Happiness by the Numbers: 8 Stats That Could Change Your LifeBy Jessica Cassity
What do the happiest people have in common? They have a handle on at least of few of these eight instant happiness boosters, some of which may already be elevating your mood.
6 or 7: The hours per day of socializing that leads to the highest levels of happiness
People who regularly spend about a quarter of their hours each day with family and friends are 12 times as likely to report feeling joyful rather than feeling stressed or anxious. The same Gallup poll found that people are happiest on weekends (no surprise there!), likely due in part to the amount of time spent with loved ones on these days.
10: The number of friends it takes to give your well-being a big boost
A 2012 survey of thousands of British adults found that having regular contact with 10 or more friends had a significant impact on an individual's happiness level. People who had fewer friends reported lower levels of happiness all-around. In addition to bettering your mood, having a robust social network is linked to all sorts of other positive health factors, including a longer life.
5: The number of positive interactions happy couples have for every negative one
In a look at couples that stay together versus those who divorce, researchers found that the ones who were in happy relationships had a 5:1 ratio of good exchanges to bad; people who ultimately divorced had just 0.8 happy encounters for every one negative interaction. Positive interactions don't just happen on their own—can you think of a compliment, a shared memory, or something to laugh about with your partner today?
$75,000: The annual salary it takes to put a smile on the average person's face
Making more money makes us happier—up to a certain extent. A recent study from Princeton University found that once your salary hits $75,000, making more money won't have much of an effect on your day-to-day happiness. People who bring home less than $75,000 a year have typically undergone more hardships, such as divorce or ill health, while higher earners generally report more satisfaction with their lives.
2 or 3: The number of weekly sex romps it takes to send your happiness levels soaring
Any sex is good sex according to a University of Colorado Boulder study, but people were 55% more likely to report higher levels of happiness when they get busy every few days. Having sex once a week makes people 44% more likely to have positive feelings—slightly lower, but still good odds!
1: The distance (in miles) to keep close friends within
Of course, that's easier said than done, but when a friend who lives less than a mile from you becomes happy, your chance of getting happier increases by 25%. Your increase in happiness will be about the same if you cohabitate with a joyful spouse, live within a mile of a happy sibling, or if your next door neighbor is extra cheerful, say San Diego–based scientists . Good feelings really do rub off, so keep your friends close, and your happiest friends even closer.
33, 55, the 70s: What do these numbers have in common? They've all been called “the happiest age” in various studies and surveys.
Psychologists suspect the 30-something birthday scored big because it's a time when people tend to have energy, wisdom, and money all at once. In another study, researchers found that people in their mid-fifties tend to smile the most. And in a third study researchers found that people's happiness is lowest around 44 then starts to build gradually until it peaks in the 70s. The moral of this trio of contradictory facts: There is no such thing as a “happiest age,” although many scientists agree that in general, we get happier with age. (Remember you terrible teenage years?) So rather than waiting to see what the next birthday brings, try to make every year your happiest one yet.
40: The approximate percentage of your happiness that is truly up to you
It's an oversimplification to say that every single person can control exactly 40% of their happiness, but scientists have determined that your happiness level is a result of a complex interaction of genes, behaviors, and life circumstances. While each person has a genetic set point for happiness (like we do for weight), a big chunk of how you feel is under your control, meaning the way you spend your time and the thoughts you allow to linger can really impact your mood and your long-term happiness.
So what's the takeaway from these numbers? It's not that you need to make $75,000 a year, be a social butterfly, or move to the same neighborhood as your happiest friend—the point is that you can seek more positive interactions and take action to change the way you feel, regardless of your life circumstances.
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Jessica Cassity writes about health, fitness, and happiness for publications including Self, Shape, Health, Women's Health, and Family Circle magazines. Her first book, Better Each Day: 365 Expert Tips for a Healthier, Happier You was published in 2011.
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