happy, but being coupled up definitely boosts your happiness levels.
So how can you turn the tables?
It's not all doom and gloom. If you're over 30 and wondering why you just don't feel as happy as you should, there are a few things you can do to boost your happiness levels.
Build strong friendships
This is the number one rule to remember if you want to be happy - you need friends. Whether you're forging friendships in real life or staying in touch on social media, a network of close friends helps you to feel loved and supported, reduces loneliness and feelings of isolation and could help to prevent anxiety and depression. And if you don't have many friends, make some new ones! Joining clubs or meetup groups in your area may seem daunting at first, but you'll soon meet a few friendly faces.
Ok, so it's easier said than done and we know it isn't always possible to be an optimist 24/7. But you do have a choice when it comes to being positive or negative, and there are little things you can do to encourage a positive frame of mind. Practising gratitude for the things you do have is a great place to start, as is doing things that make you feel happy, whether that's reading a book or doing yoga. Positive mantras and a refusal to dwell on the past can also be helpful, and if you find your friends bringing you down, it may be time to eliminate negative people from your life.
Get plenty of exercise
Exercise releases endorphins, those feel-good chemicals which are responsible for a mood boost. Whether you're chasing down the runner's high or relishing the buzz from a gym workout, getting plenty of exercise can make you happier and healthier! Around 30 minutes of exercise at least 3 times a week is a good goal to aim for if you're a beginner - you can build up slowly, and remember, even walking to work or attending a dance class count!
Do some good
Helping other people not only gives you a great sense of self-worth, it helps you to feel part of the community too; you may even find new friends. Whether you volunteer at a soup kitchen or charity shop or just take your elderly neighbour their post every morning, it all makes a difference.
Find things you love to do
Finding things you love to do, both at work and in your free time, will make you a happier, more positive person. Working in a job that you love and enjoy means you'll wake up raring to go every morning (or most mornings, at least) and your free time should be filled with activities that you love. You might be into rock climbing and hiking or prefer to spend your time off at the cinema or meeting friends for coffee - it's your free time, so never spend it doing anything that you don't want to do!
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