Orlando, Fla. (Ivanhoe Newswire) - The economy, depression and obesity are just some of the reasons the U.S. is one of the most-depressed nations in the world. While your genes account for a third to half of the reason you might get the blues once in a while, you are in control of the other half of your happiness.
It's one little word with a lot of meaning. When it comes to happiness, we can learn a little something from grandma and grandpa. A massive Gallup-Healthways poll found people over 65 are happier than any other age group, while middle aged Americans are the unhappiest. So what's the secret?
"You have to look for the good and not look for the bad," one woman told Ivanhoe.
"A beautiful day and being healthy that's all you need," another said.
Clinical psychologist Elizabeth Lombardo says happiness is a skill and can be learned.
"Happiness is a state of mind, it's how we interpret our world," Elzaboth Lombardo, Ph.D., a clinical psychologist said.
Shift the focus from you to others. The survey found most seniors give back.
17-year old McKenzie Bearup is starting early. Four years ago, she started collecting books for abused and homeless children. Today, she's collected nearly 50,000 books.
"It just makes me really happy to know that i can hopefully help change their lives," Mckenzie Bearup said.
Researchers found that warm feeling activates the part of the brain that produces feel-good chemicals, like oxytocin, and promote social bonding. Next surround yourself with positive people. Ellie gave up her toxic relationships and found a BFF in Nellie.
"I don't have time for people who complain," 50-year-old Kellie Barrow said.
A study found that knowing another happy person increases your own happiness by 15 percent. The study also found that having friends of the same sex increases happiness.
Finally, take a lesson from kids and play. CEO of The National Institute for Play, Doctor Stuart Brown calls play, exercise for our brains.
"The opposite of play is not work, the opposite of play is depression," Stuart Brown, M.D., founder and president of The National Institute for Play, said.
In fact, playing and exercise can help us renew neural connections and keeps us sharp.
Research by Duke University found exercise is a mood enhancer and can be just as effective as anti-depressants for people with clinical depression.
"Your goal is to be happier, when you are happier you are going to be a better worker, you're going to be a better parent, a better spouse and a better friend," Dr. Lombardo said.
Forty percent of Americans work more than 40 hours a week. To find happiness there, make sure it's meaningful. Researchers at Harvard business school found doing meaningful work and making progress in it makes people the happiest on the job.
Research also found employees are happiest when their efforts are acknowledged and they are given the freedom to find solutions for their everyday work instead of being micromanaged.
ABOUT DEPRESSION: Depression affects about 19 million people in the USA every year. Depression is a medical condition that can affect a person's ability to work, study, interact with people, or take care of themselves. Studies show that depression increases dramatically between the ages 12 and 16. The highest lifetime risk of depression was found among baby boomers aged 45 to 64. Researchers say this is a shift from younger adults who were most at risk for depression according to surveys from the 1980s and 1990s. Researchers found about 60% of people with depression received treatment specifically for the disorder. Among racial and ethnic groups, Native Americans had the highest prevalence of depression in their lifetime followed by whites, Hispanics, blacks, Asians, and Pacific Islanders. (SOURCE: www.afsp.org,ulifeline.org, www.nih.gov)
CAUSES OF UNHAPPINESS: Depression can be caused from many things and can vary from person to person. Some common causes of depression include: abuse, medications, deaths, genetics, major events in ones life, serious illness, mental disorders, and substance abuse. Another reason one may feel depressed may have to do with where they live. In a recent real estate study the top ten unhappiest cities to live in were Portland, Saint Lois, New Orleans, Detroit, Cleveland, Jacksonville, Las Vegas, Nashville-Davidson, Cincinnati, and Atlanta. (SOURCE: realestate.msn.com, www.webmd.com)
HOW YOU CAN BE HAPPY: It is important to realize that depression is transient, be careful with the label "I have depression". Ways to help get happy are by having a healthy diet, going outside on a sunny day, exercising, participating in psychotherapy sessions, massages, meditation, and supplements such as St. John's Wart which help raise serotonin levels and enhance mood. It also helps to spend time with positive people, reflect on past success, and understand the emotional cycle. (SOURCE: depressiontreatmenthelp.org, thedailymind.com).
GALLUP-HEALTHWAYS POLL RESULTS: On the global measure, people start out at age 18 feeling pretty good about themselves, then they feel worse and worse until they hit 50. At that point, there is a sharp reversal, and people keep getting happier as they age. By the time they are 85, they are even more satisfied with themselves than they were at 18. In measuring immediate well-being, yesterday's emotional state, the researchers found that stress declines from age 22 onward, reaching its lowest point at 85. Worry stays fairly steady until 50, and then sharply drops off. Anger decreases steadily from 18 on, and sadness rises to a peak at 50, declines to 73, then rises slightly again to 85. Enjoyment and happiness have similar curves, they both decrease gradually until we hit 50, rise steadily for the next 25 years, and then decline very slightly at the end, but they never again reach the low point of our early 50s. (Source: The New York Times)