We are more depressed and unhappy today than at any point in history.
That is according to research from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association. The research studied depression among Americans over a three-year period and found that depression has risen by 33 percent within this period. The rise in depression among teenagers and millennials was especially concerning, with teenagers experiencing a 63 percent increase in depression and millennials experiencing a 47 percent increase in depression.
The good news, however, is that there is a science to happiness — and this article shares five things science says you can do to be happier.
1. Spend More Time With Friends and Loved Ones: If you find yourself constantly going through spells of unhappiness, it might be a good idea to look at the people you’re hanging out with.
If you’re spending a lot of time in isolation, then you’re likely to be unhappy. A study of 1,681 patients published in the Journal of the American Heart Association found that spending a lot of time in isolation not only increases unhappiness but it can increase your risk of death 3.7 times, your risk of hospitalization by 1.7 times, and your risk of emergency department visits by 1.6 times.
Spending more time with friends on the other hand can contribute to a significant increase in happiness; a study by researchers for the London School of Economics that studied 50,000 people found that spending time with friends improved happiness by an average of 8 percent.
To be happy, work on your relationships; spend more time with friends and loved ones and less time in isolation.
2. Develop an Exercise Routine: Thanks to the increased proliferation of technology that encourages isolation and lack of physical activity, we are more depressed — and unhappy — than ever. According to data from the Blue Cross Blue Shield Association, we are more depressed than ever: in a period of three years, depression among Americans rose by 33 percent. Perhaps most striking, however, is the increase in depression among young people; teenagers and millennials experienced the most increase, with depression rates rising by 63 percent among teenagers and by 47 percent among millennials.
Of course, this would make sense considering the fact that young people are not as active as they used to be.
This depression and unhappiness can be combated with exercise. A study by researchers from Duke University shows that just 30 minutes of brisk exercise three times a week is as effective as drug therapy in relieving depression. More importantly, if exercise continues, depression is highly unlikely to return.
If you don’t yet have an exercise routine, it might be a good idea to start one. Your happiness depends on it.
3. Write, Expressively: Who would have thought that writing can make you happier. While there are a lot more writers in the world today than at any point in history (thanks to the Internet and blogging technology), your unhappiness could be linked to not writing enough. Researchers have found that writing — and blogging — can make one happier. In particular, researchers linked a form of writing known as “expressive writing” — in which you write with the aim of putting your thoughts and feelings into words — with improved mood, well-being, and reduced stress levels.
4. Earn More: We’ve been made to believe that money can’t buy, or influence, happiness. But how true is this? Research has actually shown that money CAN buy happiness.
A study by researchers from Princeton University shows that having more money can indeed increase happiness — up to a benchmark of $75,000 annually. The lower a person’s annual income falls below that benchmark the more unhappy the person feels. Now, when you consider the fact that the median American income is $46,800 per year, it becomes clear that there is a lot of earning to do to be optimally happy.
The solution is to work on building other sources of income. Work on getting better education and certification and get a better-paying job. Consider doing part time jobs to increase your income source; you could look into doing freelance writing jobs, tutoring online, blogging, or consulting in order to increase your average earnings. While these won’t make you rich, they will help you earn enough to increase your happiness.
5. Increase Your Fruit and Vegetable Intake: It’s been long established that eating more fruits and vegetables is good for physical health and well-being. What many do not know, however, is that eating fruits and vegetables can improve mental health and happiness. Science has repeatedly established this fact.
More recently, a longitudinal study on the relationship between fruit and vegetable consumption and well-being that was published in the journal of Social Science & Medicine found that increased fruit and vegetable intake enhances mental wellbeing. The study found that people experienced an improvement in mental health and happiness by increasing both frequency and quantity of fruits and vegetables they consumed.
The lesson here is clear: consume more fruits and vegetables more often and watch your happiness increase.